Science Teacher Career Guide
Inspiring students with 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 elementary school, middle school, or high school. At higher grade levels and in colleges, classes typically focus on specific areas 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 the teacher’s job to implement appropriate curricula and foster an active learning environment that encourages student participation.
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 these grade levels as students are typically introduced to laboratory settings during 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 the scientific method 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 with overcoming challenges. They also communicate with parents and school administration on student progress.
Science Teacher Job Requirements and Common Tasks
Science teachers are responsible for preparing class lesson plans based on school guidelines and grade levels. This includes daily instruction outlines, classroom assignments, special projects, homework, and tests. A teacher must maintain 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. A teacher may also be involved in extracurricular activities, such as athletics and school clubs.
How to Become a Science Teacher
To become a science teacher in a public school, you must earn a teaching certificate or license from your state with an endorsement to teach science. Science teachers typically major in the subject(s) they wish to teach, such as biology or chemistry, and complete a state-approved teacher preparation program as part of their bachelor’s degree. The typical route to becoming a science teacher is as follows:
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in the subject(s) you wish to teach and complete teacher preparation as part of your degree program.
- Complete a student teaching internship in a science classroom at the grade level(s) you wish to teach.
- Take your state’s required tests for educators.
- Apply for your teaching license.
- Begin applying to open positions for science teachers.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in the subject you want to teach but did not complete a teacher preparation program, you may be eligible for alternative certification in your state. In many states, earning a master’s degree can also qualify you for science teacher licensure, if the degree includes an approved teacher preparation component.
Science Teacher Salary and Job Outlook
As of 2015, elementary school teachers earned an average annual salary of $54,550, while middle school teachers earned an average of $55,860 and secondary school teachers earned an average of $57,200.1,2,3 Job growth of 6% is expected for all K-12 teacher groups through 2024.1,2,3
At the postsecondary level, biological sciences teachers earned an average salary of $75,320 as of 2015, with job growth prospects of 14% through 2024.4 Chemistry teachers at the postsecondary level enjoy similar job growth prospects and salary levels.5
Science Teacher Career Interviews
- President, Colorado Association of Science Teachers, Meg Jacobson
- Illinois Science Teacher, Terie Engelbrecht
- Science Teacher in Korea, Chris Mitchell
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.
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.
- 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.
Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Science Teacher
Question: Do you need a background in science to become a science teacher?
Answer: Earning an endorsement for teaching science requires meeting your state’s requirements for teacher certification, which include earning a bachelor’s degree in a scientific subject and passing the appropriate content exams (such as the Praxis Earth and Sciences Content Knowledge or Chemistry Content Knowledge exams).
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
4. O*NET OnLine, Biological Science Teachers: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1042.00
5. O*NET OnLine, Chemistry Teachers: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1052.00