Jobs for Chemistry Instructors: Career and Salary Facts
Research what it takes to become a chemistry instructor. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average wages and job outlook to determine if this career is right for you.
What Is a Chemistry Instructor?
Chemistry instructors generally teach chemistry at the middle school, high school or college level. As a chemistry instructor, you will design and deliver age appropriate lessons in the field. These often include textbook readings, lectures, demonstrations and hands-on lab experiments. In addition, you will evaluate students by grading assignments and exams, and you may offer outside help to struggling students in study halls or office hours. If you choose to teach at the high school level, you will most likely offer broad introductory courses that cover the basics of this broad field, including atomic structure, chemical bonding, chemical reactions, acids and bases, thermochemistry and nuclear chemistry. As a college chemistry instructor, you can offer more advanced courses in specialized subfields of chemistry, like biological chemistry, computational chemistry, biophysical chemistry and spectroscopy. You will also be expected to conduct high-level chemistry research in a particular topic of interest and publish their results in scientific journals.
If this career appeals to you, refer to the table below for further information.
|Middle or High School Chemistry Teacher||Postsecondary Chemistry Teacher|
|Degree Required||Bachelor's||Master's; doctorate sometimes preferred|
|Field of Study||Chemistry||Chemistry|
|Licensure||All states require valid teaching license|
|Key Responsibilities||Design engaging lessons, teach students about chemistry, assess student understanding of material and communicate with parents about student progress||Teach a variety of undergraduate chemistry courses, assess student understanding and provide feedback, and conduct research on chemistry-related topics|
|Job Outlook (2018-2028)||4% growth (for all secondary school teachers)*||11% growth (for all postsecondary teachers)*|
|Median Salary (2018)||$60,320 (for all secondary school teachers)*||$79,550 (for postsecondary chemistry teachers)*|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Jobs Are Available for Chemistry Instructors?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), instructors are the lowest-ranking faculty members at 2- and 4-year schools (www.bls.gov). At a 2-year school, you could get a tenure or non-tenure position. Tenure, a professional achievement that awards job security and scholarly freedom, is decided by personnel boards that evaluate your performance as an instructor.
As a chemistry instructor at a 4-year school, you would rank just below an assistant professor, which is typically a tenured faculty member. Whether or not you could get a tenure-track position at a 4-year school may depend on your education and your experience. If you want to achieve tenure at a 4-year school, you typically need to be a highly esteemed faculty member who has contributed significantly to scholarly research.
What Education Do I Need?
If you want to teach at a middle school or high school, you need at least a bachelor's degree, according to the BLS. You can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry with a middle or secondary school teaching endorsement or a standalone bachelor's degree in chemistry, followed by a post-bachelor's teacher certification program. Both options give you student-teaching experience, which is a certification requirement of most state boards. After you complete your education requirements, you must satisfy state requirements to become a certified teacher.
If you'd like to work as an instructor at a 2-year college, you may only need a master's degree; however, the BLS states that many 4-year schools require you to hold a doctorate, especially if you want to be a regular faculty member. In a chemistry master's degree program, you could get a graduate teaching assistantship, which is designed for graduate students who plan to pursue careers as educators at colleges and universities.
You can earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Chemistry, which is a research degree frequently earned by instructors. It can take up to six years to complete a Ph.D. program, during which you would spend a significant amount of time doing research work. Before you can earn your Ph.D., you have to write a major scholarly research report known as a dissertation, which you develop with the help of a professor or mentor and then defend to a panel.
How Do I Find Jobs?
You could begin by searching job postings on college and university websites, which frequently advertise jobs for instructors. Additionally, you could consult general job posting websites that specifically seek candidates who hold doctoral degrees. It could also help to become a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS), which offers benefits like training courses, professional development programs and a job board.
How Much Could I Earn?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), secondary school teachers earned a median annual salary of $60,320 as of May 2018. Chemistry teachers instructing at the postsecondary level make a higher salary, with BLS reporting that they earned a median annual wage of $79,550 as of May 2018.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
If you are committed to a profession in teaching, you may want to look for a job as an elementary school teacher. Although you may not focus specifically on chemistry instruction, you can teach students between kindergarten and fifth grade about the basics of math and science, which can help prepare them for success in chemistry courses in the future. If you want to stay within the field of chemistry, you could look for a chemistry-related industry job, such as working in a testing lab or pharmaceutical company. Depending on the job, this could require a bachelor's, master's or even a Ph.D. in chemistry or a closely related field.