What Are the Requirements for Becoming a Science Teacher?

Science teachers inspire and educate students in the scientific method or a specific field of science like biology, physics or chemistry. Read on to learn about the education and licensing you'll need to become a science teacher. Schools offering Teaching - Math & Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Science Teacher Education Requirements

The education needed to teach science varies depending upon what level you wish to teach. However, educational requirements for teaching science at the primary and secondary levels are about the same as those for teaching other subject areas. Postsecondary teachers generally need to hold higher degrees than primary and secondary teachers.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Certification Required for primary and secondary teachers, may be required for some postsecondary teachers
Similar Occupations Childcare Worker, Instructional Coordinator, Librarian, Economist, Anthropologist, Historian
Work Environment Public and private primary and secondary schools, private and public colleges and universities
Continuing Education Professional development classes or advanced study may be required
Online Availability Online degree and licensing programs are available

Primary and Secondary Level

To teach in a public or private school at the elementary, middle school or high school level, you must first complete a bachelor's degree. Those looking to teach younger grades may major in elementary education with science teaching coursework, while prospective high school teachers major in secondary education with a focus on science. These degree programs allow you to study principles of science while learning the fundamentals of teaching. In addition to courses in science, you might take courses in teaching methodology and education philosophy. Your program of study should also include a teaching internship, in which you practice teaching students in a classroom setting under the supervision of a licensed teacher.

Postsecondary Level

Science teachers in colleges and universities are called instructors or professors. To become a science professor, you'll most likely need to complete a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Science or a specialty of the field, such as biochemistry, organic chemistry, zoology or physics. Ph.D. programs typically take six years of graduate study to complete, during which you may spend a year or more gaining experience as a teaching assistant, along with your own studies. You can also expect to complete advanced laboratory research and a dissertation project related to your field of study.

While most colleges and universities prefer to hire teachers with doctoral degrees, some 2-year colleges will hire you to teach as an instructor if you hold a master's degree in a field of science. You may also need to have to some experience in teaching.

Licensing Requirements

While you don't need to be licensed to teach in a college or university, all states require you to be licensed to teach in a public primary or secondary school. Most states offer more than one type of licensing program according to what grade you would like to teach. You'll likely be required to renew licensure regularly by earning continuing education credits. If you choose to teach in a private school, you may not be required to have a license. Licensing requirements vary by state, so you may want to consult your state's board of education.

Alternative Licensing Programs

Many states offer an alternative route to teacher licensure if you already hold a bachelor's degree in a science major without education coursework. Some of these programs are reserved for individuals looking to teach in areas where there are science teacher shortages. In these alternative programs, you can complete your licensing requirements while gaining first-hand experience in the classroom. You can expect to complete an alternative teaching program within 1-2 years.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 2016-2026, a 7-8% increase in employment is expected for elementary and middle school teachers, and an 8% increase in employment of high school teachers is predicted. However, at the high school level, science teachers should be in demand. Here are the 2018 median annual salaries for primary and secondary teachers: $58,230 for elementary school teachers, $58,600 for middle school teachers and $60,320 for high school teachers.

For all postsecondary teachers, a 15% increase in employment was expected in the 2016-2026 decade. Postsecondary science teachers' median salaries are listed by the type of science they instruct: In 2018 biological science professors made $82,550, earth, sea and space science instructors made $90,860, agricultural science teachers made $84,640 and environmental science professors earned $79,910.

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