Should I Become a High School Biology Teacher?
High school biology instructors might teach students about animal and human biology, ecology, and botany. Teachers need to be able to motivate students and keep classrooms on task, in addition to being proficient in their subject area.
It's important that biology teachers have a passion, not only for the life sciences, but for working with students, which sometimes can be stressful. Technology has become an integral part of the classroom. Therefore, teachers are expected to be proficient in the use and implementation of the latest technologies and tools. Some public high school biology teachers have the ability to secure tenure, which can ensure their career stability.
To enter the field as a high school biology teacher, you need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a biology with an education minor or education preparation program. Some schools may prefer a master's degree. Teaching experience through a student teaching placement or first-year mentorship program and licensing in public schools is required.
The key skills that biology teachers must possess include:
- Animated and engaging personality
- Patient and tolerant attitude
- Passion for sharing knowledge
- Excellent verbal and written communication abilities
- Creativity and diverse methodologies for imparting ideas and knowledge
- Basic computer skills including educational software, programs for recording, grading, and evaluating students' work and progress, and technical skills with overhead projectors and other media-sharing devices
- Proficiency with biology and lab experiment equipment, like microscopes and slides.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in May 2015 the median salary for a high school teacher was $57,200 a year.
Career Steps for a Biology Teacher
So now that you know the requirements for becoming a high school biology teacher, let's take a look at the specific steps that we can take to get into the career field, as well as some tips for improving our success.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Aspiring biology teachers should complete a bachelor's program in biology in conjunction with a state-mandated teacher preparation program. This may be in the form of taking education as a minor, or there may be a specific major for aspiring biology teachers. Students who already hold relevant bachelor's degrees can complete a teacher preparation program in 1-2 years. Teacher preparation programs generally include several education and psychology classes in addition to internship and/or student teaching experiences.
Here are a few tips that can improve your chances for your success:
- Use field work opportunities to gain experience. Student teaching is a part of teacher preparation programs. Students can gain direct experience with the high school age group to help boost employment opportunities after graduation.
- Participate in school tutoring opportunities. Most schools offer programs for students to tutor other students, and these positions are often paid. Students gain additional and unique experience in the role of educator to add to their resume and repertoire.
Step 2: Obtain State Licensure
Licensure is required in all states, though the exact prerequisites for obtaining the credential may vary. Most states require completion of a relevant bachelor's program, a student teaching experience, a content area test and a licensure exam. A background check and confirmation of citizenship may be necessary as well.
A new teacher's initial, or entry-level, teaching license generally isn't permanent. In some states, the initial license is valid for 3-5 years. Continuing education, up to a master's degree, may be required in that time period in order to earn permanent licensure.
Step 3: Continue Education
Teaching full time while continuing to go to school can be difficult and time consuming. However, teachers with initial licensure should begin and complete all requirements for permanent licensure as soon as possible. There are completely online and hybrid online/on-campus programs available that are designed for working teachers who need to meet these requirements.
There are teacher associations and other resources available that offer career development courses. These can be used to stay up on the latest technologies and their uses as well as to learn additional teaching techniques and helpful strategies that give a professional edge.
To review, upon the completion of a bachelor's degree in biology and teaching experience, a high school biology teacher can get an initial license to teach biology to high school students (within public and private schools), while working on continuing education to get a permanent license.