Becoming a Biology Teacher
So you think you might like to become a biology teacher? Biology teachers educate students at the secondary school level and teach them the fundamentals of biology, the relationship between living and non-living things, scientific concepts and processes, genetics, and environmental issues. In addition to lectures and assignments, biology teachers may also need to oversee laboratory work performed by students.
Teachers' schedules vary by school and most work during school hours, in addition to afternoons and evenings, spent preparing for classes and grading assignments and tests. Many schools are closed for two months in the summer. Although average job security is associated with this career in the early years, teachers who have earned tenure enjoy very strong job security.
This career can be both emotionally rewarding and stressful. Students may be disrespectful or unhappy to be in class, and many teachers struggle with access the resources they need to be effective educators.
So what are the career requirements?
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Biology plus teacher education program|
|Experience||Teachers are required to complete a supervised teaching experience before earning licensure|
|Licensure & Certification||Licensure or certification is required in all states for public school teachers|
|Key Skills||Strong understanding of biology; communication, oral comprehension and expression; writing, mathematics and instructional skills|
|Salary (2014)||$59,180 annually (mean salary for all secondary school teachers)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), National Institutes of Health Office of Science Education
Starting with the right education is important. Teachers need at least a bachelor's degree. Many teachers at the secondary level will also obtain an advanced degree. The degree field should be secondary education. To be a biology teacher, a separate degree in this content area is also required. The requirements to become licensed can vary by state. Education degrees also include a supervised student teaching requirement.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for high school teachers is $57,200.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Individuals who want to become biology teachers will first need to complete a bachelor's degree program in secondary education with a major in biology as well. Some colleges offer a Bachelor of Science in Education in Biology, sometimes referred to as a Bachelor of Science in Biology Education.
Students in these programs can focus on areas involving life and physical sciences and learn about the plant kingdom, ecology, cell chemistry and genetics. Additional topics of study include cell biology technology, cell fractionation, plant and animal communities, microscopy and protein purification.
Students who want to become teachers will need to complete several courses related to education and teaching. Examples of teaching courses include contemporary issues in education, sociocultural influence on teaching, and teaching and learning.
Here's a tip for success:
- Consider working as a tutor. Working as a biology tutor is an opportunity to help students learn basic biology concepts and may be good preparation for becoming a teacher.
Step 2: Complete Student Teaching
In order to earn licensure and graduate from a bachelor's degree program that has a teacher preparation component, individuals will need to complete a teaching practicum. This is an opportunity for individuals to design lesson plans and teach students under the supervision of an experienced teacher. The specific responsibilities and duties may vary depending on the teacher supervising.
Step 3: Obtain Licensure
To teach biology in public schools, students must obtain a state teaching license to teach secondary-education biology, which usually allows them to teach grades 7-12. Specific licensing requirements vary by state for teachers. However, most states require that teaching applicants graduate with a bachelor's degree, complete teaching courses and participate in a teaching practicum. Some states require that prospective teachers pass a licensing examination. Alternative teacher certification programs are also available and allow college graduates who majored in biology and related specialties to change careers, becoming biology teachers without having studied education in college.
Here is a tip for success:
- Consider certification. After obtaining a license and possibly spending a few years on the job, biology teachers may want to consider getting national certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. There are two science certifications relevant to biology teachers: one is for teaching early adolescents and one is for teaching older adolescents and young adults. Both of these certifications require applicants to be able to teach all types of middle or high school science, including biology. Certification is not legally required for licensure, and few schools will require it before hiring. However, teachers who are nationally certified may have better job prospects.
Earning a bachelor's degree, completing student teaching, and obtaining a teacher's license are the steps to follow to make the most of a career as a biology teacher.