ASK AN EDUCATOR! – “How can I become a teacher in STEM?”

Ryan asks:

I’m currently an undergrad Computer Engineering student, but my interests are shifting to High School education after mentoring some amazing students, teaching workshops, and not quiet enjoying CE internships I had. So this could be long winded, but:

What advice do you have for someone looking to go into STEM education?

Excellent question and I am glad to hear you have had such success with your students! There are a couple of ways you can make the switch from CE to a degree that will get you teaching in a STEM field. This clearly depends on how far along you are in your undergrad program and you ABSOLUTELY need to speak with your adviser about your options. The first way would require you to complete your four degree in CE, decide which state you want to teach in and in what grade level, then follow that state’s guidelines for licensure. The second is to switch your major into one that offers both a education degree in addition to a teaching license. This happens to be the path I chose after my adviser introduced me VT’s education department. I was able to make the switch my Sophomore year and graduate with a BS and a teaching license.

As I said earlier, each state has different requirements. If you look at say, Virginia’s “Routes to Licensure in Virginia” document, it states that:

The Virginia licensure regulations stipulate multiple routes for individuals to become licensed in Virginia:

I. Approved Program – a Virginia state-approved teacher preparation program or an alternative state approved program. For more information relative to this method of licensure, please contact the college or university where you wish to enroll.

II. Reciprocity – Conditions for licensure for out-of-state candidates by reciprocity.

III. Alternative Licensure – an alternative route to licensure is available through the recommendation of the individual’s employing Virginia school division or nonpublic school. A three-year nonrenewable license can be issued through satisfying endorsement course work, experiential learning, or by meeting the provisional-special education requirements.

The following requirements must be satisfied in order to become eligible for the five-year renewable license:

1. Any remaining endorsement deficiencies in the specific content or endorsement area.
2. Professional Teacher’s Assessment
3. Professional Studies Requirements: Professional studies course work specified below from a regionally accredited four-year institution or an alternative program for licensure may be submitted by the employing educational agency for review and approval by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Virginia Department of Education.

IV. Alternative Route for Career Professions – an alternative route is available to career switchers who seek teaching endorsements PreK through grade 12 with the exception of special education.

Prerequisite requirements:

    1. An application to an approved Career Switcher Program.
    2. A baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited college or university.
    3. The completion of requirements for an endorsement in a teaching area or the equivalent through verifiable experience or academic study.
    4. At least five years of full-time work experience or its equivalent; and Virginia qualifying scores on the professional teacher’s assessments as prescribed by the Board of Education.

Then if we follow the link to Virginia’s list of colleges and universities with approved educator preparation programs, and we check out George Mason University’s Undergraduate Studies in Education, it states that for teaching Math in grades 6-12:

A person interested in teaching mathematics at the high school or middle school level should major in mathematics with a concentration in Secondary Education. This degree and concentration leads to state licensure to teach in Virginia upon completion of the degree.

The student must apply to the Teacher Preparation Program during the second semester of the sophomore year or during the semester in which 60 credit hours will be completed. The student must submit an application form to his or her academic major advisor with the attachments listed below. All criteria for admissions must be met.

If you continue on with the CE route, they also offer the Career Switcher Program:

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) recognizes the critical shortage of classroom teachers, particularly in mathematics and the sciences. As well, VDOE realizes the potential of career changers and what they can bring to the classroom. VDOE has approved an alternative route to teaching via a Career Switcher licensure program. Mason’s College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) is qualified to deliver this approved Career Switcher program in the secondary content areas of: math, earth science, chemistry, physics, biology, social studies/history, and English.

Like I said at the beginning, you want to speak with your adviser about making the switch. In my opinion, becoming a teacher was the best educational decision I have made. I get to teach future engineers, play with some really neat equipment, and have a blast doing it.

So, best of luck with whichever route you choose and keep having fun with your students!

Don’t forget, everyone is invited to ask a question!

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“Ask an Educator” questions are answered by Adam Kemp, a high school teacher who has been teaching courses in Energy Systems, Systems Engineering, Robotics and Prototyping since 2005.

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