A Career in High School Physics Teaching?

Think about it!

(Click here for a more detailed downloadable brochure.)

The Rewards of
Physics Teaching

Teaching physics at the high school level can be a very rewarding experience. Physics teachers often work with the best and most highly motivated students. They spend their days showing and explaining the marvels of the physical universe.

Physics teachers see physics as a fundamental science. The technological applications of science that propel society are all based on physics. Biology, chemistry, environmental science, and earth & space science are all grounded in physics. By inspiring and preparing future scientists, high school physics teachers are able to “touch the future” in ways that few others can.

Getting a job as a physics teacher is not a problem for qualified candidates. Because physics teachers are in demand, landing a satisfying job and earning a good salary from the start is a real possibility.

What it Takes to Become
a Physics Teacher

Not everyone has the “right stuff” to become a physics teacher. Becoming a physics teacher is hard work, and no one can long survive the process without solid intellectual abilities, solid determination, and lots of self-confidence.

To become a physics teacher a person should have a strong interest in science in general and a passion for physics in particular. Physics teachers are by nature curious and creative people. They see the laws of physics operating everywhere they look.

Physics teachers enjoy being around people. They like working with others and are often consumed with a desire to share their love of science. They often long to make a lasting impact on students and the world around them.

Making the Correct
Career Choice

How does one arrive at a decision about whether or not to become a high school physics teacher? The answer is simple, “Learn from the success of others.” Talk with your parents, your physics teacher, and your school counselor. They will have some idea of your needs, interests, and abilities, and can help you to make a good career choice.

In making a career choice, look for clues from your own experiences. Who are the people you most admire? Are they teachers and scientists? What subjects do you find interesting? Have you taken and enjoyed science courses throughout your high school years? Are you a member in a science club? Have you participated in science competitions or field trips? Are your hobbies and readings science-related?

The answers to such questions can help you make a wise and rewarding career choice. If you answered “yes” to the above questions, a career in high school physics teaching just might be the correct choice for you.

Preparing for a Career
in Physics Teaching

Preparing for a career in high school physics teaching requires a Bachelor of Science degree and completion of the teacher preparation sequence consisting of the physics major, professional studies courses, and general education requirements. You might choose to spend your first year or two at a community college in preparation for a transfer to a university. This can be a cost-effective way of saving a significant amount of money. Nonetheless, in order to make it so, be certain to confer with the PTE coordinator at the institution to which you plan to transfer. In the mean time, take all the college preparatory courses you can in science and math while still in high school.

Choosing the
Best University

Choosing the correct university is an important factor in obtaining the best education available. The decision about which university to attend should be based on information about the quality of its teacher preparation program. The Illinois State University's Physics Teacher Education Program strives to be the very best in the State of Illinois. The program has:

Plan of Study in Physics Teacher
Education at Illinois State University

The following 55 semester hours (s.h.) of required courses will provide solid science background as you prepare for a career in high school physics teaching. Nowhere else in Illinois will you find such a complete and supportive plan of study for future secondary physics educators. Required physics teaching methods courses taught by Physics Department appear in italics.

PHY 107 -- Frontiers of Physics (2 s.h.)
PHY 110 -- Physics for Science and Engineering I (4 s.h.)
PHY 111 -- Physics for Science and Engineering II (4 s.h.)
PHY 112 -- Physics for Science and Engineering III (4 s.h.)
PHY 205 -- Origin of the Universe (3 s.h.)
PHY 209 -- Introduction to Teaching High School Physics (1 s.h.)
PHY 217 -- Methods of Theoretical Physics (3 s.h.)
PHY 220 -- Mechanics I (3 s.h.)
PHY 240 or 284-- Electricity and Magnetism I (3 s.h.) or Quantum Mechanics (3 s.h.)
PHY 270 -- Experimental Physics (2 s.h.)
PHY 302 -- Computer Applications in High School Physics (1 s.h.)
PHY 310 -- Readings for Teaching High School Physics (3 s.h.)
PHY 311 -- Teaching High School Physics (3 s.h.)
PHY 312 -- Physics Teaching from the Historical Perspective (3 s.h.)
PHY 353 -- Seminar in Student Teaching (1 s.h.)
BSC 101 -- Fundamental Concepts in Biology (3 s.h.)
CHE 140 -- General Chemistry I (4 s.h.)
CHE 141 -- General Chemistry II (4 s.h.)
GEO 100 -- Earth Systems Science (4 s.h.)

Illinois State University supports this plan of study with additional courses in Mathematics, Curriculum & Instruction, Psychology, and Educational Administration and Foundations. ISU's general education program is designed to enhance the general scientific literacy of all students.

To obtain additional information about the Physics Teacher Education Program at Illinois State University or to arrange for a campus visit, contact:

Ken Wester, Coordinator
Physics Teacher Education Program
Illinois State University
4560 Physics Department
Normal, IL 61790-4560
Phone: (309) 438-8756

To learn more about the ISU Physics Department, its faculty, facilities, resources, and other programs of study, visit our Departmental Web site.

Complete information about admission to and attending Illinois State University may be found on the Admissions Office Web site.

(Last updated 1/04/2009)

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