1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Future options as a Physics teacher

  1. Apr 20, 2015 #1
    Hello all!
    I was wondering if any of you Physics educators could help me realistically size up my future options as a Physics teacher.
    Back story: After receiving my bachelor's degree in business management and simultaneously working in the business world for around 6 years, I became unhappy with my current career trajectory. I quit my job and volunteered to be a teacher overseas for a year. I was placed as a science teacher at a small school where I was basically the science dept. I taught, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Earth Science, and Physical Science. It was a work load because I had to teach every science subject, but it was also really satisfying to be teaching across the science spectrum everyday. After a year, I really enjoyed it, particularly teaching physics, so I signed on for two more years. After 3 years of teaching there, it was time to come home. I want to continue to teach high-school, physics, so I am now enrolled and pursuing a master of arts in teaching physics degree. Since my undergrad is business, I am taking a large body of prerequisite physics courses for the program(nearly enough for a BS). After I complete the program I know I will be qualified to teach high-school physics, and the dept. head at the community college where I tutor math said the degree would qualify me to teach there as well.

    I am wondering if I will ever have the option to teach at any level higher than that. I really enjoy working with Physics at a higher level, and am afraid that for one, I may become bored by teaching it at a high-school level after a while, and for two, that I will lose my ability to work with it at a higher level if I am not practicing it regularly, particularly the calculus.

    If I did want to return to school down the road and pursue a Phd, would a MAT physics without a BS in Physics even be enough to do that?

    For any high school Physics teachers out there, do you get bored not working with more challenging problems regularly?

    Any wise words are appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2015 #2

    Quantum Defect

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    In times gone by, Community College teachers often had Masters degrees. These days, there are lots and lots of PhDs looking for jobs. The glut of PhDs means that Community Colleges are hiring more PhDs. Most other universities will only hire PhDs, as well.

    There may be some "typical" PhD programs that would be willing to take on someone with a MAT who is interested in pursuing a PhD in physics, but I suspect that most places want to see a BS in physics or a related area. Most programs want you in the lab doing experiments/theory for most of your tenure in grad school. There is not a lot of encouragement for you to spend time on learning to teach. With that said, some schools have PhD programs in Physics Education. I would look at schools with these Programs as being a better match for your background, but again, these places want you to do original research, albeit in education.
  4. Apr 20, 2015 #3
    That's a really good point. I hadn't thought about pursuing Physics education at a higher level. Thanks for the input.
  5. Apr 20, 2015 #4

    Quantum Defect

    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    CU has a very strong program in this: http://www.colorado.edu/physics/EducationIssues/index.htm

    I couldn't see what the pre-reqs were for people interested in entering the program.
  6. Apr 20, 2015 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I teach physics at a community college in California, and I've been involved in the hiring process for part-time and full-time faculty. To teach at a community college in California, you have to have certain minimum qualifications, called FSAs, which are enshrined in the ed code. I'd never heard of an MAT before this, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't meet the FSA for physics. That means you can't be hired in this state to teach physics at a community college, even at the adjunct level. Even if you had a regular master's degree, you would probably have a hard time finding anything but part-time work. For full-time positions, we usually have plenty of people with PhDs in the applicant pool.

    If your goal is to teach at the community college level, a possible career path would be to get a job teaching high school, but meanwhile obtain a master's degree. Even if the master's degree didn't eventually lead to a community college job, it would increase your pay as a high school teacher.
  7. Apr 20, 2015 #6


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    As you can see from Ben's remarks, the qualifications required for community college teaching varies from state to state.

    At 4-year colleges and universities, you pretty much have to have a Ph.D., except maybe for some adjunct (part-time) positions if they can't find a Ph.D. to fill the spot. But adjunct positions are probably used mainly for introductory courses anyway, not things like Griffiths-level E&M or QM.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook