Masters of Science Education Degrees

Whether they're dissecting frogs or building baking soda volcanoes, science teachers guide students in learning about the physical and material world through systematic observation and experimentation. Good science teachers encourage students to question how the material world works and inspires them to seek answers through scientific investigation.

Science Education Job Description

Science teachers instruct students in the four traditional branches of science (biology, chemistry, Earth and space sciences and physics) using textbooks mixed with plenty of hands-on activities, lab experiments, field trips and computer technology. At the elementary level, science instruction is generalized. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) recommends that instruction at this level be a cross-section of the four branches to create an interdisciplinary approach to the sciences. Elementary school science teachers focus on activities that give students opportunities to observe and describe the natural world, manipulate objects, and identify patterns in nature. For example, students might shape cotton balls into various types of clouds. At the middle school and high school levels, science instruction is in-depth and specific to the discipline such as geology, earth science, or environmental science. Science teachers at this level emphasize laboratory and field experiments. For example, a high school class might do an experiment in which they extract DNA from a strawberry.

At all grade levels, science teachers design and deliver instruction that helps students understand the unifying concepts of science: the interrelationships of living and nonliving systems, the nature of scientific evidence, the use of models for explanation, the evolution of natural systems and measurement as a way to organize observations.

Science Education Requirements

Public school science teachers at all grade levels must have a bachelor's degree and a state-issued teaching license. At the lower grade levels, science teachers are generalists. They typically have a degree in elementary education and teach other core subject areas in addition to science. At the middle and high school level; however, science teachers are expected to have a deeper understanding of the field. They usually have a degree specifically in secondary science education and often specialize in an area such as life science, physics or biology. In addition to general education classes, secondary science teachers must take extensive coursework in the various science disciplines.

Featured Online Programs:

Online programs may not be available in all states

Science Education Career Outlook

According to a 2008 study of teacher supply and demand by the American Association of Employment in Education, there is some shortage of science teachers in most areas of the country. This fact means qualified science teachers should find plenty of job opportunities in all areas of science education. Elementary and secondary teachers earned a median annual salary between $47,000 and $51,000 in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Public schools usually offer higher pay than private ones.

Science Education Trends

After more than a century, evolution continues to be a hot button issue in science education. The NSTA reports that some science teachers are under increasing pressure to teach creationism and "creation science" as alternatives to evolution. The NSTA opposes this trend and argues that evolution is a unifying concept of science that should be part of all K-12 science curriculums. Furthermore, the NSTA argues that students will not attain an adequate level of scientific literacy if they do not learn about evolution.

Online Masters of Science Education Program

Many states are experiencing critical shortages of science teachers at all grade levels, according to the Department of Education. To fill this gap, a wide variety of online programs are available to both aspiring and current science teachers, including bachelor's degrees at the elementary and secondary levels, master's degrees, doctorate degrees and post-baccalaureate degrees.

Depending on the school and the degree program, online programs will differ to some extent, but online programs in science education generally involve data-driven pedagogy, instructional planning, foundations of research and issues in education. Depending on the schedule and work ethic of the student, an online bachelor's degree program may be completed in three to four years, while a master's, doctorate, post-baccalaureate or certificate program may require 18 months to two years to complete.

Online degree programs are not for everyone; those who require the structure and discipline of daily or weekly classroom attendance may prefer to enroll in traditional on-campus courses. Online programs are ideal for self-sufficient individuals who wish to maintain their current employment while still working toward their degree.

Online Science Education Degree Options

Three schools offering online degrees in science education include Western Governors University, Walden University and Grand Canyon University.

Western Governors University offers online degrees at both the bachelor's and master's levels. One of the degrees offered is a Bachelor of Arts in science, with a focus on biological science for grades 5-12. This program consists of 120 competency units (equivalent to 120 semester hours in a traditional college program). Graduates of this program may then obtain certification to teach at the middle or high school level.

The Master of Science with a specialization in science education offered by Walden University is intended for current certified teachers who already possess a bachelor's degree. The program emphasizes practical strategies for teaching and learning and meets the standards of several professional organizations, including the National Science Teachers Association.

Grand Canyon University's Bachelor of Science in elementary science education seeks to prepare students for a teaching career in grades K?8, including both elementary and middle school. The online learning system is available 24 hours a day, which allows students to create their own learning schedule.

Useful Resources

Below, EducationDegree.com interviews Fernand Brunschwig, teaching faculty at SUNY Empire State College and the chair of Science Education at the New York Academy of Sciences, which contributes to the professional development of science teachers. In the video he discusses how to get started in science education and why you might want to consider a career in the field.