The importance of science in high schools is clearer than ever as the US competes in the global technological economy and faces the challenges of developing a future STEM workforce. The BS Chemistry with secondary education certification program is one of the two available programs intended for students who wish to become a high school chemistry teacher, the other being the BS Chemistry-IMAT program. While both programs lead to certification, this program results in a BS degree with 136 credit hours while the IMAT results in both BS and MAT degrees in 154 credit hours. Once certified in chemistry, students can become certified in other areas such as mathematics, physics, biology, or broad field science through certification testing.
Chemistry is the study of matter, and an understanding of matter and materials is necessary in healthcare, manufacturing, and scientific research. It is a fundamental area of knowledge that provides a foundation for most other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) areas. Chemistry graduates also have skills in data gathering, data interpretation, and problem solving that translate well into desirable careers outside of science.
STEM graduates have a wide variety of career options, both in STEM areas and in non-STEM areas. The 2012 STEM Report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce provides interesting data on the value of a STEM degree. STEM graduates will have lifetime earning substantially greater than non-STEM graduates ($2.2 million vs. $1.7 million). Nationally, 43% of STEM graduates work outside of a STEM area, often choosing a highly-paid non-STEM occupation, demonstrating the versatility of a STEM degree. Meanwhile, STEM occupations such as chemistry are growing more quickly than the economy as a whole (17% vs. 10%).
The American Chemical Society 2013 Salary Survey shows that chemists have low unemployment (3.5%) compared to the overall unemployment rate (7.4% according to Bureau of Labor Statistics). The median salary for a BS Chemist is $73,300. Using your chemistry degree for a graduate or professional degree results in higher salaries (e.g. median for PhD chemist is $102,000). A BS Chemistry graduate earns a 23% higher salary than the average BS degree graduate (www.salaryexplorer.com).
Skills and interests suited to a career in chemistry
Successful chemistry majors develop strong problem-solving skills, including comfort with math and working with abstract ideas. While facts and knowledge are present, chemistry courses focus on understanding how and why nature behaves as it does, and relies little on rote memorization. Many chemistry majors enjoy tinkering with things and find great satisfaction with the laboratory work including manipulation of materials and operating analytical instruments. The department offers opportunities for students to develop teaching skills as paid tutors or supplemental instruction leaders. These experiences can assist students in determining whether they find working with others as a teacher and mentor fits their personality and provides satisfaction.
About the program
The BS Chemistry secondary education certification program ensures that students have experience in all 5 traditional areas of chemistry- inorganic, organic, physical, analytical, and biochemistry. The education courses prepare students to become effective teachers. Students interested in high school teaching should also consider the BS Chemistry IMAT program as an alternative to this program that may be a better choice for many students.