How to Become a Science Teacher
Interested in becoming a science teacher but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place! Many people are interested in a career as a science teacher, but feel overwhelmed by the process. In this article, we’ll go over what science teachers do, how to become a certified science teacher, and the skills and traits needed to be an effective History teacher. We’ll also answer questions about science teachers’ salaries and common career paths for science teachers.
Teaching science can be a fulfilling and long lasting career. Teachers across all subjects are in high demand right now, so if you’ve been thinking about a career as a science teacher, now is the perfect time!
What is a Science teacher?
A science teacher is someone who teaches a variety of topics and concepts related to science in order to help students understand the world around them. Science teachers can work in public schools, private schools, charter schools, or in specialized schools such as STEAM academies.
Types of Science teachers
Science teachers typically work at the middle or high school level. Teachers at the elementary level often teach all core subjects or two subjects such as math and science. Middle and high school science teachers usually teach courses that focus on a specific branch of science such as chemistry, biology, or physics. High school science teachers may also teach advanced placement or dual credit classes.
What does a Science teacher do?
Science teachers use state standards to plan and teach lessons that are engaging, effective, and developmentally appropriate. They also use assessment strategies to monitor their students’ progress. A science teacher job description also involves following state and federal educational policies, such as providing accommodations or modifications for students with disabilities.
How to become a Science teacher
Becoming a science teacher involves a similar process across most states. This typically includes earning a bachelor’s degree, completing a teacher preparation program, and taking required certification exams.
Earn a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a science-related field or in Education
Earning a bachelor’s degree is the first step in becoming a certified teacher regardless of what subject you plan to teach. Many science teachers major in a branch of science such as biology, chemistry, or earth science. Others major in Education, with a minor in science.
Complete an approved educator preparation program
An educator preparation program includes courses specific to teaching and field experience in the classroom (often referred to as student teaching). If you’re still in college, check with your academic advisor for information on educator preparation programs; many colleges have programs that can be completed while you work towards your degree. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you will need to complete an educator preparation program designed for alternative certification.
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Pass your state’s required testing and credentials
To become a certified science teacher, you’ll need to take at least two certification exams: one for general teaching practices and one specific to science. Depending on your state, you may also need to take additional tests such as a General Knowledge exam.
Different states use different certification exams. Many states use Praxis or NES exams. Other states, such as Texas and Florida, use their own exams like the TExES or FTCE. Don’t underestimate the difficulty level of these exams! Teacher certification exams can be surprisingly difficult, even for those with a background in science, but study guides and practice tests can help you become familiar with the exam format, content, and style of questions. 240 Tutoring has study guides, free practice tests, and exam overviews for several science exams including:
FTCE Earth and Space Science 6-12 (008)
GACE Middle Grades Science (014)
After passing your certification tests, you’ll need to apply for certification in your state. This typically involves a fee, paperwork, and a background check. For additional information on applying for certification, check your state’s department of education website.
Apply for a science teaching position
Once you have completed your teacher preparation program and passed your certification exams, it’s time to start applying for jobs! One of the best ways to find up-to-date job openings is by looking on school districts’ employment websites, but you can also find jobs on sites such as Indeed, SchoolSpring, or ZipRecruiter
Depending on your state or district, you may be able to apply for jobs and start teaching while you work towards your certification. In these cases, you will be hired under a probationary contract and have a specified amount of time to pass your certification exam. Keep in mind, however, that you’ll still need a bachelor’s degree in these cases.
Tip: Try working as a substitute teacher while you work towards your degree or certification. Not only will this give you valuable experience, but administrators are often more likely to hire someone who they’ve already become familiar with.
Helpful Skills for Science Teachers
Effective science teachers possess many of the following skills and traits:
- Strong Communication Skills – Successful science teachers know how to communicate effectively not only with students, but also with other teachers, administrators, and parents.
- Creativity and Innovation Skills – The most effective teachers are always looking for new ways to make their lessons more engaging and effective. Science teachers should strive to plan creative and innovative lessons that spark an interest in science in their students.
- Organization – Science teachers typically see many students on a daily basis. At the middle and high school level, you will have several different class periods and may even teach more than one type of course. Organization skills are key for lesson planning and for keeping records of each student’s progress.
- Collaboration – Science teachers collaborate with other teachers in their department to plan lessons and monitor overall student progress. Science teachers may even collaborate with teachers of other subjects to plan interdisciplinary units or projects. Be prepared to work with your fellow teachers for the benefit of all students.
- Passion for science – Above all else, science teachers should have a contagious passion for what they are teaching. Your passion and interest in science will inspire curiosity in your students and help them become excited about scientific topics.
Common career paths for Science teachers
Many science teachers work as classroom teachers throughout their career, although they may move to different schools or grade levels. Other science teachers go on to become department leads or even curriculum writers. Curriculum writers can work within a school district or for outside curriculum companies.
Some teachers may move into school administration roles such as counselors, assistant principals, or principals. These roles will require a Master’s degree and additional certifications. Others may even choose to teach at the college level, which requires a master’s degree at a minimum and usually a PhD.
Science teacher salary and job outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for teachers of any subject is $61,350 at the elementary level and $61,820 per year at the high school level. However, this will vary greatly by different states and areas within each state. For example, science teachers in large metropolitan areas of California make around $90,000 annually, while science teachers in nonmetropolitan areas of South Dakota have an average salary closer to $40,000.
Regardless of your location, the job outlook for science teachers is promising. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that from 2021 to 2031, elementary and high school teacher positions (including science positions) will see an increase of 4% and 5%, respectively.
Science teacher FAQs
How long does it take to become a science teacher?
This will vary based on where you’re currently at in your career.
- If you are just starting college, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree, complete an educator preparation program, and take your certification exams. Many colleges include an educator preparation program and student teaching internship with your degree plan. From the start of college to passing your certification exams, this will usually take about 4 – 6 years, depending on how long it takes to earn your bachelor’s degree.
- If you already hold a bachelor’s degree and are working in another field, you will first need to complete an alternative certification program and then pass your certification exams. Most alternative certification programs take about six months to two years to complete.
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- If you are already teaching another subject, you will likely just need to register and take the necessary science certification exam. This can be done relatively quickly if you are adequately prepared for the exam. Keep in mind that while passing the required exam(s) will qualify you as a certified science teacher, many schools may prefer candidates with a science degree or experience teaching science.
What is the salary range for science teachers?
The salary range for History teachers varies greatly based on your location and years of experience. Teacher salaries can range from $33,000 to over $100,000. The good news though is that school districts often publish their teacher pay scales on their website, making it easy for you to see whether or not a job will meet your income requirements. Generally speaking, you can expect a higher salary in states with a higher cost of living or in larger metropolitan areas.
Teachers’ salaries are typically based on years of teaching experience, so your salary will usually increase each year. If you’ve taught in the past, this should count towards your years of experience regardless of the subject(s) you taught.
Can I teach science without a science degree?
Yes! In fact, many science teachers have degrees in other fields, particularly those who become teachers later in their career. While a science degree will certainly help prepare your career and certification exam, it is not a requirement in most school districts. The most important thing is that you have a bachelor’s degree and that you are certified to teach science in your state.
Are there benefits to earning a master’s degree?
In some circumstances, having a master’s degree may be beneficial. Some schools may prefer that their teachers have master’s degrees, and most school districts have a slightly higher salary for teachers with master’s degrees.
You may also want to consider a master’s degree if you would like to move into other educational roles such as a head of department or curriculum writer. In these cases, you may want to consider a master’s degree in an area outside of science, such as a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction.
Keep in mind that a master’s degree is not always worth the additional cost and time. While it’s true that salaries are higher for those with master’s degrees, it is usually only a small difference. If you plan on being a classroom teacher for several years as opposed to moving into a new role, it may be best to hold off on a master’s degree for now.
What certification do I need to become a science teacher?
The certification requirements for science teachers vary by state, but typically require a general teaching certification plus a science-specific certification. The science exam you take may vary based on the grade level and field of science you plan to teach. In some states, you may also have to take an exam that covers general knowledge and skills. For example, in Florida, you will need to take the FTCE Professional Education Test, the FTCE General Knowledge test, and a specific science exam such as the FTCE Middle Grades General Science 5-9, FTCE Biology 6-12, or the FTCE Chemistry 6-12.
Your college or alternative certification program will be able to direct you to the specific exams you need in your state. You can also check our free test series resources for articles on common teacher exams and free practice tests.
What other certifications can I get to advance my career?
Some schools or districts prefer that their teachers have additional certifications, such as Special Education or Foundations of Reading.
If you plan to move into an administration role later in your career, you’ll likely need to earn a Master’s degree and take additional exams such as the Florida Educational Leadership Examination.
Interested in teaching a different subject? Check out these additional articles:
How to Become an Art Teacher
How to Become a History Teacher
How to Become an English Teacher
How to Become a Physical Education Teacher
How to Become a Math Teacher
How to Become a Music Teacher
How to Become an Elementary Education Teacher
How to Become a Substitute Teacher