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Should I major in Secondary Education Physics or English?

  1. Nov 29, 2016 #1
    Hello Physics Forums!

    I realize that only I can answer my own question, but I was wondering if someone could help me answer my own question.

    First off, I want to major in Education. There is no question about that. However, I am stuck between majoring in Physics and English. I feel like I'm stronger in English (I have taken 2 English-specific courses, getting an A in one class and a B+ in another, as well as getting an A in every research or humanities class where reading/writing is the focus) than Physics. In Physics, I received a B+ in University Physics I and a B- in Calculus I (Calculus isn't a Physics course, yet I hear upper-level Physics classes require Calculus). The problem is, I find Physics more fascinating to study, despite finding it more challenging than English (so far). I also believe I could explain physics concepts, at a high school level, a lot better than I can explain how to write a paper or how to critically analyze a text, at a high-school level.

    The one caveat about majoring in Physics is that I would have to spend another year at school, considering my school's physics program is very rigid and allows little to no flexibility with classes. With my school's English program, I would graduate on time (in my 4 years). Also, the Physics GRE scares me and even my physics professor warns physics majors (whether with Secondary Ed. or Engineering) that it's no walk in the park.

    I guess what I'm saying is that it would be nice to major in Secondary Ed. Physics but it would take another year of schooling (which means more money and not scholarship money at that), and I'm not even sure if I would do well since I got a B+ in my level-one course and a B- in Calc. Should I maybe talk to Physics and English faculty to get some idea as to what field I should study? What do you guys think?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 29, 2016 #2
    Why are you concerned about the Physics GRE if you are planning to teach high school physics? Is it a requirement?
     
  4. Nov 29, 2016 #3

    Choppy

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    I don't have any specific statistics to point to, but anecdotally my understanding is that there is more demand for physics teachers than there is for English teachers. So you might want to check out whether that's true - maybe by talking to some teachers. If it is, choosing the physics route will likely give you a little more versatility in your career.

    Spending an extra year in school is certainly a cost worth considering in your decision. But in the context of your career, if it ultimately gets you to where you want to go, then it's probably worth that extra time.

    And I agree with CrysPhys - the GRE is for those who want to go into graduate school. You don't need it to teach high school - unless part of the plan is eventually to go for a master's degree.
     
  5. Nov 29, 2016 #4

    symbolipoint

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    Steven Byers,

    No! You want either or both a degree in English OR(not exclusive) Physics; you do not want a major undergrad degree in Secondary Education. You seem interested really in qualifying for a Single Subjects Credential program, and your state would have some proper credential qualification or eligibility tests. If you want to become a high school teacher, first you need at least an undergraduate degree in ANYTHING that you want to teach; and in your case, either Physics or English.

    You will need to eventually make a choice (best guess about that); Degree in English and apply for single subject credential program for teaching English; or degree in Physics and apply for single subject credential program for teaching physical sciences or physics or whatever you are able that a high school may later ask you to.

    Much more be said about these two major field choices.....
     
  6. Dec 1, 2016 #5

    Mark44

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    I'm going to interpret the above to mean that you want to be a teacher, and you want to major in either Physics or English. I suppose having a double major in English and Physics is possible, but this would be extremely rare, in my experience.

    I agree with symbolipoint -- an Education degree is not what you want, and IMO, is not useful for teaching in a high school setting. I don't have any statistics at hand, but I believe that a degree in Physics would make it much easier to get a HS teaching job than would a degree in English.
     
  7. Dec 1, 2016 #6

    Stephen Tashi

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    Consider how your day-to-day classroom experience will be. In most (USA) schools there is big difference in the atmosphere of an English class versus the atmosphere of a science and math class. Generally speaking, English classes offer students opportunity for self expression and involve (directly or through examples in literature) the personal problems and concerns that students experience. By contrast, math and science classes are more abstract and impersonal. ( Of course, some students feel more comfortable and productive discussing abstract ideas and technology than they do discussing personal matters.)

    Among the financial considerations is that fact that school districts generally have a harder time recruiting qualified science and math teachers than they do recruiting qualified teachers in subjects like English and History.
     
  8. Dec 1, 2016 #7

    symbolipoint

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    Great logical and experienced responses from Stephen Tashi and Mark44. A degree in English, if some proper choices are included, can help you be able to teach English as a Second Language, and that is also in strong demand. You just need to understand, a career in science or technology is a very different kind of career than one in Literature or Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages. (Notice the capitalizations in that last part.) You could very well have both types of careers, but probably not both at the same time.

    Also, as in "some proper choices are included", you may consider the possibility of doing language translation work.
     
  9. Dec 1, 2016 #8
    Thank you for all the responses! I should've made myself more clear: I can double major in Secondary Education AND English (or Physics). My school even requires I student-teach and I can even do the 5-year program where I get a Masters in Physics or English. Also, thank you for clarifying that the GRE is not required for high-school teaching. I will certainly talk to English and Physics faculty, as far as doing my research (seeing if a physics teaching job is in higher or lower demand than an english teaching job). Thank you guys; I really appreciated everyone's input! :)
     
  10. Dec 2, 2016 #9
    I know a lot of high school physics teachers and have done a bit of high school teaching myself.

    One thing to be aware of is that all English teachers every get asked to teach is English, with very few exceptions. Most high schools require 4 years of English for every graduate, so there is a lot of demand for English courses.

    In contrast, most Physics teachers end up teaching a lot of other science and math courses. Some high school Physics teachers have most of their course load teaching classes other than Physics. Since Physics is not a required class for graduation, only a few students take it. Often times, the Physics teacher will be the only one at the school.
     
  11. Dec 2, 2016 #10

    symbolipoint

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    You can say that again!
     
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