Becoming a Life Sciences Teacher
Life sciences educators introduce students to the scientific exploration of living organisms. At the secondary school level, life sciences educators might help students navigate through such subject areas as biology, physiology, and botany. Teachers' duties include lesson planning, delivering lessons to students in an interesting manner, assigning student work, evaluating student assignments, and assessing learners' progress on a regular basis. Teachers may be responsible for students in common areas of the school, in addition to the classroom.
Teaching can be a challenging profession that includes large class sizes and taking work home. However, full-time work is available in this profession, and some schools have a 10-month year that allows teachers to have summers off. Additionally, watching children succeed can be its own reward.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree required; some states require a master's degree|
|Experience||Student teaching internship required|
|Licensure and Certification||State teaching certificate required|
|Key Skills||Patience, ability to give instruction, strong communication skills|
|Salary||$57,200 per year (median salary for all secondary teachers)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2015).
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor's degree in a natural science, such as biology, from an accredited college or university, coupled with coursework in education, can be a starting point for future life sciences educators. Undergraduates may additionally elect to broaden the subject matter they're able to teach by completing a minor in a supplementary science field, such as chemistry or physics. A potential life sciences teacher should also enter a teacher education program. Teacher education programs can be finished simultaneously with the bachelor's degree program or independently after earning a bachelor's degree. One should look for a program accredited by an organization such as the National Council for Accreditation of Science Teachers. While enrolled in a college or university, a future life sciences teacher is required to comply with an internship or supervised field experience at a local school.
In order to be successful as an educator, college students may want to volunteer with kids or work as a substitute teacher during college. Any experience working with children can be beneficial to a student's future success in teaching. Volunteering in any setting where kids are can help build this experience. Alternatively, aspiring teachers can look for work as a substitute teacher, which can help build experience in the classroom and develop the communication and classroom management skills essential to realize success as a teacher. This may not be an option for everyone, however, since some states require substitute teachers to have bachelor's degrees.
Step 2: Obtain a Teaching Certificate
Public school teachers at all grade levels need to satisfy certain guidelines established by their state's Board of Education, and pass a licensing examination to be given a teaching certificate. Outside of a bachelor's degree and student teaching field experience, the parameters for certification differ by state. After finishing a bachelor's degree, student teaching, and passing any professional exams mandated by his or her state, one should be qualified to apply for teacher certification. Specifications to stay licensed may also differ, but can include ongoing education coursework. Certain states expect life sciences teachers to earn an additional post-baccalaureate degree.
Step 3: Complete a Master's Degree
Future educators with undergraduate degrees in a life sciences field or a non-education discipline might have to take further coursework in education before pursuing their teaching credential. Although this is not a necessity in all states, it is something all life sciences teachers should think about. Master's degree programs take approximately two years to complete, and one will obtain a master's degree in either biology or education, as determined by the program. Various master's degree programs are intended for individuals who earned bachelor's degrees in life sciences but are not certified, or they are for educators certified in different subjects who seek a certification in life sciences.
Step 4: Advance Your Career
Life sciences teachers with bachelor's degrees may chooses to enroll in a master's degree program to better their careers even when their state doesn't expect education beyond a bachelor's degree. A master's degree or Ph.D. will allow a teacher to become a professor at a university or work as a researcher in the field. For those doing research while teaching, getting articles published, and creating a research brand is helpful for career advancement. Higher paying jobs may also be available outside of the education system for experienced life sciences teachers with advanced degrees.
When considering a teaching career as a life sciences teacher, expect to work with students at the secondary level and to take on the responsibilities of managing students and their learning, after having earned a minimum of a bachelor's degree in the area of biology, completed a student teaching program, and met all state requirements in order to apply for a teaching certificate.