What Makes a Great Science Teacher?

Every great science teacher starts with being a great teacher. If you’re thinking a science-rich career in education, here’s a look at the skills you need:

  • Mastery of the subject: Science teachers need to be able to answer the majority of students’ questions without looking them up. They also need a variety of resources to quickly get back to a student with an answer if they don’t have it right then. This can be quite challenging for a science teacher as it could mean knowing astronomy to zoology. In any case, the students need to see the teacher as the “go-to person” for knowledge in any of the science-related fields.
  • Broad knowledge: Science teachers need to have knowledge of many topics on the periphery of their own specialty. For instance, a chemistry teacher will know something about earth science, biology, physics and mathematics. An earth science teacher will know about astronomy and chemistry.
  • Scientific attitude: The great science teachers question everything. They motivate students to be curious and seek out their own answers. This teacher will demonstrate the “correct” approach to a scientific problem, but will spend the rest of the school year helping students understand what that means to them.
  • Deep knowledge of learning styles: Science teachers must be familiar with how people learn. All students have their own preferred ways of learning something. That is the only way they will understand and adopt the scientific mind needed to be successful in that topic. Teachers need learn to present a topic two or three different ways to reach a majority of students.
  • Passion for teaching and science: Successful science teachers love teaching science and find fulfillment in sharing their knowledge and passion with the students. If it becomes just a job, it’s time to find another path in education. That frustration will come through in the teaching and can affect how the students view science and education as a whole.

Education Requirements for a Science Teacher

Most states require a bachelor degree in education or a degree in science with a teaching certificate to be able to teach K-12. Middle and high school will require proficiency in a particular science field to teach one or two topics. Some science teachers have come from the corporate field or research areas and decided to move into teaching. These teachers may need only demonstrate that they can teach at the proposed level while they are continuing their teaching education.

Teaching at the community college or university level will usually require a master’s degree or a doctorate and significant post-graduate studies.

Career Options: What You Can Do as a Science Teacher

Options depend on the age of students you wish to teach. The elementary teacher will be responsible for several areas in the classroom, including science. The middle and high school levels will allow a teacher to specialize in one or two topics.

College professors often spend fewer hours teaching but are expected to devote a significant portion of their time to research.

While teaching in a school is usually the first goal one has coming out with an education degree, there are other options that appear infrequently. Local museums, historical centers, science centers, aquariums and zoos sometimes hire people with a background in teaching science. The role may be responsible for a particular section of that business with the opportunity to hold classes, usually open to the public.

What to Consider if You Pursue the Role of Science Teacher

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, kindergarten and elementary school teachers are experiencing an average growth in job demand over the next decade. Middle school teachers have an average level of demand while the high school teacher demand has slowed in recent years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the salaries of these three teaching roles in the range of $51,000 to $54,000 per year. This is highly variable based on the location and type of facility where you teach. For college professors, the median annual wage is around $60,000 per year but veteran professors often earn much more.

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