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The November 2018 issue of APS News reported that physics graduates are wondering what to do with their degrees (“I Graduated—What Now?”). As a former high school physics, chemistry, and mathematics teacher in mostly inner-city Chicago Public Schools, I would highly recommend that every physics major program in higher education offer training in high school physics teaching to its students.
All students in higher education must take electives and a state teaching certificate in high school physics would offer almost immediate employment, especially in the big cities of America. The starting salary of a certified teacher in physics, chemistry, or mathematics almost everywhere in the U.S. is about $50,000 per year. There is a critical need for high school physics, chemistry, and especially mathematics teachers.
And since most physics majors take many mathematics courses in order to master the subject matter in a higher education physics major program, obtaining another high school teaching certificate in mathematics could be easily accomplished.
Twice, my high school physics teaching position was closed, but I always immediately found a mathematics position because I also obtained a state high school mathematics teaching certificate. This extra teaching certificate in high school mathematics was easily accomplished because my physics courses required a great deal of mathematics courses I had to take as prerequisites.
The excellent salary of my high school physics teaching position (and sometimes mathematics teaching position) not only paid my daily living expenses but also helped pay for my other master’s degree and my after-retirement Ph.D. with both savings and my pension.
Sadly, after retirement I found that recent B.A. graduates in fields such as business, psychology, art, history, criminal justice, and film could only find employment for about $10.00 per hour in coffee shops and fast-food restaurants. There are virtually no teaching positions anywhere in history, art, music, or biology.
Physics departments should make potential bachelor’s candidates aware that a physics degree combined with a high school physics teaching certificate will mean almost immediate well-paying life-time employment almost everywhere in America.
Downers Grove, Illinois
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Leah Poffenberger
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik