Career Overview

Bachelor of Arts, Science (Physics, 5-12)

Career Overview: PHYSICS TEACHER

Do you have an analytical mind and a passion for the universe surrounding us? Maybe it's time to think about becoming a physics teacher and sharing your knowledge with a roomful of young and inquisitive minds.

According to the Physics Teacher Education Coalition, "the preparation of qualified physics teachers has failed to keep pace with a dramatic increase in the number of high-school students taking physics." Furthermore, "Despite federal legislation mandating highly qualified teachers for every classroom, school districts confirm a considerable shortage of physics teachers year after year, greater than any other science discipline."

If you have up-to-date knowledge in general science and advanced physics and develop the skills that enable teachers to perform effectively in diverse classrooms, you can take advantage of the current need for physics teachers in elementary and high schools across the country. Remember the first time you learned about Newton's laws of motion and how they apply to our everyday lives? Maybe you had a great physics teacher in high school who conducted an experiment demonstrating how Archimedes principle can be used to solve problems of static fluids and fluids in motion. If all this is sparking your imagination, maybe it's time to get scientific about your future – become a physics teacher!

Job Listing Growth

2014 - 2024

Career Opportunities

Earning your degree in physics can be a launch pad to a broad range of interesting professions. Just ask Beavis and Butt-Head creator Mike Judge, rock guitarist Brian May, or German Chancellor Angela Merkel... all physics graduates! You may choose to stay in teaching for the rest of your career, or you may discover new and interesting avenues where you can leverage your analytical thinking skills and acquired knowledge to pursue a future in fields like:

Positions in the Field

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Energy and Power Provision
  • Environmental Consultancy
  • Manufacturing
  • Medical Technology
  • Patent Work
  • Research and Development
  • Scientific Publishing
  • Telecommunications
  • Water and Environmental Control
Job Market Forecast

Job Growth

2014 - 2024

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for middle school and high school teachers is expected to grow about 6% from 2014 to 2024, which is near the average for all occupations. The outlook, however, might be even better for physics teachers in particular.

The American Physics Society says the demand for physics teachers is on the rise, with about 500 leaving the profession annually and only about 300 entering the workforce to replace them. On top of that, only about one-third of current physics teachers majored or minored in physics. The critical need for STEM teachers has even been called a national security issue.

Work Environment

As a physics teacher, you'll most likely work in a public or private elementary or high school, and many days will be filled with fascinating experiments and experiences with your students. Like most teachers, your daily schedule will include time before and after school to meet with parents, students and other teachers. Generally speaking, you'll have a long summer break and good benefits in most states.

PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS

If you have a passion for teaching and a penchant for understanding and demonstrating how theories in physics have changed over generations, it's time for you to learn more about becoming a physics teacher. These organizations will support and encourage your aspirations.

JOB SEARCH RESOURCES

Today's shortage of physics teachers means lots of opportunities for motivated educators with the right knowledge and credentials. Here are a few places to begin your search.

SALARY STATS

Whether you're teaching middle or high school physics, your salary will most likely be related to how much experience you have and the level of education you have achieved. Where you live and teach will also play a significant role in how much you can make. The BLS reports the median annual wage for middle school teachers was $55,860 in May 2015. High school teachers earned slightly more: $57,200. 

As is true for most jobs and careers, you can expect your hourly pay rate or salary to increase as you gain experience and spend more time working for the same employer.

AVERAGE SALARY OF JOBS WITH RELATED TITLES

Summary

Most physics teachers don't have adequate physics content backgrounds; about two-thirds of them did not major in physics or physics education. Of the minority who do have sufficient content knowledge, only a small portion actually had specialized preparation in physics teaching, not merely in "general science" teaching. Not coincidentally, physics teacher preparation is scattered among hundreds of institutions, only a few of which can and do devote the resources necessary to do a good job. So says the American Physics Society in an article entitled The Role of Physics Departments in High School Teacher Education.

To help meet the current and expected demand for highly qualified physics teachers in elementary and high schools, many top-ranked teaching degrees now offer innovative online curriculums to tomorrow's generation of difference-making physics teachers.

If you're ready to embark on an exciting career inspiring future generations of scientists and problem solvers, start by looking for a quality bachelor's degree program with NCATE accreditation that leads to teacher licensure. NCATE is an organization that sets the standard for teacher preparation and is committed to strengthening student learning. Also, choose a university that incorporates Demonstration Teaching (also known as student teaching) and in-classroom field experiences into its curriculum. They'll help you prepare for life in the real world of a physics teacher after you receive your teaching license.

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