Science Teacher Career Guide

A science teacher instructs students in various areas and levels of science, from elementary school to high school and college. This guide provides information on what science teachers do, how to become one, and the salary and job outlook for prospective math teachers.

Table of Contents

How to Become
Job Description
Salary & Job Outlook
Additional Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
Related Pages

Science Teacher Overview

Science education usually begins 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 as they do by creating hands-on learning opportunities where students use their senses to observe, investigate, and discover. Middle school is a crucial time for nurturing children’s interests, so science teachers at this level may continue to create a fun and engaging learning environment where children can explore. Earth and life science are the key classroom topics at these grade levels as students are typically introduced to laboratory settings during group and individual experiences.

High school and college science teachers present complex scientific concepts in instructional and investigational settings, including the use of a science lab. The science lab is used to investigate chemistry, biology, and physics topics. Students are required to understand laboratory safety rules and how to use lab equipment.

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 in middle schools and high schools 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.
Teachers at the primary level typically teach a variety of subjects and will more likely major in elementary education, qualifying them to instruct different subjects including science. College-level instructors must typically have a doctoral degree. Private schools may not require teacher certification and teacher requirements may vary. The typical route to becoming a secondary science teacher in a public K-12 school is:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in the subject(s) you wish to teach and complete a teacher preparation program as part of your degree.
  2. Complete a student teaching internship in a science classroom at the grade level you wish to teach.
  3. Take your state’s required tests for educators.
  4. Apply for your teaching license.
  5. 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 Job Description

Science teachers play a critical role in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education, which is an approach to teaching and learning that provides students with interdisciplinary learning experiences that promote critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and innovation. Over the past several years, increased emphasis has been placed on teaching STEM subjects, because STEM fluency is crucial for developing future leaders in a complex world.1

A science teacher provides instruction and guidance to help students explore and understand important concepts in science, including problem-solving and how to gather evidence to support ideas or decisions. Teaching science requires hands-on experiments and investigation, providing students with opportunities to learn science concepts through multimedia materials, field trips, and non-conventional teaching approaches. At higher grade levels and in colleges/universities, classes typically focus on specific areas such as biology, earth science, animal science, chemistry, or physics.

Common Tasks

Science teachers are responsible for preparing class lesson plans based on learning standards and grade levels. This may include preparing daily instruction outlines and giving classroom assignments, special projects, homework, and tests. A teacher must maintain student records to show adherence to school, district, and state attendance and conduct 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.s.

Helpful Skills and Experience

Advanced knowledge in the field of science and its subfields, specialized experience, and/or a graduate degree in the sciences will help job applicants stand out. Teachers with a passion and enthusiasm for science subjects may also have an edge. Additionally, science teachers must be detail-oriented, effective at problem-solving, and have excellent instructional and communication skills.

Science Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

Salaries vary greatly according to the number of years of teaching experience, the highest degree earned, the location/district of the school, and grade level:

LevelMedian Annual Wage2-4Lowest 10%2-4Highest 10%2-4Public Schools5-7Private Schools5-7
Elementary School Teachers$61,690$45,470$101,310$62,190$48,380
Middle School Teachers$61,810$45,910$100,570$67,820$48,030
High School Teachers$62,360$46,480$101,710$69,520$58,950

BLS projects elementary school teacher job growth from 2022 to 2032 at 1%; middle school teacher job growth at 1%; and high school teacher job growth from 2022 to 2032 at 1%.5-7

At the postsecondary level, science teachers typically have a master’s degree or higher, and reportedly earn higher median salaries: $81,650 for biology educators and $80,720 for chemistry educators.8,9 Job growth for chemistry and biology teachers at the postsecondary level is expected to reach 4-9% or above through 2032, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.8,9

Additional Resources

Science Teacher Career Interviews

Science Teacher Blogs

Reading blogs by science teachers can provide excellent insights into what it is like to work as a science teacher from the perspective of current science teachers. Our list of 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 the completion of a bachelor’s degree and a teacher preparation program in a scientific subject and passing the appropriate content exams (such as the Praxis exams). Experience in the field isn’t ordinarily a requirement for becoming a K-12 teacher in a public school. Teaching experience, usually completed as part of the teacher preparation program, will be essential for new teachers.

Question: What is a STEM teacher?

Answer: A STEM teacher is any teacher who instructs students in the areas of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. STEM teachers specializing in science may instruct classes in biology, physics, and chemistry.

1. US Department of Education, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, including Computer Science: https://www.ed.gov/stem/
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Elementary School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252021.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252022.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252031.htm
5. 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
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
7. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm
8. O*NET OnLine, Biological Science Teachers, Postsecondary: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1042.00
9. O*NET OnLine, Chemistry Teachers, Postsecondary: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/25-1052.00