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Will I still be able to get into grad school?

  1. Mar 22, 2009 #1
    Hi! I'm currently thinking about majoring in physics at UT Austin. They have several different types of degree plans, including one to prepare future high school physics teachers. Although I am interested in teaching, I'm a little worried that this options will make it harder for me to get into graduate school if I decide that teaching at a high school level is not for me.

    Any suggestions?
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  3. Mar 22, 2009 #2


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    Do the regular physics option because im not sure how hard it is to get into grad school with the teaching option but I do think it is easier to get a job as a teacher with regular physics option than getting into grad school with the teaching option.
  4. Mar 23, 2009 #3

    Vanadium 50

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    It is, in general, independent of field, a bad idea to specialize too soon. It is easier to move from a general program to a specific program than vice versa.
  5. Mar 23, 2009 #4


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    I think the real question is how that program differs from a typical physics degree. In general, you want to make sure that the program you're in will qualify you for entrance into graduate school. Some schools offer "watered down" degrees that essentially offer somewhat more concentration than a minor, but less concentration than a traditional honours degree - and sometimes the concentration isn't enough to properly qualify you for graduate study.

    So the real question question is whether or not the program is a physics degree, with the elective courses established to qualify you for education, or an education degree with a minor in physics. The question is best-answered with an email to the physics department asking whether or not the program will qualify you for graduate study.
  6. Mar 23, 2009 #5
    UTeach is fairly prestigious, so if you are seriously considering teaching, it would help you to have it in your CV.

    Here's my advice: enroll officially in the UTeach plan, but make sure you take all the courses required for the regular B.S. Physics (and more). Take the full quantum sequence (I-IV), E&M, Stat Mech, Modern Optics and Solid State. Grad school admissions don't care about degrees, but about the actual courses you've taken. If you decide to go to grad school, you can always spin the teaching certification and experience in your favor (e.g., "I'll be a great TA!"). Your only risk is someone may think you are a little less focused than the average physics student, but I think this risk is minor.
  7. Mar 23, 2009 #6
    I tend to agree here. I'll also add the point that you additionally need to be sure to do undergraduate research to be competitive for graduate admissions.

    I'll also add that the way to "spin" your teaching experience a bit when you get to the stage is to mention this with respect to your career goals when writing a personal statement for your graduate admissions applications (although note your personal statement should mostly focus on research experience with regards to your career aspirations).
  8. Mar 23, 2009 #7
    Alright thank you everybody for your responses, I deeply appreciate it :). I guess I'll go with the teaching options and make sure to take as many physics classes as I possibly can.
  9. Mar 23, 2009 #8
    From my experience, it is never too soon to focus on what subject you are really passionate about. It really does depend on the difference in the programs, but personally, I would want my teachers taught by a real physicist (someone who took the full physics route) and not by someone who was taught to teach teachers by a physicist- I think the knowledge is getting a little too diluted by the time it reaches the actual high schoolers.
  10. Mar 23, 2009 #9
    Does one really need a degree program to prepare future high school teachers?

    If you get the degree in Physics, let alone go to grad school for it, you will already be overqualified (by today's standards) to be a HS teacher. Won't you?
  11. Mar 23, 2009 #10
    I'm considering the degree because it includes the classes and training that I would have to take anyway in order to earn a high school teaching certification.

    In addition, I've found that being good at physics does not make one a good teacher. My AP Physics teacher was an engineer for 30 years and he has a master's degree and yet I have barely learned anything from him.

    However, judging by the responses I've received thus far, I think I'll still to a straight physics major. That way, no matter what I decide to do, I'll at least have a solid foundation in physics :)
  12. Mar 23, 2009 #11
    How long does it take to get a HS teaching certificate? It seems like if you decide towards the end of your education that you DO want to teach HS, then you could easily obtain certification.
  13. Mar 23, 2009 #12
    From what I can tell, it can take anywhere from a few months to a year. However, I may have to put off graduate school for a few years for financial reasons and therefore I'd like some level of employable. However, all of this is several years away for me and so I suppose I'll just have to see what happens.
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