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PhD in Physics Education

  1. Dec 14, 2015 #1
    I've been reading recently that there is a new branch of physics offered in graduate school with an emphasis on physics education, and is something I am considering doing.

    I'm also working on getting my teaching license to teach high school. But the thing is that I really want to get a Ph.D., and I heard that if I get a Ph.D. no high school will higher me as a teacher. Has anyone else gotten a Ph.D. and been able to find a way to teach high school?

    Is there a way where I can teach both high school and get a Ph.D. in physics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 14, 2015 #2
    Where are you in your education? You say you're working on your teaching license, do you already have a bachelor's degree or are you working on it now? You could get a job teaching, and then go back and work on your Ph.D.. I don't know if having a Ph.D. would hurt your ability to get hired at a high school, I don't know why it would. Usually high schools are hard up for physics teachers so I would guess you'd have no problem. But I don't really know.

    The field you're looking at is called Physics Education Research (PER) but there are a limited number of universities offering that degree. Do you have one picked out? Washington State University and Ohio State University both have good programs in PER. Have you looked on the AAPT web site?
  4. Dec 14, 2015 #3
    I'm still working on my bachelors which I will have done in 2 or 3 more semesters. I have not looked on the AAPT website, but I will look at it. Thnk you for the advice. You're right, I need to start looking at universities that offer PhDs in PER.

    Thanks for the help! :)
  5. Dec 15, 2015 #4


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    Most of the people that I've known who were involved in physics education research did a PhD in another area and subsequently developed an interest in the field. I think if you're sure you want to go into teaching, it's not a bad area to do a PhD in, but if you're considering the possibility of going on in academia, it may not be the most competitive choice.

    I would look for some evidence that "no high school would hire you with a PhD" before accepting that premise. The issue that you my face is that you could be seen as overqualified - that you're really someone who wants to be a professor, but will take a high-school gig in the short term, but I think that's something that can be mitigated if it's a real issue at all. Even at the high school level, advanced education is highly respected and rewarded. That's why so many teachers eventually aim for a master' degree. They get paid more for having the higher education.
  6. Dec 30, 2015 #5
    Totally agree with Choppy, as I happen to belong in the latter category. Do your PhD, but even so, you have a couple of semesters to go.
    Have you ever taught (even informally)?
    Have you considered the possibility that if you start teaching before doing your PhD, the timescales will be really difficult in order to do a PhD in parallel? Meaning that, if there is no economical bias here which dictates you to work ASAP, then I would suggest a PhD first and then try to find a relevant job.
  7. Dec 30, 2015 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    One of my former students teaches physics, and I know another PhD who does so. Neither did their dissertation on physics education. Clearly they were hired. :wink:

    I think you mean University of Washington. (Where Lillian McDermott is)
  8. Dec 30, 2015 #7
    Yes. Sorry. And also formerly the late Arnold Arons.
  9. Jan 2, 2016 #8


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  10. Jan 2, 2016 #9


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    This must be a false obstacle. If you make sure your education is very strong in Physics, either undergraduate or Masters degree, and become a teacher (high school), then can or could you make a career change later, back to Ph.D. graduate school for Physics?
    Another idea, is if your school where studying for undergrad has an arrangement or program for their students to tutor local high school science students, then you would be able to officially have teaching experience (not too much different from "tutoring") to the age group and subject of what you wanted.

    Basic reason why you would find difficulty with just BSc and PhD in Phyics to find a job teaching in high school is that your career up to that time was geared for scientific research, and not for public school science teaching, and therefore you are seen as lacking in an orientation to classroom management and a few other things.
  11. Jan 3, 2016 #10
    Colorado-Boulder has a PER program that (I think) leads to a PhD. It is also in just about the most scenic part of the USA
  12. Jan 26, 2016 #11
    Thank you all for the replies and help!
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