Online master's in science education programs prepare current and future educators to teach chemistry, biology, environmental science, and other scientific subjects. While the degree is designed for teachers, it can also lead to other career paths, including science writer and museum curator.
The following guide explores science education master's programs, including common curricula, skills gained, average time to graduation, and career options for graduates. By the end, students should possess a better understanding of what to look for in an advanced degree in science education, along with how to choose a school and program that will best help them achieve their goals.
Overview of an Online Master’s Program in Science Education
A master's degree in science education provides students with intensive preparation in science subject matter, including a chosen specialization like chemistry or physics. Students draw upon current educational research and learn the fundamentals of creating innovative and creative science learning environments. Though curricula vary by school and program, science education master's degrees typically feature courses similar to those listed below.
Common Classes and Coursework
This course provides students with a framework for making curriculum decisions. Topics explored include historical traditions and curriculum philosophies, standards and practices, models such as the backward design theory, and issues impacting teaching.
Concepts in Science
This class introduces essential science themes for licensed teachers interested in pursuing an endorsement in science education. Students gain an understanding of basic concepts related to chemistry, biology, physics, and the geosciences (such as geology). The class provides a foundation for subsequent science coursework.
This course helps aspiring teachers build knowledge and learn new techniques for both managing a classroom and cultivating a positive learning environment. Master's candidates examine factors can influence student behavior, including multicultural, social, and demographic aspects.
Master's students explore the issues surrounding science education, particularly for grades 6-12. This course introduces learning theories and explores how students at this age absorb, process, and retain knowledge. Other topics include technology integration, collaborative learning, and the nature of science.
Teaching with Technology
This course covers the ways teachers can integrate technology into the classroom. Through literature, peer discussion, and lab sessions, students gain insight into the various tools available to educators, from both a practical and conceptual perspective.
Skills You Will Gain
Graduates of a master's in science education online program enter the workforce with the skills and competencies to teach grades 6-12 or to pursue work at the community college level. The degree also prepares graduates for doctoral-level studies in the discipline, which can lead to opportunities at four-year colleges and universities, as well as other positions that require advanced training.
Science education master's programs allow future teachers to hone their skills teaching science, expanding their content knowledge in areas such as biology, chemistry, and physics. The curriculum helps prospective educators decide on the pedagogical approach they wish to take into their classrooms, including the use of experiments and integration of technology-based lessons.
future teachers hone their skills teaching science, expanding their content knowledge in areas such as biology, chemistry, and physics
Students also develop general teaching skills, including classroom management and curriculum development. Current and future educators explore how to create interactive, positive learning environments that engage all students. Aspiring teachers can tailor these skills to their chosen area of expertise: science.
Most education master's programs spend a good portion of time exploring instructional and learning theories, including behavioral, cognitive, and constructivist perspectives. Such lessons help future teachers determine the style of teaching they will incorporate into their work.
Individuals with a master's degree in science education also develop transferable skills such as patience, adaptability, teamwork, communication, and leadership. Teachers also learn how to assess the risks and rewards of experimenting with different pedagogical approaches to curriculum design, testing, assessment, and textbook selection.
Average Degree Length
An online master's in science education program typically requires students to complete 30-36 credits. Depending on variables such as learning format and course load, students can graduate from an education master's program in as little as one year or as many as five years.
There are generally three program options: accelerated, full-time, and part-time. Each accounts for a student's availability and time commitment. A fully online accelerated program, for example, will feature shorter terms of 5-10 weeks and require students to take a packed course load, which will usually preclude them from working full time. Some accelerated programs sequence courses two at a time, with students earning 15-18 credits per term.
students can graduate from an education master's program in as little as one year or as many as five years
Full-time students in a nonaccelerated program, meanwhile, should be able to complete all requirements in under two years, while part-time learners will spend about double the time pursuing their degree. Most master's programs enforce a limit of six or seven years for students to earn all their required credits.
How to Find a Top Program
When researching online science education master's degree programs, students can build a checklist of features to help ensure the program they choose is of sufficient quality and will help them achieve their academic and career goals. Many of these factors are featured in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a collection of research conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics in areas such as admissions, enrollment data, and graduate rate.
This rate reflects the difficulty of getting into a school or program. The percentage informs prospective students of profile requirements for acceptance. A lower rate of acceptance generally indicates a more prestigious school or program.
This number indicates how many students graduate from a program and how long it takes them to do so. If the rate is low, the question that arises is "why?" Consequently, graduation rate may shine a light on the type of support that students receive.
Given the learning format, online courses can typically accommodate a greater number of students. However, many classes — particularly cohorts — limit class sizes to ensure every student is a priority.
When researching online master's in science education programs, students may consider when the curriculum was last updated. A static program that fails to address new developments and trends may indicate that the department is less than invested in this area of study.
Accreditation means a school meets or exceeds established quality standards of an accreditor. Students should check institutional accreditation. In the case of education degrees, students should also look for programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.
Science Education Careers After Earning Your Master’s
Master's in science education online programs prepare graduates for careers in K-12 education. High school teachers must prove expertise in the subject matter they teach, and some states require teachers to pursue advanced education in their content area (such as science, history, or math) after they obtain their teaching license.
Science teachers with a master's degree can also apply their skills to roles in other industries outside of education, including research for private companies or the government. As noted earlier, educators possess highly transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership, which can open doors to opportunities beyond academics.
Teachers with a master's degree can, in some cases, qualify for posts at two-year colleges. However, to teach at a four-year college or university, teachers must have a Ph.D. To apply to a doctoral program, candidates usually must have a master's degree, such as an online master's in science education.
Average Annual Salary: $78,470
Education Policy Analyst
Education policy analysts research and interpret current educational policies and data to determine the effects on communities. Science is continuously listed on the Office of Postsecondary Education list of teacher shortage areas. An education policy analyst with a background in science education could provide expertise in addressing this persistent challenge.
Average Annual Salary: $56,940
Museum curators oversee a museum's collection of artifacts, historical materials, and displays. Large museums with various departments — including scientific and educational institutions — often employ curators to lead a particular area, such as experiments, astronomy, botany, or human perception. Most curators hold at least a master's degree.
Average Annual Salary: $48,400
Also known as instructional coordinators, curriculum designers help review and assess the state of current curricula and provide recommendations if changes are in order. To become a curriculum designer, individuals must hold a master's degree at minimum, plus a proven background in teaching or school administration.
Average Annual Salary: $64,450
Technical writers prepare documents, including how-to guides and instructional manuals, that help explain complex information in a way that nontechnical readers can understand. Advanced training in education can provide a solid foundation for transitioning into a technical writing career, which requires expert communication skills, an analytical approach, and writing proficiency.
Average Annual Salary: $71,850
Source: BLS and PayScale
Additional Certifications for Science Education
Certifications can help build professional credibility. Industry-recognized credentials zero in on skills or proficiency in a particular area, such as science education, programming, IT, or project management. Some certifications are mandatory in order to practice, but many others are voluntary. To become certified, individuals must meet certain education and experience criteria. In some cases, recipients must take continuing education courses in order to maintain certification status.
K-12 public-school teachers must obtain state licensure to practice, along with an endorsement to teach a particular content area. Common endorsements include elementary education, math, English, or science. To become state certified, teachers must complete a teacher preparation program, submit to a background check, and pass both a general teaching certification test (such as Praxis I) and a subject-specific exam. Exact requirements vary by state.
Certified Environmental Scientist
The CES certification demonstrates a professional's understanding of the basic principles of environmental science, including knowledge of chemistry, physics, and environmental health. CES candidates must hold a relevant bachelor's degree and work at least three years in the field.
Certified Professional Soil Scientist
Offered by the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), CPSS certification demonstrates knowledge of the chemical properties, uses, and biological elements of soil. SSSA welcomes educators. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree and five years of soils experience, with at least 15 semester credits of soils coursework. This coursework could be completed as part of a master's program, such as an online master's in science education.
Professional Organizations and Resources for Science Education Students
The following list features resources and professional organizations for teachers and educators, with several specific to a particular field of science such as biology or middle school science. These organizations can prove especially helpful to current students and recent graduates entering the workforce. Professional organizations and associations often provide career services, continuing education, and networking opportunities to members.
- American Association for the Advancement of Science AAAS seeks to advance three areas of learning: science, engineering, and innovation. The organization promotes greater communication among scientists, engineers, and the public, as well as strengthened support for science and technology.
- American Association of Physics Teachers Established in 1930, AAPT continues its original mission to enhance the understanding and appreciation of physics through teaching. The association now has members around the world.
- American Federation of Teachers Established in Chicago in 1916, AFT works on behalf of students and teachers to effect educational reform. The organization works within the framework of democracy and political activism as a champion for fairness, economic opportunity, and high-quality public education.
- National Association for the Education of Young Children NAEYC focuses on ensuring high-quality early learning for all young children, from birth through age 8. The professional organization supports over 60,000 individual members and 50 affiliates throughout the U.S.
- National Association for Research in Science Teaching NARST represents professionals throughout the world who share a common goal of helping learners achieve science literacy. The organization encourages and supports diverse research methods, as well as the continual evolution of teaching and learning in science.
- National Association of Biology Teachers As a recognized leader in life science education, NABT unites colleagues from around the globe who promote, support, and contribute to teaching biology. Established in 1938, NABT is a go-to resource for professional development, as well as information on trends and developments in the field.
- National Association of Geoscience Teachers NAGT supports a diverse, inclusive community of educators and researchers dedicated to the teaching geosciences at all levels. Among its membership are K-12 teachers, college and university educators, and professionals working directly with the public through museums and science centers.
- National Education Association NEA's primary goal is to support public education, especially teachers who work in the field. Membership in NEA exceeds 3 million, with representatives in every state. Educators can find useful tools and ideas on the NEA website, which they can apply to their classrooms and use for student engagement.
- National Middle Level Science Teachers Association NMLSTA addresses the unique needs of middle school science teachers. The association brings peers together to connect, collaborate, and spark ideas for teaching, learning, and elevating science education at the middle school level.
- National Science Teaching Association Celebrating its 75th year in 2019, NTSA promotes excellence and innovation in science teaching. The association provides an inclusive network for teachers, educators, and administrators at all points of their career. Members work in all grade levels and science disciplines.