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Science Teacher Career Outlook & Job Description

Inspiring students with the amazing wonders of science is one of the rewarding aspects of a career in science education. Science teachers play a key role in developing future leaders in science and technology by fueling the curiosity of students and encouraging further exploration into topics of interest. A science teacher can be certified to teach middle school, high school or college. At higher grade levels, classes may focus on a specific program such as biology, earth science, animal science, chemistry or physics. Teaching science requires hands-on experiments and investigations and provides students with opportunities to learn science concepts through multimedia materials, field trips, and non-conventional teaching approaches. It is a teacher’s job to implement appropriate science class curriculum and foster an active learning environment which encourages student participation.

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Science education should begin with an introduction to basic science-related concepts early in a child’s education. Elementary teachers can instill an appreciation for how and why things work the way they do by creating hands-on learning centers where students use the senses to observe, investigate, and discover. Middle school science is a crucial time for capturing a child’s love for the subject. Earth and life science are the key classroom topics. At this grade level, the majority of science concepts are presented in a laboratory setting. The classroom environment should accommodate both group and individual experiences. High school and college science teachers present complex concepts in instructional and investigational settings. The science lab is used to investigate chemistry, biology, and physics topics. Students are required to understand laboratory safety rules and how to use equipment. Lesson plans should develop an understanding of complex systems, generate new ideas, make predictions, and apply standard scientific law to solve problems.

Science Teacher Job Description

A science teacher provides instruction and guidance to help students explore and understand important concepts in science. Science teachers create lesson plans, present science demonstrations, and grade tests and assignments. They identify students who need additional help and assist them to overcome challenges. They also communicate with parents and school administration on student progress.

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Science Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

Science teachers are responsible for preparing class lesson plans based on the current guidelines and grade level. This includes daily instruction outlines, classroom assignments, special projects, homework, and tests. A teacher must update student records to show attendance, grades, and conduct in accordance to school, district, and state policies. A teacher also needs to observe and evaluate each student’s performance. At times, parent and student conferences are conducted to discuss student progress or concerns. A teacher should have excellent written and verbal skills and be able to communicate effectively with students, parents, and colleagues. Science teachers must be detail oriented, effective at problem solving, and have excellent teaching skills. They are also responsible for administering appropriate disciplinary action as allowed by district guidelines. Outside the classroom, school teachers will need to participate in the department and school district meetings. A teacher may also be involved in extracurricular activities, such as athletics and social events.

Education requirements vary with each state; however, a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a science field, plus a teaching certificate, is usually the standard requirement. College level instructors may need a master’s degree or doctorate.

How to Become a Science Teacher

To become a science teacher requires a teacher certification or license from your state and an endorsement to teach science in your state. To earn a teacher certification requires graduation from a state-approved teacher preparation program (undergraduate or graduate) and a passing score on required Praxis exams. To receive an endorsement to teach science you will need to provide documentation showing that you have passed certain science courses and a passing score on the Praxis content area exam.

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Science Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

Although high school teacher employment grows at a slower rate than the average occupation over the next decade, there is an ongoing need for STEM teachers in certain parts of the country such as urban or rural areas. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an overall 6% growth in high school teacher jobs from 2012-2022 while middle school teaching jobs are expected to increase about 12% over the same period. Teaching job opportunities vary significantly between area and grade level. Rural and inner-city schools will have the greatest demand for qualified educators, because teacher turnover is highest. This high turnover rate is linked to low salary, remote locations, and school budget cuts. Suburban schools have less teacher turnover, but opportunities for skilled teachers are available. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, high school teachers earn a median annual salary of $55,050 while middle school teachers earn a median salary of $53,430 per year. Education, experience, and grade level are the key factors that determine salary.

Helpful Skills and Experience

A deep knowledge in the field of science or an advanced degree in science will help applicants stand out. Having a passion and enthusiasm for science subjects can also help. Additionally, strong communication skills are essential to being successful in this career.

Additional Resources

National Science Teacher Association – Information and resources on science teacher conferences, science education standards, and more.

Association for Science Teacher Education – An international organization promoting science education and publishers of The Journal of Science Teacher Education.

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Science Teacher Interview

See our interview with Meg Jacobson, President of the Colorado Association of Science Teachers for insights on what it is like to teach science, lessons learned from three decades of teaching, and advice for aspiring science teachers.

Top Science Teacher Blogs

Reading blogs by science teachers can provide excellent insights on what it is like to work as a science teacher from the perspective of current science teachers. Our list of Top 50 Science Teacher Blogs provides a resource for learning more about a career in science education and the latest education issues that top science teachers are talking about.

Science Education Teaching Degrees and Programs

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Programs:

  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Science
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Social Studies
  • M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Common Core State Standards Instructional Leader
  • And more...

Programs:

  • Master of Education: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education
  • MA in Teaching: Advanced Studies in Secondary Education- National Board Preparation

Programs:

  • M.A. in Teaching - Professional Learning Communities (Does not lead to initial teacher licensure)
  • B.S. in Educational Studies (Does Not Lead to Teacher Licensure)
  • B.S. in Secondary Education: Business Education
  • And more...

Programs:

  • MA Teaching: Middle Grades
  • M.Ed. - Teaching and Learning
  • M.Ed: Teaching & Learning Student Services
  • And more...

Programs:

  • Master of Arts in Teaching
  • Master of Arts in Teaching with Teaching Credential

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do you need a background in science to become a science teacher?

Answer: To obtain an endorsement for teaching science requires meeting your state’s requirements including earning a passing grade in required science courses and earning a passing score on the Praxis exam in the specific area of science (e.g. Earth and Sciences Content Knowledge or Chemistry Content Knowledge).

References:
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm

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