Young people are naturally curious about the world around them. Science teachers help students apply that curiosity while developing critical thinking skills. A foundational understanding of science is essential for all students but is especially vital in developing the next generation of medical practitioners, environmentalists, inventors, technologists, and problem-solvers. In many ways, our future depends on the quality of science education.
Unfortunately, the ongoing teacher shortage in the United States has hit science, engineering, math, and technology (STEM) particularly hard. Secondary schools in districts around the nation need passionate and dedicated science teachers to fill classroom gaps. Teaching at the high school level offers a distinct opportunity to make a difference because this is when students start setting educational and career goals. An effective high school science teacher might inspire a student to pursue a career in medical research or energy conservation, for example.
Understanding how to become a science teacher can be the first step you take toward changing the world. You may think that you can’t transition into teaching at this point in your career because you don’t have a degree in education. However, if you have a bachelor’s degree in a science subject or related specialization, the NYU Steinhardt Teacher Residency provides a straightforward pathway to a master’s degree and teacher certification in just one year. You’ll accrue hundreds of hours of classroom experience while completing transformative teacher preparation course work – fulfilling the education requirements while teaching science.
Science as a high-needs subject
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent push to quickly develop a vaccine drove home the fact that science is essential to our wellbeing. Science has changed and continues to change how people live, work, and play on a grand scale. Scientific progress lengthens lifespans, makes travel easier, empowers global collaboration, and helps feed the world. School districts need more high school science teachers who can communicate the importance of innovation and discovery in engaging ways to inspire students to change the world for the better in the future.
In high school, general science splits into disciplines such as physics, biological science, chemistry, and earth science. According to the most recent Educator Supply and Demand Report from the American Association for Employment in Education, demand for physics and chemistry teachers is especially high. Additionally, the survey found that only 13 percent of teachers hired in 2021 were people of color. The teacher shortage – which hits students of color and low-income students the hardest – and the lack of diversity in STEM go hand-in-hand. That’s one reason why the NYU Steinhardt Teacher Residency makes equity and representation in education an essential part of its mission. More than 65 percent of NYU teacher residents identify as Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).
How to become a science teacher in high schools
Establish your purpose
Before you enroll in a teacher education program, take a certification exam, or apply for licensure, you must know your “why.” Looking into how to become a science teacher or the general job description is not enough. Why do you want to teach high school students science? Perhaps a science teacher inspired you in middle or high school, or you’ve been a substitute in high school science classrooms and enjoyed the experience.
NYU Steinhardt Teacher Residency alum and science teacher Cameron Schiavone was working in construction when he realized he wanted to do something more impactful. Embarking on a teaching career was his way of doing just that. “I wanted to empower kids and show them that they matter. They can make such a big difference in this world,” he said. Once you discover your “why,” you can lean into it as you tackle the steps to becoming a high school teacher – and while looking for teaching jobs. It will motivate you to always do your best.
Take time to learn about the realities of teaching
A lot happens in a high school classroom. Secondary school students are still dealing with the emotional rollercoaster that is puberty, along with social concerns and issues outside of school that can affect their ability to learn. As an educator, you must know how to develop a lesson plan, prepare students to succeed on standardized tests, and meet yearly learning goals. But to be a truly good teacher, you should also be mindful of students’ emotional wellbeing, what’s happening in the communities in which they live, and how challenges unrelated to academics impact students’ ability to learn.
Poverty, hunger, and abuse can cause students to lose focus and fall behind. All students will deal with the emotional impact of the pandemic for the next several years, as many of them grieve for loved ones and struggle to catch back up socially and academically after isolation. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has confirmed that trauma impacts children’s learning ability. The Teacher Residency at NYU Steinhardt provides teacher residents with wraparound support. In their first year in the classroom, teacher residents can turn to teacher-mentors, faculty, and each other for guidance and advice when they encounter challenges unrelated to the classroom curriculum.
Earn an undergraduate degree
You must have a bachelor’s degree to become a high school science teacher in a public or charter school in every state in the US. Most private schools also require teachers to have bachelor’s degrees. High school science teachers typically have science degrees in disciplines such as physics, chemistry, biology, or engineering. In New York, prospective teachers with undergraduate degrees in the subjects they intend to teach can follow the Transitional B program and complete a teacher preparation program.
The NYU Teacher Residency offers students with science-focused bachelor’s degrees a pathway that offers rigorous teacher preparation and a master’s degree in teaching. If your undergraduate degree is not science-related, you must take several prerequisite courses in the physical sciences or life sciences before enrolling in the Teacher Residency program. You are eligible for NYU’s program if you have a bachelor’s degree and your transcript shows 18 to 30 undergraduate credits in science.
Enroll in a teacher residency program
The NYU Steinhardt Teacher Residency program is more than an accelerated teaching master’s degree pathway that confers a master of arts in teaching (MAT). It helps students accrue hundreds of hours of invaluable classroom experience by blending pedagogy with hands-on practice. Residents work closely with mentors and take on increasing responsibility over the course of a year until they are fully prepared to teach independently.
To enroll in the NYU Steinhardt Teacher Residency, applicants must have a strong GPA in their content area and the prerequisite number of undergraduate credits. GRE or GMAT scores are no longer required to enter the program. Previous teaching experience is also not a requirement.
Procure a state-level teaching certification
Each state has specific licensure requirements built around guidelines for standardized teacher testing and professional development. Most states require aspiring high school teachers to pass subject matter tests that examine their knowledge in a particular field in addition to general teacher tests before receiving a teaching license.
The most common of these exams are the Praxis Core Academic Skills for Educators, which covers basic math and verbal skills, and the Praxis General Science – Content Knowledge, which covers general science concepts. Your state may require you take additional Praxis exams in specialized subject areas like Earth and space science before you qualify for full licensure.
If you enroll in the NYU Steinhardt Teacher Residency, you will work in one of the program’s partner schools in Connecticut, New York, Florida, California, or Washington, DC. The program embeds teachers in urban public schools and charter schools, where engaged and passionate teachers-in-training can make the most difference. Graduates of the program are prepared to pursue licensure in select states and may meet the requirements to pursue teacher certification in others. You can visit the Department of Education website to determine how to become a science teacher at the high school level in your state.
The NYU Steinhardt Teacher Residency program prepares you to serve all students
When it comes to teacher education, choosing a residency or student teaching experience that aligns with your values and professional goals is essential. NYU Steinhardt partners with schools that share its goal of transforming teacher preparation. If you are passionate about science and want to make a difference through teaching, the NYU Steinhardt Teacher Residency may be a good fit.
Spending an entire year in one classroom offers experiential learning opportunities above and beyond what shorter, less-intensive teacher training programs provide. The Secondary Education curriculum can prepare you to teach biology, chemistry, Earth science, or physics. The course work also asks – and helps residents answer – questions such as “What are my special education policy and process responsibilities?” and “How do I know I’m making a difference with research?” Course work covers the history of teaching in the US, current affairs, and the multicultural communities in which teacher residents work and live. Students complete a Participatory Action Research project (PAR) in which they learn to create a culture of achievement for all learners.
Once you have completed all the steps outlined above, finding a teaching job is the only thing left to do. Plenty of teaching positions are open now for enthusiastic and skilled middle school and high school science teachers, and job growth in this area of education is expected to continue. If you are interested in finding a full-time teaching position in high-need urban districts with a demand for science teachers, contact an NYU Steinhardt Teacher Residency enrollment advisor or look into the Teacher Residency admissions requirements. You may end up at a residency site in dire need of qualified science teachers that offers you a guaranteed job after graduation.