Becoming a Psychology Teacher: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of becoming a psychology teacher? Get real job descriptions, career outlooks and salary info to see if becoming a psychology teacher is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Psychology Teacher

Psychology teachers lead lectures, assign homework and student projects, and facilitate classroom discussion relative to the subject of psychology. Check out these pros and cons to see if becoming a psychology teacher is a good fit for you.

Pros of Being a Psychology Teacher
Opportunity to instill new knowledge in students*
Often have summers off*
Well-paying career ($76,000 average annual salary for post-secondary psychology teachers in May 2014, $59,000 average for high school teachers)*
As a post-secondary teacher, you may be able to conduct research and contribute to the academic world*

Cons of Being a Psychology Teacher
Need for a lot of schooling (undergraduate and graduate degrees are often requirements)*
Pressure to make sure students are learning*
Constant demand to grade homework and assignments*
Work schedule can be draining and last beyond the school day*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Info

Job Description

Psychology teachers are hired at the secondary and post-secondary levels within private and public schools. You'll be required to lead lectures, classroom discussions and lessons that focus on various topics, such as cognitive processes, sensation and perception. You'll also need to frequently assign homework and class projects to students and spend time grading assignments. Since you'll be in charge of your class, you'll need to make sure you have all necessary classroom materials, from textbooks to laboratory equipment.

At the secondary level, you are likely to keep track of student attendance and behavior, notifying parents and school administrators if a student is having problems. At the post-secondary level, you may be able to lead your students through research projects, as well as design your own studies that test various psychological theories. Outside of the classroom, it's common for post-secondary psychology teachers to maintain office hours to meet with students who have questions or need help with lessons. Secondary psychology teachers don't always keep office hours, but they may be able to work with students after school or during class breaks.

Career Growth and Salary Info

The job outlook for post-secondary psychology teachers is faster than average. According to the BLS, there is a projected 19% growth in employment for all post-secondary teachers predicted to occur between 2012 and 2022, and 14% for psychology post-secondary teachers specifically. However, the situation is different for secondary teachers. The employment of high school teachers in general is expected to be slower than average. The BLS estimated that there would be a 6% growth in employment of high school teachers between 2012 and 2022. However, an expected decrease in the student-to-teacher ratio should create a demand for high school teachers.

Psychology teachers are able to earn a decent living. At the post-secondary level, psychology teachers earned a mean annual salary of $76,000 in May 2014, according to the BLS. While salary data specifically for secondary psychology teachers is unavailable, the BLS showed that all secondary teachers earned a bit less at that time, with a reported average annual salary of $59,000.

Education Requirements

Your education requirements depend largely on where you'd like to teach. For the secondary level, it's common for psychology teachers, and high school teachers in general, to hold bachelor's degrees in the field they teach. This means you may consider earning a bachelor's degree in psychology. As part of the degree program, you'll have the opportunity to learn about all aspects of psychology whether it's social, industrial, organizational, behavioral or cognitive psychology. The degree program may also give you the option to assist in conducting research studies as a way to understand how people think. You'll also need to complete a teacher preparation program.

If you want to teach at the post-secondary level, you'll need to build on your bachelor's degree by earning a master's degree or doctorate. Since you'll be working with older students, you're likely to teach them more complex concepts, which means you'll need to have a deeper understanding of psychology. It's more common for post-secondary psychology teachers to hold doctoral degrees, but a master's degree may be sufficient for positions at community colleges. Graduate degree programs typically focus on research, and you'll have opportunities to conduct your own original research in the field of psychology. You could also concentrate your studies in a specific area of psychology that interests you most.

Certification and Licensure

While it's not required for post-secondary psychology teachers, you'll need to become licensed or certified if you want to teach psychology at a public high school. While licensure requirements vary by state, they usually include holding a bachelor's degree, completing a teacher training program, accruing supervised teaching experience and passing an examination.

There are also undergraduate degree programs that allow you to earn a bachelor's degree in psychology and become certified to teach social studies or social sciences at the same time. These types of degree programs are designed specifically for students who want to become K-12 teachers. For these programs, you'll need to be admitted into your school's teacher education program, which is separate from the school's general admission process.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Psychology teachers at both the secondary and post-secondary levels are in demand across the country. Requirements for employment vary by school and state, but many employers are looking for psychology teachers with degrees in psychology and teaching experience. Check out these job openings from real employers posted in May 2012 on CareerBuilder.com:

  • A secondary school in Florida is looking for an advanced placement (AP) psychology teacher who can instruct high school students. A master's degree is preferred, and you'll need to be certified to teach in Florida. Experience working with high school students is also preferred.
  • A college in Ohio is looking for a psychology instructor who can teach a developmental psychology class for the school nursing program. Not only will you be responsible for teaching and assessing students in this position, you'll also participate in curriculum development. You'll need a master's degree in psychology to be considered, as well as knowledge of teaching methodologies and curriculum development.
  • A public school in Connecticut seeks a high school teacher who can teach basic and AP psychology classes. You'll need to be certified in the state of Connecticut and have teaching experience to be considered for the position.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

If you're looking to get ahead in your field, you may consider joining a professional organization, such as the American Psychological Association (APA). This national group frequently organizes professional development conferences and workshops for psychology teachers, which can be good opportunities to network with other teachers. Joining the APA also allows you to access teaching resources, view sample lesson plans and learn new ways to reach students in the classroom.

While teaching experience is required to earn licensure as a high school teacher, individuals looking to teach at the college level typically do not receive formal training in teaching. Even so, some institutions prefer to hire candidates who have previous experience in teaching. When completing your graduate degree program, you could work as a teaching assistant to gain this experience.

Alternative Career Paths

Instructional Coordinator

If you would rather contribute to student learning behind the scenes, think about becoming an instructional coordinator. With this career, you'll work with school administrators and teachers to develop curricula, instructional materials and new teaching methods. The job outlook is positive, with the BLS projecting a 20% growth in employment from 2010-2020. A master's degree and licensure is usually required to get started in this career. You could earn your master's degree in the subject in which you wish to specialize, such as psychology, or you could earn your degree in curriculum and instruction or a related field.

School Principal

If you're looking for an administrative position in the academic realm rather than a teaching position, you could consider becoming a K-12 principal. You'll often need a master's degree, licensure and teaching experience to be considered for principal positions. Once hired, you'll be in charge of managing the day-to-day operations of a school and setting student academic goals. The job outlook for this field is average, with the BLS projecting a 10% growth in employment between 2010 and 2020.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Educational Psychology
      • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Early Childhood Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
    Master's
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.A. in Communication with an Emphasis in Education
      • M.A. in History with an Emphasis in Education
      • M.S. in Sociology with an Emphasis in Education
      • M.Ed. in Elementary Education
      • M.Ed. in Secondary Education
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • B.S. in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in Christian Education
      • BS in Early Childhood
      • B.S. in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education
  • Online Programs Available
    3. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Concordia University Portland

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Reading
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Science
      • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Mathematics
      • M.S. - Career and Technical Education (CTE)
  • Campus Locations:
    5. CDI College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Certificate in Early Childhood Education
      • Diploma in Early Childhood Education JEE.13 (Techniques D'ducation L'enfance - JEE.13)
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma
  • Milwaukee, WI

    Marquette University

  • Logan, UT

    Utah State University

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MS in Educational Psychology
  • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
  • BS in Early Childhood Administration

Which subject are you interested in?

Grand Canyon University

  • Doctor of Education in Teaching and Learning with an Emphasis in Adult Learning
  • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education

What is your highest level of education?

The George Washington University

  • Master of Arts in Education and Human Development in Organizational Leadership and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Concordia University Portland

  • Master of Education - Curriculum & Instruction: Leadership
  • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math)
  • M.S. - Curriculum & Instruction: Reading

What is your highest level of education?

CDI College

  • Certificate in Early Childhood Education
  • Diploma in Early Childhood Education JEE.13 (Techniques D'ducation L'enfance - JEE.13)

What year did you graduate high school?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

What is your age?