Chemistry Teacher Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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

High school chemistry teachers help students learn about chemistry through lessons, projects and laboratory experiments, a task that is both challenging and rewarding. Check out these pros and cons to see if becoming a chemistry teacher is a good fit for you.

Pros of Being a Chemistry Teacher
Above average salary (median annual salary of about $56,310)*
Opportunity to help students gain knowledge for their futures*
Typically have summers off when school is out of session*
Chance to be creative when creating lessons and designing lab experiments for your classes*

Cons of Being a Chemistry Teacher
Long hours outside of standard school schedule (grading, creating lesson plans, meeting with parents and meeting with other teachers)*
Slow employment growth in coming years (six percent growth from 2012-2022)*
Some states require teachers to earn a master's degree shortly after becoming certified*
Pressure to make sure students are learning the material and progressing*

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

Career Info

Job Description

Chemistry teachers generally manage the classrooms of public or private high schools, teaching students the scientific process through demonstrations and projects. You'll show students the differences between chemicals and how to properly handle them when running experiments.

As a high school teacher, you would be in charge of lessons, group projects and homework, which means you'll spend a good amount of your time teaching and grading students on their progress. You'll need to track student attendance and keep in touch with parents and school administrators regarding the progress of your students. Outside of the classroom, you may be charged with providing additional instruction to students who are behind on their lessons.

Salary Stats and Job Growth

High school teachers earned a median annual salary of about $56,310 in 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is above the national median for all occupations. Additionally, the BLS reported that the bottom ten percent of all high school teachers earned about $37,000 annually or less, while the top ten percent earned about $89,000 or more.

The BLS predicted that high school teachers would see a slower-than-average job growth of six percent from 2012-2022. However, the BLS notes that this could vary between states and cities, based on individual budgets. Additionally, while the overall growth rate is expected to be slower-than-average, the BLS stated that the South and West regions of the country would experience faster growth than the Midwest or the Northeast.

What Are the Requirements?

Education and Training Requirements

If you want to teach chemistry at a public high school, you'll need to earn at least a bachelor's degree, which generally takes about four years to complete. Schools typically hire teachers who have studied their subject area, so you would earn a bachelor's degree in chemistry. As part of your undergraduate studies, you'll explore various concepts of the field, like organic chemistry, physical chemistry and inorganic chemistry. It's common to engage in lab experiments that test theoretical concepts and formulas.

Additionally, you'll need to complete the appropriate teacher preparation courses and student teaching experiences to qualify teacher certification in your state. In some cases, you may be required to earn a master's degree shortly after earning this certification. In most cases, annual continuing education experiences are mandatory for high school teachers.

Licensure and Certification

Private schools are not held to state standards, so their teachers are not required to hold licensure. Public school teachers, on the other hand, must always be licensed or certified by the state. This is typically accomplished by completing specific coursework and teaching experiences, then completing a teaching certification exam.

Top Skills for Chemistry Teachers

In addition to the appropriate education and credentials, as an aspiring high school teacher, you should also possess certain abilities and qualities that are typically necessary for the job. This can include:

  • Patience
  • Ability to explain and instruct carefully
  • Communication and listening skills
  • Ability to discipline

Job Postings from Real Employers

In general, schools are looking for candidates who have at least a bachelor's degree and are qualified to teach chemistry. Check out these real job postings from real employers in April 2012:

  • A public high school in Massachusetts is looking for a chemistry teacher who can plan a science program that incorporates demonstrations, lectures and lab experiments. You'll need to teach students about the scientific process and show students how to care for chemicals. The job requires candidates to be certified to teach chemistry in Massachusetts.
  • A public high school in Rhode Island is hiring for a chemistry teacher who can teach a series of science classes for students using a range of tools like technology, labs and lectures. You'll need to be qualified as well as have experience in teaching chemistry.
  • A public high school in Connecticut seeks a chemistry teacher who can lead classes for students of all high school grades. You'll need to meet the state's requirements to be a chemistry teachers, which means holding a bachelor's degree and being certified to teach.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Chemistry teachers have a number of ways to get ahead in the field. For instance, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) frequently organizes conferences and workshops for science teachers of all backgrounds to learn about the field and ways to better instruct students. There are opportunities to organize and submit your research projects, as well as access online instructional materials that can help your students better understand chemistry and science in general. Since chemistry teachers may also have summers off when school is out of session, the NSTA offers summer institutes for chemistry teachers to gain leadership skills that may help them with their future career goals.

While not always necessary, a master's degree could be an advantage when applying for positions in states that will eventually require the completion of a master's program. Additionally, starting and maximum salaries could be higher for high school teachers holding master's degrees in some school districts.

Alternative Career Paths

Chemist

If you enjoy chemistry but don't think teaching is for you, you may consider becoming a chemist. As a chemist, you'll study and analyze the structure and behavior of substances by conducting various lab experiments. In general, chemists need at least a bachelor's degree to find work, although higher-level positions require a master's degree or doctoral degree. The job growth for chemists is expected to be slow in the coming years with only a four percent growth between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. In 2011, the BLS reported that these professionals earned a median annual salary of about $70,000.

Chemistry Professor

If you're interested in teaching chemistry, but would rather teach at the postsecondary level, you could be interested in becoming a college professor. To become a professor, you would typically need to earn a doctoral degree in chemistry. In addition to teaching responsibilities, these professionals also commonly engage in research. According to the BLS, chemistry professors earned a median annual salary of about $71,000 in 2011. Postsecondary educators in general were expected to see a faster-than-average job growth of 17% from 2010-2020.

Instructional Coordinator

If you want to work at a school, but aren't ready to manage a classroom, think about a career as an instructional coordinator. In this role, you'll be able to manage a public school district's curriculum as it relates to what students learn in the classroom. To obtain such a position, you will typically need a master's degree and licensure as either a teacher or administrator. These professionals were expected to see a 20% employment growth rate from 2010-2020, and earned a median annual salary of about $59,000 in 2011, according to the BLS.

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Northcentral University

  • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
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Colorado Technical University

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American InterContinental University

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  • Master of Education - Elementary Education
  • Master of Education - Secondary Education

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Penn Foster High School

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Grand Canyon University

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Saint Joseph's University

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Indiana Wesleyan University

  • B.S. Early Childhood Education - Non-Licensure
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