Chemistry Instructor Jobs: Career Options and Requirements

Chemistry instructors typically require an extensive background in chemistry with a minimum bachelor's degree. Find out about the job duties, education requirements and salary info for some of the career options as a chemistry instructor.

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Chemistry instructors can teach students of all ages, and their work includes developing instructional plans, assessing student progress, and grading exams. A bachelor's degree is the minimum education, and depending on the level being taught, a master's degree or doctoral degree may be required. In addition to teaching, there are other careers chemistry instructors can pursue, including textbook writer or consultant

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Essential Information

To work in this field, applicants must have at least a bachelor's degree in chemistry and taken teacher education courses. Teaching at the college level requires a master's or doctorate degree. Many teachers must also obtain licensing and certification.

Career Options

There are many career options in chemistry instruction, from an elementary and middle school science teacher to post-secondary level college professor and textbook writer.

Career Middle School Teacher High School Teacher Chemistry Professor Tutor/Mentor Academic Writer Chemistry Consultant
Required Education Bachelor's degree & teacher certification Master's degree & teacher certification Doctoral degree Bachelor's degree Master's degree Doctoral degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (for middle school teachers)* 6% (for all high school teachers)* 15% (for chemistry teachers, postsecondary)* 15% (for all self-enrichment teachers)* 2% (writers and authors)* 11% (for all environmental scientists and specialists, including health)*
Annual Average Salary (2015) $58,760 (for middle school teachers, except special and career/technical education)* $60,440 (for all high school teachers)* $71,060 (for postsecondary teachers, all others)* $42,350 (for all self-enrichment teachers)* $59,860 (for newspaper, periodical and book publishing)* $77,000 (in management, scientific, and technical consulting)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Elementary and Middle School Instructor

At the elementary and middle school levels, instruction in science is generally very basic. Science teachers in elementary schools introduce basic scientific concepts and serve as role models and mentors to their young students. By middle school, students may take a course specifically in chemistry or may continue to take general science classes. Middle school teachers might also begin to guide interested students toward future careers in science by providing vocational information.

Demand for elementary and middle school teachers should increase by 6% over the 2014-2024 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In May 2015 the BLS indicated that elementary school teachers, except special education, earned an average salary of $57,730 per year while middle school teachers earned an average salary of $58,760 per year.

High School Instruction

For most students, studying chemistry begins in high school. High school chemistry teachers must not only have a broad base of knowledge, but also enthusiasm for working with young adults. High school teachers design daily lesson plans that combine teacher-led activities, such as lectures, pop quizzes with hands-on activities and laboratory assignments.

The BLS reports high school teachers were paid an average of $60,440 per year in 2015. Opportunities for teachers at this level are projected to increase by 6% between 2014-2024, as reported by the BLS, but prospects for teachers in the sciences may be better than the average for teachers in general.

Chemistry Professors

Part of being a successful chemistry professor is understanding how students best comprehend the subject. Postsecondary teachers are expected to see above-average employment opportunities over the 2014-2024 decade, with a growth rate of 15%, based on the BLS data. Earning potential for professors can vary from one institution to the next. For example, the BLS reports that postsecondary teachers (and all others) earned an average of $71,060 in 2015.

Science Department Chair

The chairperson of the science department of a high school, college or university is generally also a teacher or professor. He or she is also responsible for coordinating department events, implementing a budget for the department, serving as a guide for newly hired faculty, overseeing supplies, creating schedules for the current and projected year, and acting as a liaison between departments or between the science department and the administration.

Chemistry Tutoring

Individuals with a broad base of knowledge in chemistry, strong people skills, and flexibility in work hours and work locations can tutor middle school, high school and college students in chemistry. Tutors can be self-employed or work through a learning agency or an after-school program.

Mentoring

Professionals across all fields of chemistry can participate in mentoring the next generation of chemists. Individuals in research chemistry can go through formal mentoring programs, which often run a background check, and work with high school or college students to give them hands-on exposure to the world of chemists.

Both tutors and mentors can be considered self-enrichment teachers, and growth in this profession may expand by 15% from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. The average salary for self-enrichment teachers in May of 2015 was $42,350, based on the BLS' figures.

Science Writing

Academic writing about chemistry, either for textbooks or for other publications used in schools and libraries is another career option for chemistry instructors.

The BLS projects writers may see below-average demand (2%) between 2014 and 2024 due to changes in the publishing industry. Data from the BLS indicates writers working in newspaper, periodical and book publishing earned an average salary of $59,860 in May 2015.

Chemistry Consulting

It's not only students who need instruction in chemistry; businesses and organizations need information as well. Consultants can work within a company or as independent freelancers. Consultants share their extensive knowledge across a wide range of industries, from agriculture and food and drink to plastics. Demand is also high for chemistry consultants who can solve environmental problems and work to protect public safety.

The BLS shows about 23% of environmental scientists and specialists, including chemists, worked in consulting services in 2014. Opportunities in this field are likely to be above average in the years between 2014 and 2024 with an 11% job growth, according to the BLS. The average salary for individuals in the management, scientific, and technical consulting field was $77,000 as of 2015, as reported by the BLS.

Requirements

Education

Chemistry teachers often major in chemistry as well as enrolling in teacher education courses. To teach in a public elementary, middle or high school, a teacher must have a bachelor's degree and be licensed. Some public schools offer alternative licensing and education options in order to fill hard-to-place positions in urban or rural schools. Private schools do not always require licensing, but will expect applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree.

Teacher education courses are helpful, but often not required for chemistry tutoring. Education specific to teaching is also not required for chemistry consulting.

To teach at the secondary level, chemistry instructors need at least a master's degree. Full-time, tenured positions may require a doctorate degree. At the post-secondary level, chemistry instructors must have a doctorate. A Ph.D. or other doctoral degree is also recommended for those who wish to pursue consulting. Science writers and science department chairs should expect to earn at least a master's degree.

An accredited teacher education course may also be mandatory and is strongly recommended for anyone going into teaching. Look for programs accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.

Licensing

Licensing is administered by each state's State Board of Education and often includes supervised classroom experience. The license must be renewed annually and usually requires a certain number of hours of continuing education for renewal. They are valid only in the state issued, but often it is easier to obtain a license in one state if you already hold a license in another.

Certification

Elementary, middle school and high school teachers should also expect to earn certification. In the United States, the voluntary teacher certification organization is the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Some states require certification in order to earn a license.

Other Requirements

Chemistry instructors serve as role models for the community. They must have impeccable ethical and moral standards. Teaching requires confidence, leadership skills and the ability to inspire others. Most of all, chemistry instruction requires a zest for working with other people and excellent interpersonal skills.

A bachelor's degree is the minimum required education for chemistry instructors and many possess a master's or doctoral degree. Licensing and certification may also be required. Positions such as chemistry professor and chemistry consultant will experience a 15% job growth rate from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than many occupations.

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