The science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field marks the present and future of business, medicine, healthcare, finance, and government. STEM employees are in high demand, and according to the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), demand will only increase in coming years.
The DOC estimated that the U.S. was home to 9 million STEM workers in 2015, making up about 6.1% of the nation's entire workforce. This number was up 0.6% from the previous count in 2010. STEM occupations are projected to continue growing at an above-average rate through 2024. Teachers play a vital role in inspiring and shaping the next generation of STEM talent, for which reason demand remains particularly high for educators in STEM. Teacher shortages consistently report a demand for K-12 science and math teachers. A master's in science education can equip you to become a STEM teacher and help the U.S. meet that demand.
Should I Get a Master's in Science Education?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a growth of 7% to 8% for teachers at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. The nation particularly needs teachers with a background in science and math. According to the U.S. Department of Education (ED), the current high-need fields for educators include foreign language, mathematics, and science.
Prospective master's students should consider cost, location, and course format when choosing a science education program. Distance education is increasing in popularity, so applicants must start by choosing between online and on-campus programs.
Online master's programs offer flexibility and convenience, which makes them appealing to working professionals or students looking to change careers. On-campus programs, on the other hand, best suit recent graduates who want to pursue a master's directly after completing their bachelor's. A master's degree in science education can give you a leg up for high school teaching positions in biology, chemistry, or physics. To teach at a community college, you must have at least a master's in the subject you aim to teach. In the case of science, you need a master's degree in science education.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Science Education?
Master's in science education programs can open doors to a wide variety of jobs, and not just in teaching. These graduates can also pursue work in government, research, and administrative roles, working at museums, think tanks, startups, nonprofits, or research centers. A master's in science education acts as an endorsement, designating you an expert in the subject. You can use this advanced degree to teach grades K-12, teach at a community college, or pursue a different education role, such as curriculum director.
- Kindergarten and Elementary School Teacher
K-6 teachers instruct students from kindergarten through sixth grade, preparing them for the rest of their K-12 education. At this level, teachers are in charge of teaching students in all subjects, including math, science, and reading. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers need at least a bachelor's degree; those who teach at public schools must also earn state licensure.
Median Annual Salary: $56,900
- High School Teacher
Also known as secondary teachers, high school teachers instruct students in one particular subject. A teacher with a master's in science education might teach a class in biology, chemistry, or physics. Subject teachers, like science teachers, must hold an endorsement in the subject they teach.
Median Annual Salary: $59,170
- Archivist, Curator, and Museum Worker
Archivists, curators, and museum workers collaborate to bring exhibitions, exhibits, and collections of art, history, culture, and science to the public. Museum technicians or registrars need a bachelor's degree to break into the field, but archivists, curators, and conservationists require a master's.
Median Annual Salary: $47,360
- Instructional Coordinator
Instructional coordinators oversee education on a broader scale. Rather than lead a classroom or teach a particular subject, you take charge of curricula and learning standards. To work in public schools, you must have a master's in education. In many cases, instructional coordinators hold a master's degree in science education, math, history, or another specialized subject.
Median Annual Salary: $63,750
- Postsecondary Teacher
With a master's in science education, you can teach at the community college level. To teach at a four-year college or university, you must obtain a Ph.D. As the BLS notes, 99% of all STEM roles require at least a postsecondary education.
Median Annual Salary: $76,000
How to Choose a Master's Program in Science Education
When choosing a science education program at the graduate level, there are a number of factors to weigh. Your career goal determines your education path. Certain positions, such as postsecondary teacher or museum archivist, require at least a master's degree in science education or a related field. Other positions, such as elementary school teacher, may not mandate a master's, but the higher degree still boosts your resume and opens doors to possible advancements.
Applicants must also account for program length, cost, and format. Each prospective student must decide between an online and on-campus program based on their individual situation. Online master's in science education programs may work best for working professionals, while on-campus programs may better fit recent graduates. When choosing a program, prospective master's students must also decide whether they want to attend on a part-time or full-time basis.
Applicants should also take location into account and consider how location might affect each program's tuition rate. Out-of-state students usually pay significantly higher tuition rates than in-state residents, but the extra costs may pay off in the long run. If you're considering relocating for your master's degree, account for your prospective new city's cost of living, quality of life, and employment opportunities.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's Programs in Science Education
Higher education institutions can hold institutional or programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation applies to an entire school, impacting eligibility for federal financial aid and credit transferability. In order for a student to apply for federal aid, their school must hold accreditation from an accrediting body recognized by the ED. The ED recognizes all regional accreditors, but not every national accreditor.
Programmatic accreditation applies to a specific program, department, or school within a larger institution. For master's in science education programs, the program-specific accrediting agency is the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP covers educator programs at both the national and international levels.
Master's in Science Education Program Admissions
When applying to graduate school, it is important to do preliminary research. In addition to program offerings and accreditation, make sure to check out the previous class' profile and the school's acceptance rate. This information will give you a better sense of your chances of program admission. Note that online college programs implement a more involved admissions process, so admissions committees may request more documentation from online students.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), schools admit an estimated 2.9 million students to post-baccalaureate programs. Graduate applicants typically apply to a mix of safety and reach schools. Your preliminary research of master's in science education programs should show you how you fare in terms of GPA criteria and test scores.
- Bachelor's Degree: To apply to master's in science education programs, you'll need a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. To teach in any state, you must have at least a bachelor's degree, as well as teaching experience. Most master's in science education programs prefer applicants with a bachelor's in education, though alternative certification programs are available for those with degrees in subjects like science, math, or reading.
- Teaching Experience: Education majors must accrue a certain number of hours of student teaching in order to qualify for a teaching license. Traditionally, those pursuing teaching licensure must first earn a bachelor's and complete a teacher preparation program.
- Minimum GPA: Minimum GPA requirements vary by program, but average at 3.0. Most schools specify the minimum in their admissions instructions.
- Application: Most programs make applications available online. These applications outline prerequisites, admissions criteria, and deadlines you must meet.
- Transcripts: Master's applicants must produce transcripts for all their college coursework. Transcripts verify your GPA and any credit you hope to transfer. To obtain your transcript, simply contact your previous school's registrar's office.
- Letters of Recommendation: Each school has unique requirements for letters of recommendation, but two is typically the minimum. Consider asking professors or professional mentors who are familiar with your work to write them. Make sure to give your letter writers enough time to meet your application deadline, and to send a letter of thanks after.
- Test Scores: If a graduate school requires standardized test scores, such as the GRE or MAT, the school usually also specifies the acceptable minimum score. Note that GRE scores expire after five years, and many online graduate programs waive test scores for admissions consideration.
- Application Fee: There is not one standard fee for graduate school applications, and some schools may even waive it. If your prospective master's in science education program requires a fee, you must pay it when you submit your application.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's Program in Science Education?
When comparing master's in science education programs, note that details vary by school. Graduate-level science education programs should offer prospective and practicing teachers a comprehensive curriculum, not only to augment what they already know, but also to broaden their knowledge of science education and the latest developments in classroom instruction.
Courses in a Master's in Science Education Program
Courses in a master's in science education program may differ depending on the school you choose, but in general, these programs delve into advanced work in the science discipline and best practices. Graduates qualify for an endorsement of science education. See below for a sample curriculum of common course offerings.
- Secondary School Science
In this course, students examine best practices when it comes to classroom instruction. Topics cover theory and practice, with particular focus on how to teach science and engage students through labs and group activities. Students also get an overview of materials for an inspiring science classroom environment.
- Advanced Natural Science
Through this course, students work through demos and classroom activities that can apply later in their own teaching. Topics include natural science research and immersive field trips and projects.
- Classroom Experience
This course delves into how to develop curricula that blend traditional and contemporary theories and best practices. Students typically study backward design theory, which applies when teachers establish learning outcomes and goals first, and then decide on the best methodology to achieve them.
- Pedagogy and Technology
Students in these courses explore how to use the tools and reach of online learning. For example, they may learn how to design an online learning environment that not only inspires students, but motivates them to query, research, and collaborate.
- History of Science
This course serves as both an introduction and a review. Students delve into the history of science and draw upon contemporary issues that give further context to the development and updating of traditional theories, practices, and methodologies. These courses also provide students with the tools to continue research on their own.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Science Education?
In general, full-time students can complete their master's degree in two years. Part-time students take take three to five years to finish. A full-time course load comprises 12 or more credits per term, and students often take on 15 credits for each term. Thus, students can complete a 60-credit master's program in two years by completing 30 credits overall each year.
Prior credits may also affect a students' program length, as could program format. Five-year master's programs, for example, allow participating undergraduates to combine their bachelor's and master's into one curriculum. Not all master's in science education programs offer part-time study options, but those that do allow full-time professionals to obtain their master's while working.
How Much Is a Master's in Science Education?
The cost of earning a master's degree in science education is a major consideration for any educator. With a bachelor's degree and student-teaching experience, you can begin a career in teaching, while a master's can open doors to advancement opportunities. The cost of a master's degree varies by school, and depends on whether you choose to attend an online or on-campus program, how many credits you take, and your school's location.
The NCES reports that for the 2015-16 academic year, the average student loan debt for graduates was $66,300 for an MBA, $72,800 for a master of arts, $62,300 for a master of science, and $55,200 for a master of education in any discipline. In the case of a master's degree in science education, you can expect to spend at least $25,000 a year, and these expenses continue to rise year by year.
According to NCES, the average cumulative student loan balance for master's of education degree holders rose by 71% between the 1999-2000 and 2015-16 academic years.
Certifications and Licenses for Master's in Science Education Graduates
- State Teaching License
To teach in any state, you must obtain a license. Given the responsibility that teachers assume in their work, states establish standards, including minimum requirements for student-teaching and immersive learning. You must meet every requirement and pass requisite competency exams. Subject-specific teachers must also pass subject-based endorsement exams.
- National Board Certification
National certification for teachers is a voluntary pursuit. Unlike state licensure, national certification is not required to practice teaching. It does speak to a teachers' competence in their subject. For master's of science education graduates, certification can only help. To obtain national certification, you must first teach your specific subject for a certain number of years.
- Certified Environmental Scientist
To gain the CES designation, you must pass the certification test and have at least a bachelor's degree in a related discipline and three years of professional teaching experience. The test on environmental science is 90 minutes and covers topics including risk assessment, earth science, regulations, biology, and chemistry.
Resources for Graduate Science Education Students
The NSF provides a diverse collection of classroom resources for K-12 science teachers to facilitate lesson plans, activities, and demonstrations. The NSF aims to serve as a conduit for the latest on STEM developments in education, particularly as they relate to science.
The NSTA offers members a one-step portal to book chapters, journal articles, and other materials to build lesson plans and develop curricula.
From UC Berkeley, this space aims to demystify science for students. These resources help science teachers create fun and accessible lessons that allow students to understand science within the context of our world. This helps students better understand certain scientific principles, methods, and motivations.
This resource helps educators introduce students to the science discipline. Teachers can access free videos, along with interactive tools for classroom activities and a wealth of ideas and material for scientific lesson plans.
This database provides science teachers with abundant resources for lesson plans, field trips, and classroom exercises. Among the various resources and materials, CAS offers full-period lessons which science teachers can integrate into their curriculum.
Professional Organizations in Science Education
Professional organizations can help you grow your professional network, striving to promote their fields and those working in them through research, updates, and news. Members also have access to offerings like continuing education workshops, annual conferences, and subscriptions. For undergraduate students, professional organizations offer awards opportunities and career advice. For grad students and working professionals, these organizations can prove valuable in growing professionally, expanding knowledge, and accelerating your career.