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CAREER GUIDE Master of Arts, Science Education (Secondary Physics)

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Career guide: physics teacher.

Are you ready to expand your role as a teacher? If you want to take your career to the next level — and you have an avid interest in science — it might be time for you to set your sights on a master's degree in education with an emphasis on physics. This program will give you the knowledge necessary to become a skilled and qualified high school physics teacher.

Obtaining the M.A. in Science Education with its specialization in physics will prepare you for secondary certification to teach kids the crucial subject of physics. The need for qualified physics teachers is great right now. School districts in the United States consistently rank physics as the highest need area among all academic disciplines with regard to teacher shortages.

So are you physics teacher material? With the right courses in science education, you're likely to find yourself in very high demand as a high school physics teacher.

Job listing growth 2016–2026.

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Career opportunities.

The Master of Arts in Science Education (Secondary Physics) is a competency-based degree program that prepares already-licensed teachers to:

  • Become licensed to teach physics in junior high, middle school, or high school.
  • Develop significant skills in science curriculum development, design, and evaluation.

Dedicated educators who complete the program will have an edge over other teachers who possess only a bachelor's degree.

Junior colleges may hire you as a physics instructor with this degree, but normally a doctorate is required for tenured professor positions at 4-year universities.

Positions in the field.

  • Aerospace engineering
  • Energy and power provision
  • Environmental consultancy
  • Medical technology
  • Scientific publishing
  • Medical technology
  • Patent work
"I was able to complete my master's degree in less than a year due to the fact I could work at my own pace. I was also able to do this while working full time as a teacher and with three kids and husband at home." Valicia Vargas
M.A. Mathematics Education (K–6)

Job market forecast.

The market for qualified teachers with physics master's degrees continues to be robust as more students opt to take physics classes and more schools struggle to find teachers with related degrees. According to the Connell University Physics Teacher Education Coalition, the numbers of high school students taking physics has been growing rapidly: over the past two decades, that number has more than doubled to 1.38 million students, with the number of Advanced Placement or second-year physics students increasing more than nine-fold to 229,000.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for middle and high school teachers, including physics teachers, will grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026. However, in 2013, the National Task Force on Teacher Education reported that the need for physics teachers was greater than any other time in U.S. history.

According to the Cornell University Physics Teacher Education Coalition, because of the critical shortage of high school physics teachers, highly qualified candidates can expect multiple job offers, and to be able to pick the location and the school district (urban, suburban, rural) where they want to work.

In short, if you have the knowledge and experience to become a high school physics teacher, you'll be well positioned for a successful career almost anywhere in the country. Not many career fields offer that flexibility!

Job growth 2016–2026.

Work environment.

Physics teachers are in-demand at schools all over the United States. The types of schools hiring physics teachers include charter schools, private schools, prep schools and traditional high schools. The work environment should include all the necessary technology and resources you need to successfully teach your students.

Classroom sizes will differ depending on school locale. The classroom climate of a qualified physics teacher is brimming with lively discussion and evaluation, meaningful experimentation, engaging activities, group collaboration, and productive arguments.

Generally, you will work during school hours (which may vary somewhat), but most teachers also work some evenings and weekends to prepare lesson plans and grade papers. Most do not teach during the summer.

You may be expected to work with students who have special needs, or are academically and/or behaviorally at risk.

Professional organizations.

If you're focused on a physics teaching career, the right education and credentials can help get you there. The following organizations can also provide a wealth of information about this growing field and the best way to put your future on the fast track.

Job search resources.

If you're ready to launch your career as a qualified physics teacher, here are a few places to start. With the right credentials and connections, you'll be on your way to personal and professional satisfaction.


Salary stats.

Teaching can be a financially rewarding career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, high school teachers earned a median annual salary of $58,030 in May 2016, while middle school teachers earned a median annual salary of $56,720. 

According to the American Association of Physics Teachers, physics teachers' salaries often rise rapidly. Teachers with master's degrees in large cities sometimes make more than $100,000 per year as they approach retirement. In addition to a decent salary, there are many benefits ranging from medical coverage and life insurance to tuition reimbursement.

Average salary of jobs with related titles.


Summary.

A career in science education with a secondary physics specialization will prepare you for secondary certification to teach high school physics. The skills you gain from the program will help you maximize the impact of your lessons and satisfy the need for effective classes taught by qualified, dedicated physics educators.

Did you know that only 47% of physics classes are taught by a teacher with a degree in the subject, compared with 73% of biology classes and about 80% of humanities classes?

As a skilled physics teacher with the proper education, you'll bring much-needed expertise to the industry. As you help shape the many young minds of those interested in science, you'll likely find this career to be extremely fulfilling.

High school physics teachers are responsible for imparting an understanding of the physical world and its properties to their students. Physics teachers may be expected to create, plan and teach a challenging curriculum that meets the needs of a diverse student population. You will likely be expected to monitor and evaluate student outcomes, communicate with parents, interact with other staff members, and maintain professional competence. You'll have plenty of opportunities to use your creativity as an educator.

Next Start Date

Jul 1

Start the 1st of any month—as soon as you complete enrollment!

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Your career’s next step: Earn a degree.

Ready to jump-start your career in teaching? The next step could be earning your M.A. in Science Education (Secondary Physics). Accredited, competency-based WGU offers this degree online for at a surprisingly affordable flat-rate tuition. Flexible enough for a working adult’s schedule with the option to accelerate, your degree may be closer than you think!