How do I Become a Biology Teacher?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A biology teacher might teach at junior high or high school, community college or at four year and above universities. In the last two, the teacher may be called a professor. In order to become a biology teacher at any of these levels, education is required, and for almost all teachers, this begins by getting a four-year BA or BS in biology or another life science.

Most biology teachers have a degree in biology or the life sciences.
Most biology teachers have a degree in biology or the life sciences.

Much of the work in a bachelor’s program increases specialized knowledge of the life sciences, but students don’t need to wait until college to start work to become a biology teacher. They can easily start in high school, where they should work particularly hard in math and science classes. Taking advanced placement courses for college credit, if available, may be very useful, since these give students a running start when they begin college studies. In particular, advanced placement courses in biology, chemistry, physics, trigonometry, and calculus are recommended.

At the college level, students should plan to have strong grades in all math and science classes. It additionally helps to get very good grades elsewhere, particularly for those who would become a biology teacher at a college. As students are in their last year of college, they will need to determine the next step.

Many find teaching at the secondary school level attractive and the requirements to do this may depend on region. A number of areas require teachers to earn a credential, which takes another year or two. Some schools have programs that earn credentials and master’s degrees simultaneously. The master’s degree in secondary schools may translate to higher earnings, and having this degree could also mean people are eligible to become a biology teacher at community colleges.

Those uninterested in secondary school teaching might simply earn a master’s degree to teach at community college. While this scenario is good, it should be noted that some community colleges look with disfavor on those who don’t have a PhD. It might harder to get jobs, to get promotions, or to achieve tenure with only a master’s degree.

This is why many people who would like to become a biology teacher at the college level see earning a doctorate as the best choice. A doctorate is the terminal degree in the life sciences, but it can take a longer time to accomplish. On average, this type of degree takes a minimum of three years and might take as long as six to seven. These years can be well spent, preparing people through study and research to teach the great complexities of this subject. That is another advantage of college teaching; curriculum may have much more range than that offered in secondary school settings.

College professors may also be expected to research and publish their findings. Many universities expect teachers to accrue fame to the school through their work. It may be hard for a biology professor to get job security or tenure without continued participation and research in areas of expertise.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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