How to Become a High School Biology Teacher
Research the requirements to become a high school biology teacher. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in teaching.
Do I Want to Be a High School Biology Teacher?
High school biology instructors might teach students about animal and human biology, ecology, and botany. Teachers need to be able to motivate students and keep classrooms on task, in addition to being proficient in their subject area.
It's important that biology teachers have a passion not only for the life sciences, but for working with students, which sometimes can be stressful. Technology has become an integral part of the classroom; therefore, teachers are expected to be proficient in the use and implementation of the latest technologies and tools. Some public school high school biology teachers have the ability to secure tenure, which can ensure their career stability.
High school biology teachers must earn a bachelor's degree, usually in biology with a teacher-education component. This will allow them to receive the training experience needed to apply for licensure, which is required for those who want to teach at public schools. The following table details qualifications for high school biology teachers:
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree*|
|Degree Field||Biology w/teaching minor or education preparation program*|
|Licensure||All teachers in public schools must be licensed; private schools don't always require licensure**|
|Experience||Teaching experience, either as a student teacher or in a first-year mentorship program*|
|Key Skills||Animated and engaging personality, patient and tolerant attitude, passion for sharing knowledge, excellent verbal and written communication abilities, creativity and diverse methodologies for imparting ideas and knowledge****|
|Computer Skills||Educational software, programs for recording, grading, and evaluating students' work and progress***|
|Technical Skills||Teaching tools, like overhead projectors and other media-sharing devices***, proficiency with biology and lab experiment equipment, like microscopes and slides****|
Sources: *Teach.org, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***Science.Education.NIH.Gov; ****Sciencebuddies.org.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Aspiring biology teachers should complete a bachelor's program in biology in conjunction with a state-mandated teacher preparation program. This may be in the form of taking education as a minor, or there may be a specific major for aspiring biology teachers. Teacher preparation programs generally include several education and psychology classes in addition to internship and/or student teaching experiences.
- Use field work opportunities to gain experience. Student teaching is a part of teacher preparation programs. Students can gain direct experience with the high school age group to help boost employment opportunities after graduation.
- Consider stand-alone teacher prep programs. Students who already hold relevant bachelor's degrees can complete a teacher preparation program in 1-2 years. All other requirements and steps are still necessary for these students.
- Participate in school tutoring opportunities. Most schools offer programs for students to tutor other students, and these positions are often paid. Students gain additional and unique experience in the role of educator to add to their resume and repertoire.
Step 2: Obtain Initial State Licensure
Licensure is required in all states, though the exact prerequisites for obtaining the credential may vary. Most states require completion of a relevant bachelor's program, a student teaching experience, a content area test and a licensure exam. A background check and confirmation of citizenship may be necessary as well.
Step 3: Obtain Permanent State Licensure
A new teacher's initial, or entry-level, teaching license generally isn't permanent. In some states, the initial license is valid for 3-5 years. Continuing education, up to a master's degree, may be required in that time period in order to earn permanent licensure.
- Complete a master's program while teaching full time. Teaching full time while continuing to go to school can be difficult and time consuming. However, teachers with initial licensure should begin and complete all requirements for permanent licensure as soon as possible. There are completely online and hybrid online/on-campus programs available that are designed for working teachers who need to meet these requirements.
- Take professional development courses. There are teacher associations and other resources available that offer career development courses. These can be used to stay up on the latest technologies and their uses as well as to learn additional teaching techniques and helpful strategies.
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