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Do I need a degree in education to teach as a Professor?

  1. Sep 17, 2013 #1
    I plan on double majoring in Physics/Mathematics and then hopefully Ill be going to graduate school to get my Phd. I want to teach physics at a university. Do i need a degree in education as well? If yes; what level of degree? (ie Minor, major, masters etc) Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 17, 2013 #2


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    No, it is well known that the teaching ability of profs is hugely variable.
  4. Sep 17, 2013 #3
    Would it boost my chances to get the position (or tenure?) if I minord in education at least?
  5. Sep 17, 2013 #4
    If you are talking about the US, no I don't think an education minor would really help that much. Better off spending that time adjunct teaching or TAing.

    On the other hand, if you wanted to specialize in something like Physics Education in grad school, having some kind of education background in undergrad might help. I suspect that is the case, but I don't know.

    My advice if you want to teach physics at the college level: Work hard, get good grades. Publish. Make sure you get some teaching experience in grad school. TA some courses, try to win a teaching award. Do a leave replacement job after graduation. Get good recs. Publish while teaching there - hard to do if you are an experimentalist, so maybe do some theory or simulation or something that is portable and cheap. At that point, you will probably start looking like a good candidate for a 4 year college position. Then all you need to do is apply to 50-60 job openings a year and a boatload of luck.

    If you are instead targeting R1 universities, don't worry so much about the teaching. Just publish publish publish. The better the journal, the better off you'll be. Go to conferences and network. Get your name out. You will probably need more luck than in the 4 year college track. If you can prove that you are a genuine superstar, at this point, you will probably have a lot of options. There are generally fewer jobs at this level, and the competition is probably tougher. Also, the timing of your job hunt is also more important. If only 5-10 universities have programs in what you do, and none of them are hiring, then no job for you.

    In short, have a backup plan. IF you make it as far as you think you will and IF you still want to be a prof at that point in time (2 big IF's), you still probably won't get a tenured-track position, just because. So have something else in mind 'just in case'.
  6. Sep 17, 2013 #5
    Most universities hire physics professors who they think will net them the most grant money/attention. They then make them teach in return for free lab spaces/research material, etc. So no, publishing papers is probably most important. Most of your physics professors probably consider teaching as far secondary to their research (although probably many enjoy/are good at teaching).
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2013
  7. Sep 17, 2013 #6


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    At a research-oriented university (one that has both undergraduate and Ph.D. programs), you get hired based on your research, not on your teaching.

    At a teaching-oriented 4-year college or university that doesn't have a Ph.D. program, teaching experience is important. Usually research also matters, because these schools want to provide research opportunities for their students. But it has to be the kind of research that you can do with limited resources and time.

    To gain (more) teaching experience after the Ph.D. and become competitive for tenure-track positions, most people going into teaching careers teach for a few years in temporary positions. The best ones are sabbatical-replacement positions which are usually called something like "visiting assistant professor" and have benefits (health insurance etc.) comparable to what regular faculty get. There are also part-time adjunct positions that don't usually have benefits.
  8. Sep 17, 2013 #7


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    Education degrees are primarily for elementary and secondary teachers in the US. Schools of Education generally have low academic standards by comparison to the STEM fields. It's a credential required for state certification, however, to teach in elementary and secondary schools.
  9. Sep 17, 2013 #8
    What if I cant come up with anything new to write about and publish?! I'm only in 11th grade but that's still one of my biggest fears! Any advice?
  10. Sep 17, 2013 #9


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    Worry about the here and now. You're talking 6-8 years ahead of yourself at least and that's presuming you make it through your desired program alive.

    Focus on getting the grades and connections right now. There's plenty left to discover in this world ( there still will be 10 years from now ) and you wont do yourself any favors worrying about it before you have the tools you need to succeed.
  11. Sep 17, 2013 #10
    Haha okay thanks Zondrina :)
  12. Sep 19, 2013 #11
    On more advice. Getting a tenured professorship in most developed countries is nearly impossible at this point, even if you are an exceptional researcher and educator. The competition is crazy. I suggest you to seriously consider moving to one of developing countries if you aspire to be a professor. Hence think about learning a foreign language.
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