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Physics Teacher

physics teacher helping student model a nanostructure

A physics teacher could...


Explain to a student how physics is relevant to their favorite sport. ice skater spinning Perform wacky classroom demonstrations to excite students about physics. physics teacher conducting a classroom demonstration
Inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers who will go on to build new spacecrafts. artist's drawing of next generation of space shuttles Encourage students to compete in a robotics competition and serve as their mentor. boys at robotics competition
Find out more...

Key Facts & Information

Overview Our universe is full of matter and energy, and how that matter and energy moves and interacts in space and time is the subject of physics. Physics teachers spend their days showing and explaining the marvels of physics, which underlies all the other science subjects, including biology, chemistry, Earth and space science. Their work serves to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers, including all healthcare professionals. They also help all students better understand their physical world and how it works in their everyday lives, as well as how to become better citizens by understanding the process of scientific research.
Key Requirements Positive, patient, encouraging, outgoing, enjoy working with teens, with outstanding communication skills and an ability to explain complex concepts in language that students can understand
Minimum Degree Bachelor's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Biology, chemistry, physics, geometry, algebra, calculus
Median Salary
Physics Teacher
  $54,270
US Mean Annual Wage
  $45,230
Min Wage
  $15,080
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Projected Job Growth (2010-2020) More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%) In Demand!
Interview
  • In this article, you'll read about a physics teacher, Mary Lee McJimsey, who likes to have her students engage in "hands-on" and "minds-on" activities.
  • In this article, you'll meet John Olson, who has an "every kid can learn" philosophy.
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

Training, Other Qualifications

The traditional route to becoming a physics teacher involves completing a bachelor's degree from a teacher education program and then obtaining a license. However, most states now offer alternative routes to licensure for those who have a college degree in physics. Private school teachers do not have to be licensed, but might still need a bachelor's degree.

Education and Training

Teaching high school physics requires a bachelor's degree in physics or a related discipline. In addition to a college degree, each state requires prospective teachers to complete a state-approved teaching certification program. Requirements for these certifications vary by state.

Many 4-year colleges require students to wait until their sophomore year before applying for admission to teacher education programs. To maintain their accreditation, teacher education programs are now required to include classes in the use of computers and other technologies. Most programs require students to perform a student-teaching internship. Teacher education programs are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council. Graduation from an accredited program is not necessary to become a teacher, but it might make fulfilling licensure requirements easier.

Many states now offer professional development schools, which are partnerships between universities and elementary or secondary schools. Professional development schools merge theory with practice and allow the student to experience a year of teaching firsthand, under professional guidance. Students enter these 1-year programs after the completion of their bachelor's degree.

Other Qualifications

Physics teachers must have a strong understanding of the basics and principals of physics. It is essential that physics teachers have good communication skills, because they need to educate and inspire students to learn physics, teaching them in a way that they can understand.

Nature of the Work

High school physics teacher career video.
Watch this video
to meet four physics teachers with a passion for playing and experimenting in the classroom.

Physics teachers are responsible for educating students on the laws of matter and energy. Physics teachers must prepare lesson plans, assign homework, and create and grade exams to test students on the information they have learned. They are also responsible for working with parents, school administrators, and other teachers to further the education of all students.

Work Environment

Seeing students develop new skills and gain an appreciation of knowledge and learning can be very rewarding. However, teaching can be frustrating when one is dealing with unmotivated or disrespectful students. Occasionally, teachers must cope with unruly behavior and violence in the schools. Teachers might experience stress in dealing with large classes, heavy workloads, or old schools that are run down and lack modern amenities. Accountability standards also might increase stress levels, with teachers expected to produce students who are able to exhibit a satisfactory performance on standardized tests in core subjects. Many teachers, particularly in public schools, also are frustrated by the lack of control they have over what they are required to teach.

Teachers in private schools generally enjoy smaller class sizes and more control over establishing the curriculum and setting standards for performance and discipline. Their students also tend to be more motivated, since private schools can be selective in their admissions processes.

Teachers are sometimes isolated from their colleagues because they work alone in a classroom of students. However, some schools allow teachers to work in teams and with mentors, to enhance their professional development.

Many teachers work more than 40 hours a week, including school duties performed outside the classroom. Most teachers work the traditional 10-month school year, with a 2-month vacation during the summer. During the vacation break, those on the 10-month schedule may teach in summer sessions, take other jobs, travel, or pursue personal interests. Many enroll in college courses or workshops to continue their education. Teachers in districts with a year-round schedule typically work 8 weeks, are on vacation for 1 week, and have a 5-week midwinter break.

Most states have tenure laws that prevent public school teachers from being fired without just cause and due process. Teachers may obtain tenure after they have satisfactorily completed a probationary period of teaching, normally 3 years. Tenure does not absolutely guarantee a job, but it does provide some security.

On the Job

  • Establish and enforce rules for behavior and procedures for maintaining order among students.
  • Instruct through lectures, discussions, and demonstrations in one or more subjects, such as English, mathematics, or social studies.
  • Establish clear objectives for all lessons, units, and projects and communicate those objectives to students.
  • Prepare, administer, and grade tests and assignments to evaluate students' progress.
  • Prepare materials and classrooms for class activities.
  • Adapt teaching methods and instructional materials to meet students' varying needs and interests.
  • Maintain accurate and complete student records as required by laws, district policies, and administrative regulations.
  • Assign and grade class work and homework.
  • Observe and evaluate students' performance, behavior, social development, and physical health.
  • Enforce all administration policies and rules governing students.
  • Plan and conduct activities for a balanced program of instruction, demonstration, and work time that provides students with opportunities to observe, question, and investigate.
  • Prepare students for later grades by encouraging them to explore learning opportunities and to persevere with challenging tasks.
  • Guide and counsel students with adjustment or academic problems, or special academic interests.
  • Instruct and monitor students in the use of equipment and materials to prevent injuries and damage.
  • Prepare for assigned classes and show written evidence of preparation upon request of immediate supervisors.
  • Use computers, audio-visual aids, and other equipment and materials to supplement presentations.
  • Meet with parents and guardians to discuss their children's progress and to determine priorities for their children and their resource needs.
  • Confer with parents or guardians, other teachers, counselors, and administrators to resolve students' behavioral and academic problems.
  • Prepare objectives and outlines for courses of study, following curriculum guidelines or requirements of states and schools.
  • Meet with other professionals to discuss individual students' needs and progress.
  • Prepare and implement remedial programs for students requiring extra help.
  • Attend professional meetings, educational conferences, and teacher training workshops to maintain and improve professional competence.
  • Confer with other staff members to plan and schedule lessons promoting learning, following approved curricula.
  • Collaborate with other teachers and administrators in the development, evaluation, and revision of secondary school programs.
  • Prepare reports on students and activities as required by administration.
  • Select, store, order, issue, and inventory classroom equipment, materials, and supplies.
  • Plan and supervise class projects, field trips, visits by guest speakers, or other experiential activities, and guide students in learning from those activities.
  • Administer standardized ability and achievement tests and interpret results to determine students' strengths and areas of need.
  • Sponsor extracurricular activities such as clubs, student organizations, and academic contests.
  • Attend staff meetings and serve on committees, as required.
  • Perform administrative duties such as assisting in school libraries, hall and cafeteria monitoring, and bus loading and unloading.
  • Provide disabled students with assistive devices, supportive technology, and assistance accessing facilities such as restrooms.

Source: BLS

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Additional Information

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