Physics Teacher

Find out the education and training required to become a physics teacher in secondary and postsecondary schools. Learn job duties and salary information.

Is Teaching Physics for Me?

Career Details

Degree programs in physics education are available at many U.S. universities. This educational track involves understanding physics thoroughly and learning how to teach it. Many universities require aspiring physics teachers to become fluent in teaching at least one other science class, such as astronomy, biology or chemistry.

Important Qualities

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), teachers need to be very familiar with their subject matter so they can teach it and answer questions about it effectively (www.bls.gov). They need to be able to motivate their students to participate and ask questions. They may need to think of many ways to present the information to ensure that their students understand the material.

Employment Information

According to the BLS, almost a million individuals worked as high school teachers in 2012. Although the BLS projected that employment of high school teachers would only increase by six percent between 2012 and 2022, there should be many opportunities for science teachers, especially teachers of physics and chemistry.

While high school teachers usually only work about ten months out of the year, they often work much more than 40 hours per week during those months. High school teachers often bring work home with them to grade and tutor students after school or during their lunch breaks. As of May 2012, the median annual salary for high school teachers was $55,050, according to the BLS.

How Can I Become a Physics Teacher?

Undergraduate Education and Licensing

Training for physics teachers is available at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. If you want to teach high school physics, you must have at least a bachelor's degree in physics education. You can also elect to complete a bachelor's degree in physics while simultaneously completing a certificate in education, or later complete a graduate certificate or a master's degree program in education. If you teach at a public high school, you must have a teaching license.

Through a bachelor's degree program in physics education, you'll explore the basics of physics, physical sciences, chemistry and earth systems. Some courses address environmental physics, astrophysics, thermal physics and practical applications for the science through engineering and scientific studies. Other classes cover curriculum creation, classroom management and ways to assess your students' progress. You'll also complete a student teaching experience.

Graduate Education

You could pursue a master's degree in physics or physics education, or a doctorate in physics. These programs can provide you with a stronger background in physics and ways to incorporate more labs and technology into the classroom. You can expect to conduct independent research, write and defend a thesis or dissertation and, at some schools, teach undergraduate college courses in physics.

With a master's degree, you can become licensed to teach physics in high schools across the nation and have a higher salary than with a bachelor's degree. You may also be able to teach courses in physics at a community college. With a doctorate, you can teach physics at a 4-year university and conduct research.

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