Physics Teacher Career Facts

For physics teachers, the job outlook is excellent, but a shortage of science teachers in general may indicate some additional teaching and administrative tasks.

The Labor Market

According to the Educator Supply and Demand in the United States, a survey conducted by the American Association for Employment in Education (AAEE), a physics teacher is amongst 14 fields—including special education and mathematics—experiencing a considerable shortage of educators. This shortage exists nationwide, with all regions reporting that physics was one of their highest shortage areas and that shortages in this area were greater than in chemistry and biology.

For physics teachers looking for employment, this situation translates into opportunities across the country, though school budgets for human resources may not necessarily be high. However, a physics teacher may have to take on additional teaching, planning and administrative responsibilities to deal with the overall shortage of science educators.

Basic Tasks of a Physics Teacher

All teachers are responsible for class and unit planning based on the regional curriculum, which means preparing relevant lessons for several classes at different levels throughout the entire school year. Teachers are also responsible for classroom management and discipline issues, such as monitoring attendance and disciplining students to keep them on track in the classroom. Other responsibilities include presenting concepts to students, assigning homework and providing additional assistance to struggling students or to students who excel in the field and want additional work.

Teachers of all types spend a considerable amount of time planning lessons and correcting student work; their day can start very early in the morning, and many teachers take work home to complete later into the night. For beginning teachers, these demands can be enormous, but as time passes and lessons and pacing are established, the amount of additional planning work is usually reduced. Some teachers may also take on additional roles such as sponsoring a student group, working on committees and even mentoring other young professionals. Teaching is rewarding, but teachers are responsible for more tasks than delivering lessons to their students.

Salary

Physics teacher salaries can vary greatly. According to PayScale.com, physics teacher salaries nationwide fall within the range of $37,000 to $63,000 per year.  According to SimplyHired Simply Salary, which is based on job postings that are indexed by that search engine, the average nationwide average for a physics teacher is $37,000 per year. Approximately 75 percent of teachers also receive additional benefits such as medical and dental insurance.

Related Opportunities

If you are a prospective physics teacher, consider becoming a tutor. Tutors are self-employed or they work for online schools or academic enrichment programs to assist students with their studies. Tutors that are not certified teachers are less likely to be hired by online schools or enrichment programs since many certified teachers will augment their salaries by teaching at these facilities. Tutors can usually set their own hours and if you teach online, you may also be able to work from home. The salary for a physics tutor, at least according to SimplyHired Simply Salary, is equivalent to that of a physics teacher.

Physics teachers may also find opportunities to advance within schools by becoming the director of a science department at a secondary school, though these positions usually require more managerial and administrative skills. Teachers that enjoy writing and research may consider careers in curriculum development or in publishing, where they can design textbooks and lesson plans for other teachers. Additional training, such as a graduate degree in education administration or in curriculum and instruction, may be required for these positions.