“Why is the sky blue?” “Could robots ever learn to think?” “What would happen if the earth stopped spinning?” Kids are natural scientists- curious thinkers who are ready to experiment, discover and create. A great science teacher can turn a child’s natural curiosity about the world into a deep understanding and lifelong love of science and a bright future. With the nation facing a shortage of STEM workers (those skilled in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), schools are eager to equip the next generation of scientists, analysts and innovators. Jobs in science teaching are on the rise, and with a master’ degree in science education, you can be a part of this important movement in education. While a bachelor’s degree and licensure may be all that’s needed to break into the field of science instruction, teachers holding master’s degrees have better demonstrated student outcomes, higher salaries and greater job security.

Course of Study:

The curriculum of any master’s degree program in science education covers two main content areas: science knowledge and teaching skills. Some programs give a comprehensive general background in science knowledge. This is more often the case in programs geared towards elementary and middle school teachers, who may be called upon to teach several forms of science. A few master’s degree programs, generally aimed at high school teachers, thoroughly train students in one particular branch of science, such as chemistry. The majority of programs offer some of each- a general foundation with the opportunity to take electives in a particular area of interest. Foundational topics generally cover biology, chemistry, physics and earth science, and electives might include courses such as Cell Biology, Evolution and Climate Change. Most programs conclude with a capstone project or teaching demonstration.

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Master’s degree programs also cover instructional skills. Like other teachers, science educators must be able to manage the classroom, engage their students, reach learners of all levels and backgrounds, plan effective lessons and help students achieve their academic potential through assessment and feedback. Unlike other teachers, science instructors must be able to plan and direct labs and experiments that are safe, stimulating and lead to real understanding. Science teachers may also plan field trips, real-world research opportunities and science fairs. Courses that develop instructional skills might include Educating Diverse Populations, Curriculum Design and Classroom Laboratories. The curriculum of quality master’s programs in science education are frequently aligned with the best-practices standards of external bodies such as the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and National Science Education Standards (NSES).

Time, Cost and Format:

The majority of full-time master’s degree programs in science education are designed to be completed in two years and require 28-36 credits. Students who wish to expedite their degree should look for schools that offer accelerated classes, such as Capella University. Students with extensive work experience should seek out competency-based degree programs, such as Western Governors University, which award course credit for demonstrating knowledge on aptitude tests. Those with prior learning on a graduate level may qualify for transfer credit. Many degree seekers are already employed full-time as science teachers, balancing daily instruction with lesson planning, grading, and possibly even family duties. Such “non-traditional students” are good candidates for part-time, summer or distance learning programs. Many schools offer their degree programs entirely online, or in a hybrid format, with coursework online and some on-site projects and trainings required.

The cost of earning a master’s degree in science education varies, but is typically priced at about $400-600 per credit hour. Some programs require more or fewer credits, some have different tuition rates for residents versus out-of-state students, and some charge additional fees for registration and materials.

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Job Outlook

In 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median salary of $58,250 for science
teachers holding master’s degrees- over $2,000 more than that of their peers with only a bachelor’s. Job experience leads to even greater salaries, as does teaching at higher grade levels. A high school science teacher with a master’s degree and 10 or more years in the field earns an average salary of $59,860. The number of jobs in the field is expected to grow 6% by 2024, with projected demand varying by region. Those holding a master’s degree in science education are also qualified for other senior positions in the field of education, including that of school principal, college counselor, administrator or instructional coordinator. With strong salaries, in-demand positions and rewarding work, the future looks bright for science teachers.