How do you combine an education degree with physics to become a physics teacher? There are many teacher education programs and specialties. Understanding the way different programs work and how to specialize an education/teaching degree in physics is key to a successful teaching career in this field of science education. You can complete a program that qualifies you to teach physics or physical sciences at any grade level, and teachers with this specialization do teach grades K-12. Physics teachers, most often, are found at the high school level. Other related aspects of physical science are taught in middle school as well.
Why Specialize an Education Degree in Physics?
According to Cornell University’s Physics Teacher Education Coalition, the U.S. has a critical shortage of high school physics teachers. Teachers in all science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects are in short supply, but the greatest need is for well-qualified physics teachers. This shortage is causing many school districts to offer no or limited physics education. Over 90 percent of middle school students are taught physical science by a teacher who lacks a degree or certification in the physical sciences. Only one-third of high school physics teachers have a degree in physics or physics education. School districts have serious challenges finding and keeping qualified physics teachers. As a result, students who specialize an education and teaching degree with a concentration in physics will enter a field where their skills are in high demand.
Different Degrees in Education and Physics
There are several different degrees offered in education and physics. Some programs are designed for teachers who are already licensed and who have bachelor’s degrees. Others are designed for undergraduate students who want to become physics educators. All degree paths require a bachelor’s degree which may either be in education, science (physics) education, or physics. Masters-level programs provide additional education in physics and in how to teach physics, also called physics education.
Master of Arts in Science Education (MASE)
The MASE degree typically combines a bachelor’s degree in education with graduate-level courses in science education, a teaching practicum, and courses in physics education. As with all teaching degrees, candidates must also take and pass state teacher certification exams prior to classroom teaching.
Master of Arts in Physics Education (MAPE)
The MAPE degree also combines a bachelor’s degree in education, along with graduate physics courses, physics education courses, and a teaching practicum. Many programs may also include teaching mentorships, internship opportunities, and recommendations for certification and/or hiring preferences in school districts which are associated with the university awarding the degree.
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The American Physics Society provides support for educators, students, and colleges and universities offering physics education programs. According to the Society, women and minorities are underrepresented in physics as well as other STEM fields. Scholarships are available not only for women and minorities, but also for any student who would like to specialize an education degree in physics. The U.S. Department of Education reports that there were more than 37,000 public and private high schools in 2014. Each school needs at least one or more physics teacher. Students who plan to specialize an education/teaching degree in physics are entering a high-need job market when they graduate.