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Teach HS or PhD?

  1. Jul 20, 2009 #1
    So here's my dilemma, I think high school science teachers should be people passionate about their field, know their field and should be good enough teachers to hopefully get that passion about science inspired in some of their students (what can I say, I was spoiled by an awesome chemistry teacher). And being a person, who enjoys teaching, is passionate about Physics I want to teach high school (at least, for a while). The problem is, I love Physics, I love learning, and I want to get a PhD or at the very least a Masters in Physics. So now I'm trying to decide between going into teaching (after the two years of schooling required of course), getting paid very little, and maybe later on in life doing some course work to get a masters (or do what my chemistry teacher did, and walk away from teaching HS while he was still ahead and get his PhD) or going trying to get into a PhD program (and of course, it's tempting to say screw it all, and go and get a job using the 6 years of programming experience I've managed to accrue and then make money).

    I've been trying to decide which route to go for about 4 years now, and figured I could benefit from seeing this from other people's perspective. What does PF thing?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 20, 2009 #2


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    Don't exclude the option of getting your Phd, and then going into high school teaching. An unusual path perhaps, but it's been done
  4. Jul 20, 2009 #3
    You have forward momentum right now and you're at the top of your game. If you stop to teach non-Calculus based physics you'll never get back to school. If you do return to school you'll need to relearn everything.

    Also consider that it is unlikely that at a high school you'll get to teach physics all day. Large schools such as my high school (500+ students per grade) have two physics lectures per semester. The rest of the time you'll be sitting in study hall, teaching intro to algebra, etc etc etc....

    You're better off getting your Ph.D. and then moving to a community college to teach or some other institution of higher education. At a CC you'll be teaching what you specialized in.
  5. Jul 20, 2009 #4
    The problem with teaching at a CC though, is that it does not help fix the fact that there horrible Physics teachers in our schools, driving students away from science.

    Also, I know it is possible to get back into a PhD program after taking some time out. I saw my Chemistry teacher do it, and I think I could pull it off to (particularly if I'm not aiming for a top 30 school).
  6. Jul 20, 2009 #5


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    Why not get into a master's program right off the bat? You'll likely get experience teaching labs or doing some tutoring and can possibly take some teaching courses towards your certification on the side. From what I understand, teachers pay is often tied to education level, so it would be to your advantage to get the M.Sc.
  7. Jul 21, 2009 #6


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    Get an Masters while teaching high school physics. You can do the schooling part time, especially if it's a non-thesis masters degree.

    Or you can do Masters full time right now (and perhaps decide on a Ph. D. down the road). Most high schools and accreditations look for a masters degree anyways.
  8. Jul 21, 2009 #7
    I've never heard of a Masters program in physics that didn't have a "non jobs on the side" clause
  9. Jul 21, 2009 #8
    You're kidding, right? Ph.D. programs are usually full-time, but M.S. programs for working people are quite common.

    I know the university where I am about to get my M.S. holds all of the graduate classes after 4PM to make it more accessible for people with jobs.
  10. Jul 21, 2009 #9
    Is this the states?
  11. Jul 21, 2009 #10
    Yep, the States. The Silicon Valley, CA area in particular.

    But honestly, working M.S. students are common across the U.S.
  12. Jul 21, 2009 #11
    Oh ok. Ya, I'm canadian. Here basically everyone needs to get a masters before a PhD so masters are treated more like PhD-mini as opposed to something one can tack on by doing night school (for physic at least, obviously less true for something like an MBA) and in our contracts they are explicit that if we're found to have a second job we're out.
  13. Jul 21, 2009 #12
    Wow. I suppose the big difference is that the M.S. is not usually supported in the U.S... so if the school is not providing money, it is obvious that the students need to get money *somewhere*.
  14. Jul 21, 2009 #13
    Pirate, for what it's worth, a postdoc in my group has a friend who went into middle school teaching after getting his PhD. So I guess it's possible. The other thing to consider is that you get a lot of teaching experience as a TA, especially if you're a native English speaker. In my opinion colleges need good TAs just as much as high schools need good physics teachers. Maybe we need them even more. Most HS teachers like their jobs, but most TAs teach just because the department makes us.

    Anyway, I'd agree with the others here who say that it would be harder to go back to grad school after taking time off to teach.
  15. Jul 22, 2009 #14
    Take grad school first, no question about it.
  16. Jul 23, 2009 #15
    I think first you must concentrate on your phd.It will benefit you in future.So don't leave this idea,
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