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How to Become a High School Physics Teacher: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a high school physics teacher. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements and find out how to start a career in secondary education. View article »

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  • 0:02 Become a High School…
  • 1:30 Bachelor's Degree
  • 2:38 Initial Teaching Credentials
  • 3:14 Obtain Permanent Credentials
  • 3:47 Consider a Graduate Degree

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Video Transcript

Become a High School Physics Teacher

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Physics with a teacher prep program or an education minor
Licensure State licensure required to teach in public schools
Experience Student teaching (usually acquired with teacher prep program)
Key Skills Confidence; concise communication skills; proficiency with Website maintenance, online discussion board management, and education software; maintain science materials, equipment, visual aids
Salary $57,200 (2015 median for high school teachers)

Sources: Teach.org, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET Online, Payscale.com

High school physics teachers are responsible for imparting an understanding of the physical universe and its properties to their students. This includes topics like thermodynamics and requires proficiency in upper-level mathematics. Additionally, teachers are responsible for various administrative tasks and review processes, which may include initiating student conferences, designing curriculum, and grading homework and exams.

Working as a high school teacher might be frustrating when dealing with unmotivated or unruly students. Many teachers feel quite rewarded, however, when they are able to observe students' progress. High school physics teachers usually earn a bachelor's degree in a teacher preparation program with a major in physics. Licensing is required to teach in the public schools. Before being hired, a teacher must pass a background check. It should also be noted that there is a shortage of physics teachers in the United States, according to the American Physical Society.

High school physics teachers must also have a few key skills. These include concise communication skills and proficiency with website maintenance, online discussion board management, and education software. Physics teachers should also maintain science materials, equipment, and visual aids.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics high school teachers earned a median salary of $57,200 in 2015.

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Bachelor's Degree

The first step to becoming a high school physics teacher is to earn a bachelor's degree in physics (or a related field), and to complete a teaching preparation program. Private charter schools may have less rigorous requirements than public schools in regards to completion of a teacher preparation program and certification. Teacher preparation programs generally include several education and psychology courses in addition to internships and student teaching experiences.

Aspiring teachers should also complete an internship and participate in student teaching opportunities. While student teaching is generally a requirement and a part of the teacher preparation program, there may be additional fieldwork available. Students should take advantage of any fieldwork opportunities to gain valuable experience.

Aspiring teachers can also tutor while going to school. Students who meet minimum GPA standards and have achieved a minimum grade in specific courses can usually apply to become a tutor for those particular subjects. This option offers the student additional development opportunities and looks great on a resume.

Initial Teaching Credentials

Exact requirements for teaching high school physics vary by state. Anyone wanting to work in a public school is required to be licensed by the state in which they intend to teach. In order to become licensed, most states require PRAXIS II or PRAXIS III test scores to be submitted in conjunction with transcripts showing completion of a bachelor's degree and a teacher preparation program. Background checks and confirmation of citizenship are also usually required. For high school physics teachers, the PRAXIS II includes a subject specific exam on physics.

Obtain Permanent Credentials

Obtaining permanent licensure commonly requires continuing education or professional development courses. Teachers may be need to complete a master's degree program, take additional tests and exams, and meet minimum teaching experience requirements. Initial licensure time periods vary, but can last between three and five years.

Initial licenses cannot be renewed or extended, thus it is vital that all necessary requirements are fulfilled within the allotted time period in order to obtain permanent licensure.

Consider a Graduate Degree

Once a teacher is hired, many states require completion of a master's degree as a prerequisite to obtaining permanent licensure. After acquiring initial licensure and beginning to teach, teachers can take a master's degree program that is delivered online and is structured around their full time working schedule. By taking relevant development and improvement courses, teachers stay current regarding the latest technologies and practices used in their profession.


In summary, high school physics teachers need at least a bachelor's degree in a teacher preparation program as well as student teaching experience and state licensure.

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