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PhD to High School Teaching

  1. May 23, 2013 #1
    Hello all!

    I'm a 3rd year grad student getting his PhD in Physics, primarily astro-particle theory. I have a huge passion for physics but as I ever so slowly tip toe my way to this degree my mind looks down different potential paths I could take after I get it.

    One path, which has always been of huge interest to me, is actually becoming a high school teacher. I know that I definitely want to teach and I'm still wrestling with shooting for the college or high school level but the atmosphere of a high school (close-knit community) sounds appealing to me.

    Now, I have no teaching experience outside of TAing labs and I know if I was going to go for teaching at a public high school I would need to get my teaching certificate.

    I heard awhile back that there are programs for people in math and sciences to somewhat expedite the process of getting a teaching certificate. Would anyone have any more details on these programs? I would like to look into them.

    Thanks so much for your time!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 23, 2013 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Community college would be better less stringent state teacher licensing than a public high school and more freedom of what could be taught and how.
  4. May 23, 2013 #3
    I've considered community college and it's not out of the race but I'd like to do more investigation into high school before I make any final commitment. I'd still like my previous question to be answered :)
  5. May 23, 2013 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    There are programs to fast track you into teaching. Sometimes these programs have limited enrollment a and try to push people into specific needed areas so if elementary teachers are needed in area schools then they will interview with that in mind.

    The community college approach leaves open 4 year colleges and beyond.
  6. May 23, 2013 #5
    Apply to teach for america. They really like applicants in your position.
  7. May 24, 2013 #6


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    In the US, if you are in possession of a college degree, you can take a few courses (very easy ones!) in the theory of education and be certified as an educator. This may vary depending on where you are, but getting teaching certification should not be difficult for one with an advanced degree. Good luck.
  8. May 24, 2013 #7


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    Staff Emeritus
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    Assuming that you are in the US, then I would say that BRAVO to you! Having someone with your level of knowledge (and presumably, your level of interest in the subject matter) teaching high school will be a tremendous benefit to the students. We need people like you at that level of students' education.

    As has been stated, you will need teaching credentials to be able to teach high schools. Check with your university and see if they have such a program, or check local community colleges to see if there's a way you can earn your credentials while you work. Different states and cities have different policies. Your degree makes you unique, and they'll be utterly foolish to not try and help you as much as they can to get you your teaching credentials.

  9. May 24, 2013 #8
    Teach for America is one. Quite a few of my classmates went that route.
  10. May 24, 2013 #9
    I was considering going this route- and you should be aware that what credential you need will depend very much on your state. The person most helpful to me when I was attempting to navigate what I'd need to do to get the credential was an administrator at the local highschool. I'd recommend contacting a local district and just asking what you'd need.

    You should also be aware that at the highschool level (depending on your state) you will probably be unable to become a PHYSICS teacher and will more likely be a SCIENCE teacher which might mean you have to take a (fairly basic) subject matter test outside of physics in chemistry/biology/etc, which isn't a big deal really- but it does mean much of your teaching load might be outside of physics/physical science.

    Also, be aware that getting hired with a phd to teach highschool is actually quite a bit harder than with an education degree- you have no real highschool teaching experience BUT you come in at a significantly higher pay bracket.

    For me personally, the big deal breaker was that my teaching load would have been primarily outside of physics (in my state, physics isn't strictly required. Most students opt for biology and chemistry).
  11. May 26, 2013 #10


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    Education Advisor

    While no doubt the particular details will vary depending on the state you live in, I would think that whether or not the OP will be able to become a physics teacher will depend critically on the demand for teachers who are able to teach the subject. I agree with ParticleGrl that if the OP takes the route of becoming a high school teacher, he/she will more likely end up being a science teacher, so much of the teaching load may be non-physics related (eg. general science in Grade 9).

    I also think that the OP will have a strong possibility of ending up being a math teacher (or at least teaching math courses), which stands to reason given that a physics degree requires a considerable background in advanced mathematics (this is particularly true for the OP who specialized in theoretical physics). For example, my physics teacher in high school also doubled as a math teacher, teaching algebra and calculus.
    Last edited: May 26, 2013
  12. May 26, 2013 #11
    I would go the teach for america route since they will guide you through the process and provide an extra support network.
  13. May 27, 2013 #12
    Thanks everyone for your input!

    I now have a new, related question. I can understand why some schools would consider someone with a PhD to be overqualified. In a hypothetical situation, if my resume (assuming I somehow got the appropriate teaching certificate) landed on the desk of every school district in the country, does anyone have any gauge of what percentage oh schools would throw away my resume based solely on me being over qualified?
  14. May 27, 2013 #13


    Staff: Mentor

    This is an unanswerable question. The idea of over qualified comes from an HR perspective. HR people are measured by hiring the right people for the job and by hiring people ho will stay in the job. I'm sure in your case, they will think for a PhD level it'll be like teaching kindergarten science and that will bore or frustrate you causing you to quit.

    I had a friend with an ME degree who was rejected for a job because was over qualified. He spoke with HR and convinced them that he really wanted the job. The HR guy said against his better judgement he would hire. Two weeks later IBM came through with a better offer and he could help but jump. The HR guy was so mad, he knew and he reconsidered and now he got dinged for hiring the wrong person.

    You mileage may vary. Good luck, I think it's a noble jest to go among the little savages and teach them the true science reminds me of Lord of the Flies but I digress...
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