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Math B.S. in ME with minor in math. Would it be better to teach HS Math or Physics?

  1. Nov 20, 2012 #1
    I'm currently a junior in ME, set to graduate with a minor in math, 1 year of experience through a coop, and a pretty solid gpa. At this point I sort of defaulted into the major without really considering my options (I come from a line of engineers), and I have come to the realization that it just isn't for me, and that I'd much rather become a HS teacher. One of my favorite teachers in HS had a MS in Chem.E, which makes me think I could get a M.Ed and either teach Physics or Math after graduating. However I was looking at some certification reqs for teaching science, and it looks like they would want me to take a bunch of chemistry and biology courses (neither of which I have taken since high school). I haven't been able to tell if I could avoid some of that if I took some sort of alternate certification just for physics. However, most alt. cert. programs want 2 years experience with the same company.

    If I want to get an M.Ed to teach math, however, it looks like I wouldn't need many (if any) extra courses and could be in a classroom just over a year after graduation.

    Does anybody here have any experience going into secondary education with an engineering degree, or know anyone who has? What was your/their experience like?

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 20, 2012 #2
    You will find that once you enter a high school you may be asked to teach anything irrespective of you degree. If the high school is small you could be asked to teach any part of the science curriculum, or subjects like tourism if they have nobody else. Teaching in high school is NOTHING like teaching at university; there is a wide gap between your certification & the immediate demands of a particular high school. You don't tell the high school what you will teach they tell you.

    High school teaching is about 30% content knowledge; the rest is pedagogy, rapport with adolescents, behaviour & classroom management, and addressing the needs of learners. Also your post is about you, not learners; teachers tend to focus on needs of students.

    I have known high school physics teachers with engineering degrees.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2012
  4. Nov 20, 2012 #3
    Thank you for the response. I was under the impression that certifications are pretty strict, and you need to be certified in a specific area to teach it.

    I want to teach because I've worked with high school kids, and I've seen the massive impact that teachers can have, both good and bad. I think it is beautiful when a teacher is able to see curiosity in a student and help it thrive, even if it means going out of their way. Similarly, I've seen kids who HATE math end up loving it because of a dedicated teacher. That is what I want to do. I was blessed with awesome teachers, and I want to do the same for students some day.
  5. Nov 20, 2012 #4
    Teacher certification is strict, but the reality of of modern high schools is another story. What is being taught now is very different from 10 years ago.

    Vocational education is moving into high schools. What was once taught in Community Colleges is now being taught in high schools. High schools are teaching Cisco and Microsoft Certifications.

    In 2008, New York City's Department of Education began to rethink vocational training in high schools.[14][15] Mayor Bloomberg in his State of the City 2008 address said, "This year, we're going to begin dramatically transforming how high school students prepare for technical careers in a number of growing fields. Traditionally, such career and technical education has been seen as an educational dead-end. We're going to change that. College isn't for everyone, but education is. Building on work by the State Education Department, we'll do what no other public school system in the nation has done- create rigorous career and technical programs that start in high schools and continue in our community colleges

  6. Nov 21, 2012 #5
    That is really cool. Thanks for the reply!
  7. Nov 23, 2012 #6


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    smp500: it sounds like your desire to teach and help others is strong, so what are you waiting for? Find out what it takes to get certified in math/physics/science, whether that means getting a masters in ed ot taking some science courses to supplement your Bachelor's in ME, (I'd opt for the masters, if possible), and go for it! The last thing you want to do is get stuck in a field you do not enjoy.
  8. Nov 26, 2012 #7
    You are best off getting certified in both if you can. And Technology while you are at it. Teaching jobs are very hard to find, and you need to make yourself look as appealing as possible.

    Even in physics and math right now there are at least 5 applicants for every opening, sometimes more like 10-20. The moer certifications you can nab, the better your chance of finding a job. Once you find a job, you can manuever yourself into teaching what you are most passionate about as people retire and positions open up.
  9. Nov 30, 2012 #8


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    To get teaching certification you need a teaching major and teaching minor in subjects that are taught in HS. ME isn't taught in HS but math is. you will need a teaching major as well. Also, to get a teaching credential you need to log a certain number of hours working with students and perform student teaching requirements. You also are required to take many classes in education. A full teaching cert program could take 1-2 yrs depending on if you are in the program full time or part time.

    I have a physics degree as well as an EE degree. The physics degree covers the teaching major but I still need to take 2 more chem classes to fulfill a teaching minor in chemistry. Then I need to do like 24 credits of coursework and meet a number of hours student teaching.

    It is a lot of work to become a HS teacher.
  10. Nov 30, 2012 #9
    This varies from location to location. In NY for example, if you have an undergrad degree in ME, but have 30 physics credits, you can then apply to a masters education program that will certify you to teach physics. Basically, you finish your BS, then take 1-2 years getting your MS in education to get certified. The actual title of your BS doesn't matter, as long as you took 30 credits in the subject you want to teach.
  11. Nov 30, 2012 #10


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    does that only qualify you to teach physics? You aren't going to be attractive in the competitive teacher job market if you can only teach one subject.
  12. Nov 30, 2012 #11
    As long as you have 24 credits in another subject you can apply for that certification once you get your initial cert. I'm finishing my M.S. in a 3 weeks. I'll get Physics, with the middle school extension so I can teach 5-8 general science. and I'll then be applying for Earth Science and Math. I may need another course or two, depending on what the state decides counts.
  13. Nov 30, 2012 #12


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    well, it seems it is easier to get certified in your state. I am in Michigan where it is much more difficult. you need a major and a teaching minor is subjects taught in HS, student teaching (a lot if it too) proof you worked a certain amount of hours with kids the age you want to teach, you have to pass the teacher cert tests in each subject you want to teach plus the general teacher cert tests, etc etc. But you don't need a post bacc masters degree. plus you need to take like 24 credits of education courses.
  14. Nov 30, 2012 #13
    That's the traditional path. but Michigan offers alternative paths for career changers or for those with undergrad or graduate degrees in the subject they want to teach.

    http://www.teach-now.org/dispstate.cfm?state=MI [Broken]

    In fact, it looks a little easier in Michigan. In New York, all teachers need to get a masters degree within 5 years of getting their initial certification. Because I'm getting certified through a masters program, I will already have mine. You need student teaching as well (basically 1 semesters worth of full-time, and 100 hours of observation prior to that). And there are tests, but they are all pretty easy. I took 5 total (Liberal arts, teaching skills, physics, math, earth science) and passed them all first try.

    So it seems like you requirements are pretty much the same. There are alternative paths in your state. And in NY you are required to get a masters degree withing 5 years.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  15. Nov 30, 2012 #14
    You generally need a minimum of two subjects you are certified to teach. You cant just expect to teach physics, its generally a senior school subject where science is taught in middle school.

    Also you may be asked to help with like sport or student personal development depending on school requirements. Like I said its not like university, and if you are in a small schools you can expect to do things outside your comfort zone.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2012
  16. Dec 6, 2012 #15
    smp500, I'm in the same boat as you. I'm pursuing a degree in physics and minor in math to teach. I've seen the impact a teacher can make, and I believe if you want to change the world, shaping the young minds of tomorrow is a good start.

    Here in California, you could major in history and be a high school chemistry/physics/math/whatever you like teacher as long as you pass a series of test to certify you have subject matter competency in the subject you want to teach. Some colleges here in California offer specializations in teaching within your major of study to bypass taking these tests, but these programs are very few and still in their infancy.

    I also you am looking to get my M. Ed. degree after undergrad with a specialization in science education. I feel that that is where I belong and I could not honestly see myself doing anything else.

    One of the physics teachers at my old high school had a masters in EE and EVERYONE loved him and his teaching style. I would think that it is not uncommon to have engineering degrees teaching physics and math. Isn't that what were trying to lead the kids into after all?
  17. Dec 6, 2012 #16
    I'll also add that to become a teacher in California, you don't need to major in education, but you probably will have to take "an approved teacher credentialing program". These are about a year of coursework and student teaching. You end up with a "Single Subject Teaching Credential" that you can add subjects to by proving your competency by test.

    But to go back to your original question... you want to teach HS physics, not math. No one is *required* to take physics, and so you generally end up with more motivated students who are easier to manage. While teaching advanced math courses is very pleasant, math teachers also have the occasional section of seniors taking Algebra 1 for the third or fourth time... the phrase "living hell" comes to mind.
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