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Physics Teaching limits of a physics degree

  1. Apr 17, 2010 #1
    I was wondering what other areas besides physics one could teach with a MS or PhD in Physics?

    I was possibly planning on going for an MS in Physics, and then going to teach at a community college for a few years. I figured getting a MS in Physics would also qualify you to teach pretty much all the math courses at a community college(algebra, pre calc, calc 123, diff eq, linear). Does this ever happen, or would a CC be more likely to just let you teach physics courses?

    Also, I noticed there are a few professors at my college who got PhD's in physics, and are now doing research in EE, and teaching EE courses. Does having a PhD in Physics imply that you are capable of teaching an EE curriculum? Or would this be more based on your post-doc research/experience?

    I ask all of this because if I do teach, I wouldn't mind teaching math/engineering as well if possible.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 17, 2010 #2


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    Several of my CC instructors had backgrounds different from the field they were teaching (I took programming from a ceramics engineer, for example).

    Engineering statics or programming would be appropriate classes for someone with a physics background to teach.
  4. Apr 18, 2010 #3
    I taught for 1 semester at a CC with a well known name. I taught two classes of physics and two of math - you can definitely do both, though it may depend on the institution. In fact, if I had stayed full time (they made me a pretty good offer) I'd have been expected to teach 5 classes and they couldn't have come up with 5 physics courses. By the time I left we had explored the idea of me teaching a number of other courses, such as their electronics courses.

    Let me warn you, teaching at CC is an experience. The maths I taught were the remedial ones. We spent a lot of time trying to teach adults fractions; I was only mostly successful. The physics class was algebra based, and about 1/3 of the class did not have the math background (despite passing the required classes) to take it.

    Of course, you get a lot of that in 4 year unis, too; just a different degree. The biggest difference in the people I taught at the CC can be summed up as follows: I asked one guy why he was there, he responded "I want to be able to buy my children better toys." Many of them were very poor, and most worked 40-80 hours on top of school.

    It wasn't entirely positive, but I'd love to teach a class on the side, if I had time.
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