What Are the Requirements to Be a High School Biology Teacher?

Get information on the online and classroom-based degree options to prepare for a career as a high school biology teacher. Learn about licensing and certification options, including alternate licensure and national certification. Schools offering Teaching & Learning degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Degree Do I Need to Become a High School Biology Teacher?

To become a high school biology teacher, you must have at least a bachelor's degree in biology with an emphasis on education. As a full-time student, you can earn your biology degree in four years. Degree titles you may find include Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Biology Education or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Biological Sciences. Once you begin teaching, you may wish to pursue a master's degree. Depending on the state you wish to work, you may also be required to earn a master's degree within a certain period after you begin teaching.

A master's degree in biology prepares you for research or acts as a foundation for study at the doctorate level. Although not a requirement, some schools offer a post-baccalaureate teacher certificate in biology. If you complete one of these programs, you can teach both biology and general science.

What About Licensing and Certification?

Once you earn your degree in biology, you need to become licensed. All 50 states require licensure before you can teach in public schools. You can obtain your teaching license from your state's board of education or a licensing advisory committee once you've met the requirements. The requirements include the completion of a bachelor's degree program, an approved teacher-training program and supervised practice teaching. Many states require you to pass a competency test in basic teaching skills in addition to a test in your subject.

If you hold a bachelor's degree in biology, but lack the education credits you need for licensure, all states offer program that allow you to obtain an alternate teaching license. You may choose to obtain professional certification as an added credential or national certification, which can be obtained through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). While certification isn't a requirement for employment, it may improve your employment options. National certification allows you to use your teaching license in other states.

Can I Earn My Degree Online?

If you're interested in becoming a high school biology teacher but you can't attend school on campus, some schools offer biology degree programs through distance learning. To participate in distance learning, you'll need access to a computer with Internet access and an e-mail account. Many bachelor's degree programs require lab work, so fully online programs of this nature aren't generally available. If you've already earned your bachelor's degree, however, you can earn your teacher certification through distance learning, though your student teaching experience will need to be completed at a school near you. Your courses may be delivered through on-demand video or a course management system, so your computer must meet certain technical requirements.

What Are My Career Options?

Once you've earned your degree and completed all licensing requirements, you'll be qualified for a career as a high school biology teacher. Your bachelor's degree in biology will also allow you to pursue a graduate degree in science. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), high school biology teachers were projected to experience employment growth that's roughly on par with the average for all jobs from 2008-2018 (www.bls.gov). While teachers overall could expect to see a growth of 13% for that period, teachers in specialized fields, such as mathematics or science, could see better job opportunities. In 2009, secondary teachers earned an annual median salary of $52,200, according to the BLS.

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