How Do I Become a Physics Teacher?

If you enjoy the science of physics and have a passion for educating youth, you may be wondering how to become a physics teacher. Physics teachers introduce students, usually at the high school level, to the concepts, methods and theories of physics, including laws of energy and matter. As you might expect, physics teachers typically find work in public and private schools.

Like teachers of other subjects, physics teachers write lesson plans, educate students and evaluate their academic performance. Physics teachers educate students through lectures, textbook material, interactive class discussions, hands-on laboratory projects, classwork and homework assignments and multimedia materials such as educational films. Academic performance is determined by students’ grades on classwork, homework, projects and examinations and by successful completion of state standardized tests. Teachers also act as leaders inside and outside the classroom, enforcing school and classroom rules and sometimes acting as coaches or advisors for school-sponsored clubs and sports.

The first step to becoming a physics teacher is pursuing a college-level education. Physics teachers typically take courses in mathematics and science in order to earn a bachelor’s degree in physics. They may dual major in education, enrolling in classes that cover teaching techniques and child and adolescent psychology and development. Aspiring physics teachers must usually complete an internship or student-teaching experience. Upon graduation, they seek state certification at the high school or secondary level, which allows them to teach seventh- through twelfth-grade students. Though the requirements for licensure and certification vary by state, all states do require teachers of public schools to be licensed. Teachers must continue their education throughout their careers to maintain their license.

Other aspiring physics teachers study only physics during their undergraduate educational career and then earn certification through a non-traditional “alternate route” program, sometimes completed during the teacher’s first year of teaching. Physics teachers may also find employment in private schools, which do not necessarily require state licensure and certification but do require a bachelor’s degree and a thorough understanding of physics.

The United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics expects jobs for high school teachers to grow only 7 percent overall between 2010 and 2020, which is noticeably slower than the expected growth rate for all occupations. However, physics teachers may have an advantage because some school districts cannot easily find teachers that are qualified to teach physics at the high school level. As of May 2010, physics teachers and other high school teachers earned a median salary of $53,230 per year. This salary is remarkably more than the median annual salary of all occupations, $33,840. Like other teachers, physics teachers in most public school districts enjoy the benefit of having two months off during the summer.

If you like making a difference in the lives of youth and communicating the concepts and laws of physics in a way that is meaningful and understandable to others, knowing how to become a physics teacher could be the start of a fulfilling new career.

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