Science Teacher Education: Exploring the Natural World

Consider taking online science teacher education classes if you have the subject knowledge but do not have the teacher education background. These classes can help prepare you for a career as a science teacher.

When you select science as your field, you may be attracted to a specialty. This may be biology, chemistry, physics or an earth science like geology.

You will also have to determine what your state’s teacher certification requirements are and satisfy the education requirements necessary to be certified to teach in your state. This is usually necessary at the elementary and high school levels only.

You’ll have to pass a statewide teacher exam and take several education classes. You might do online course work in teaching methods, special education, curriculum development and educational psychology.

Science Teacher Education Information

All states require teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree. For prospective science teachers, that means a bachelor’s degree in either a specific science such as physics, biology, chemistry or an earth science. This is known as a content degree. Some students choose to major in elementary education and take science classes as their electives. Either are viable pathways to becoming a science teacher.

Every state is different in its requirements for teacher certification. Some states will require a bachelor’s degree in a science, such as biology or environmental science, plus a master’s in a science education program. Other states might require a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and arrange certification tests for basic scientific knowledge so the candidate can prove their competency in scientific methods and research. Most states require a bachelor’s degree as well as satisfactory completion of a teacher education program.

All states require prospective teachers to pass teacher certification tests to teach in public schools. Private school teachers do not need to pass the state certification tests, but private schools mainly hire teachers with a bachelor’s in either elementary education or a core science.

Online Science Teacher Curriculum

Many universities and colleges offer online degree programs at either a bachelor’s or master’s level. Teacher training programs provide courses in educational issues such as curriculum development, technology in the classroom, human relations, designing classroom research and educational psychology. Students wishing to teach in elementary or middle schools usually also study child development.

Bachelor’s

If you already know you want to be a science teacher in a public school, then getting a bachelor’s degree in one of the basic sciences is a terrific idea. Major in biology, physics, chemistry or an earth science such as geology. Alternatively, choose a major in elementary education, but focus on science courses as your electives, or have a good foundation in science from your high school education. All states require at least a bachelor’s degree for teacher certification, so this is the first step in becoming a science teacher.

Master’s

Obtaining a master’s degree in science teacher education is another step on the path. Many universities and colleges offer teacher education courses online, although there is a clinical component as well, which is student teaching that must also be completed. Keep in mind that many states do not require public school teachers to hold a master’s degree, but some form of teacher training program will need to be completed prior to the certification tests. Some colleges and universities offer teacher preparation programs that do not lead to a master’s degree, but offer a strong recommendation to your state’s board of education for you to become certified as a public school teacher.

Coursework

Whether you participate in a teacher preparation program or obtain a master of arts in science education, you’ll be taking lots of education courses to prepare you for the classroom. Expect classes such as the following:

  • Principles of teaching, learning and assessment
  • Adolescent development
  • Content area literacy
  • Middle school historical context and practice
  • Curriculum, instruction and assessment in general science
  • Perspectives in special education
  • Managing the classroom

All teacher training programs leading to a degree or otherwise will also require so many hours of formal student teaching under the supervision of experienced teachers. The clinical component of teacher training runs from 75 hours to 130 hours student teaching. Programs will vary.

Career Opportunities

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that jobs for elementary, middle school and high school teachers are increasing at about 17 percent, or just a bit faster than average. However, science and math teachers are in higher demand than English or social studies teachers, due to a shortage of these teachers. Teachers usually work school hours, plus some evening and weekend hours to grade homework and prepare for the next day’s lessons. As the school year runs from August to June, many teachers have the two month summer vacation off, though many also work teaching summer school programs. Teaching can be very rewarding, but it can also be stressful if a teacher has to deal with unwilling or unmotivated students. As teachers gain experience through the years, they can move into lead teacher positions overseeing other, newer teachers. Tenure or job security usually comes with years of work.

Earning Potential

The BLS states that the median salary for elementary and middle school teachers $51,960 a year. Median salary means that half of these teachers make more than this, and the other half make less. The lowest 10 percent make $34,990 and the highest 10 percent make $80,940. Depending on the number of years worked, teachers may make more money the longer they are on the job. Salary may also depend on whether the school is located in a large metropolitan area or in a small, rural district.

Science Teacher Education FAQ

What types of jobs can I expect with a science teacher degree?

Teachers work in either public or private schools, with the usual school hours. Most teachers also work extra hours developing lesson plans and grading homework, papers or tests. Schools run for 10 months of the year, with a two month break for summer vacation. Some teachers gain extra education and become school librarians or school counselors or principals. Teachers with years of experience gain tenure and earn a higher salary than newer teachers.

How long does it take to earn a science teacher degree and certification?

A bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry or elementary education takes four years. A master’s degree takes about a year with student teaching. After passing all the teacher certification tests for your state, your time investment in a career as a science teacher will take about five years. However, if you already have a bachelor’s degree, then teacher preparation courses and student teaching will only take another year.

Where are the highest paying science teacher jobs?

Some states pay a higher salary for science teachers than other states. New York pays $65,000 a year for elementary science teachers while New Jersey pays $60,060. For middle school science teachers, New York again pays the highest salary of $66,220. Illinois, however, pays its high school science teachers the highest salary among the states at $69,830.

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