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Become a Physics Teacher: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a physics teacher. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career as a physics teacher.

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Do I Want to Be a Physics Teacher?

Physics teachers usually instruct students in secondary schools about attributes and interactions of energy and matter. Their responsibilities include lesson preparation and the grading of class assignments, examinations and laboratory exercises. In addition to being skilled in math and science, individuals who desire to become physics teachers must have the ability to explain material in a manner that students of all skill levels can comprehend. A great deal of patience and empathy might be needed when teaching this often challenging subject to students of various backgrounds and capabilities.

Job Requirements

The lowest level of education necessary to become a physics teacher in high school is a bachelor's degree. Aspiring teachers also need to complete a teacher education program, including a stint student teaching, as well as pass a variety of exams to obtain teacher certification or licensure for the state in which they intend to work in the public schools. Some states require that educators acquire a master's degree within a set amount of time after certification. The following table includes main requirements, as described by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for working as a high school physics teacher:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; some states require teachers to go on to earn a master's degree
Degree Field Physics
Licensure and/or Certification State-level teacher certification or licensure required
Experience Student teaching internship required
Key Skills Patience, instructional skills, communication skills

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The initial step in becoming a physics teacher is completion of a bachelor's degree program in physics at an accredited college or university. Characteristic coursework covers topics such as thermodynamics, circuit analysis, optics and electromagnetic theory.

Success Tip:

  • Choose a program that incorporates teacher education. Some undergraduate programs consolidate physics and education coursework with supervised practical experience to permit students to complete their required teacher education program at the same time as their bachelor's degree. This can speed up the process of becoming a physics teacher.

Step 2: Complete a Teacher Education Program

Prospective physics teachers who haven't met teacher education requirements as part of their bachelor's program can enroll in a teacher certification program at any number of colleges and universities. These programs are geared toward graduates of bachelor's degree programs in disciplines besides education. Individuals who successfully finish the coursework and supervised student teaching requirements of these programs are usually qualified to receive licensure or certification in the state in which the program is located.

Step 3: Get Licensed or Certified

All U.S. states require that public school teachers be licensed or certified, with each state setting its own conditions. Teachers are usually tested on their skills in general subjects, such as writing and reading, in addition to their competency in their particular field. After successfully completing a bachelor's degree, student teaching and all professional exams mandated by their state, aspiring teachers should be positioned to earn their teacher certification or licensure.

Step 4: Complete a Master's Degree Program

In some states, public school teachers are required to attain a master's degree within a specified time frame after licensure. Many master's programs in education are intended for those who've completed a bachelor's degree program in a field other than education and need to achieve initial certification or for licensed teachers who want to add certification in an additional subject area, such as physics. The curriculum in a master's program often includes advanced coursework in instructional techniques and procedures.

Step 5: Earn Voluntary National Certification

National certification affords physics teachers the chance to display their knowledge and competence. As the BLS notes, educators with certifications might earn additional benefits, in conjunction with increased income. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) provides national board certification in young adult physics instruction. According to NBPTS, prerequisites include three years of teaching experience as well as a valid teaching license.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics