How Do I Become a High School Physics Teacher?

Explore the career requirements for high school physics teachers. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Teaching & Learning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a High School Physics Teacher?

High school physics teachers provide instruction in physics for students between grades nine and twelve. In introductory physics courses, teachers develop curriculum around topics such as forces, electricity, energy and waves. They usually deliver information through a combination of lectures, problem sets and lab assignments. For juniors and seniors, physics teachers may provide preparation for standardized tests, such as the AP Physics exams. In addition, high school teachers may support students by sponsoring a physics club or writing college recommendation letters.

The following chart gives you an overview about a career as a high school physics teacher.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Physics or secondary education
Key Responsibilities Prepare lesson plans for lectures and labs; teach lessons; conduct labs; grade student work and tests; communicate with parents
Licensure and/or Certification All states require public school teachers to be licensed or certified
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% for all high school teachers*
Median Salary (2015) $57,200 for all high school teachers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need to Become a High School Physics Teacher?

In most cases, to be a high school teacher you need at least a bachelor's degree in education. To serve as a physics teacher, you may be required to have specific training in physics and other areas of science. Some schools may require you to teach other science disciplines in addition to teaching physics. You may wish to take separate courses to prepare for the Praxis I and II exams if they are necessary in the region where you wish to teach; these may include subject-specific science testing.

Are There Licensing or Certification Requirements?

Most states have teacher-licensing requirements, which are handled by the State Board of Education. You may be offered different licensing options based upon where and whom you teach, your education or your intended career path. In many states, you can get a temporary, preliminary or professional license. Some states may have different license options for if you earned your degree in another state or intend to teach high school students in particular. Most states require testing, meeting education requirements, background checks and continuing education for licensing.

Certification is optional, but may help you prove your skills in physics and science. National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification is recognized in all states (www.nbpts.org). The science certification option for adolescence and young adulthood is for high school teachers and covers various areas of science.

What Are My Job Duties?

Your general duties as a teacher are to create lesson plans, develop testing materials, keep student records and monitor student progress. You may offer tutoring to students who are falling behind or work with advanced students through special programs to help develop their interest in physics. You may have other duties not related to the classroom, such as monitoring hallways, handling student behavior problems or serving as a lunch monitor.

Your duties relate directly to physics include creating experiments, demonstrating basic principles and encouraging students to explore the topic in-depth through research projects. You may help students find physics-related college programs and act as a reference for them or otherwise assist their career-path planning.

What Is My Potential Salary?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that all secondary school teachers earned a median annual wage of $57,200 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Employment opportunities may be greater, hiring requirements may be lower or salaries may be higher in high-need areas where there is a shortage of teachers.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

High school teachers can also find jobs teaching related subjects like math and chemistry. In addition, it may be possible to teach basic physical science at the middle school level. Elementary school teaching positions are also available for individuals who want to teach a variety of subjects to children between kindergarten and fifth grade. All of these jobs require teachers to hold a bachelor's degree and earn a teaching license if they want to work in a public school.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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