Friday, June 15, 2007

How Low Is Secondary Science Teacher Production?

I knew the number of math and science teachers who graduate each year specifically to teach in secondary education was low, but I didn't know how low. Apparently BYU, according to the journal Science, is the country's top producer of secondary science teachers about which the Daily Herald had this to say:
But it was disturbing to be informed that BYU's 16 physics education graduates this spring constitute five percent of all the national output -- many more than any other institution and more than even some states. That means that the United States turned out only about 320 physics educators for the secondary schools this year? Shameful! And frightening!
Only 320 secondary educators are being produced each year out of hundreds of universities in the USA! Holy Cow. Five percent come from BYU alone with CU Boulder and UT Austin also high on the list.

Why two major reasons. First many universities actually discourage science students from going into secondary education:
Heather McKnight, who after being discouraged at Cornell and Carnegie Mellon from pursuing a career in physics teaching, transferred to BYU and "loved it." Now freshly graduated, she is, unsurprisingly, evaluating several job offers.
Second the reality of the matter:
A graduating engineering student at University of Colorado-Boulder, who'd like to teach, tells why: He's evaluating the $60,000 starting salary he'll command as an engineer, versus the $35,000 he'd get as a teacher.


  1. A bright spot within the Science article is that they discuss the new emphasis some schools are placing on the training of such teachers. Your point about the potential earnings between teaching and industry is still an issue, however, because training new teachers will not be helpful if they decide to work elsewhere.

  2. I think that mostly this comes down to economics. Personally, I seriously considered a career as a high-school science teacher when I was starting out in college, but the fact that the average starting salary for a chemical engineer with a bachlor's degree (~$55,000) is about what a teacher with a master's degree and 20 years of experience makes in a year really turned me off on the idea.

    If you want more qualified scientists to teach high school, you have to at least get their salaries into the same league as what people make in the private sector. I think qualified people will give up 10%-20% of their possible income to teach, but not much more than that.


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