Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for teachers will grow roughly in line with the national average, it also anticipates that those educators who specialize in an area like science will enjoy the best job prospects. In 2017, teachers earned a median salary of $59,170, or approximately $22,000 more than the median pay for all other occupations.
To teach science, however, you must first earn a bachelor's degree. This page offers an overview of online science education degrees, including information on application requirements, common classes, and potential career paths after graduation. It also explains the importance of selecting an accredited online program for science education.
Overview of Science Education Degrees
Science teachers help their students investigate and understand the world around them by using the scientific method. Grade level dictates the subject matter at hand. Elementary school science educators may teach their students about how gravity works through simple experiments, while high school science teachers often specialize in a particular branch of science, such as biology, chemistry, or physics.
Each public school teacher must obtain a bachelor's degree to receive a teaching license. Some states also require that high school teachers possess a degree in their given subject. Additionally, state-level licensure typically requires a supervised teaching experience and a background check.
An online bachelor's in science education may particularly appeal to working professionals who hope to transition into teaching from another field. Many online programs allow you to complete your coursework on your own schedule, meaning you can balance your studies with a full-time job or family responsibilities.
Through 2026, the BLS projects that employment for teachers will grow by approximately 7%, or about the same as the economy as a whole. Special education and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers may experience slightly higher demand.
To earn a bachelor's degree in science education online, you must first hold a high school diploma or GED. Many undergraduate programs also require applicants to maintain specific GPAs during their high school studies, usually around 2.5. Contact your high school guidance counselor or GED provider directly to receive a copy of your transcripts. If you aim to transfer college-level credits, contact your school's registrar.
Many colleges now feature the Common Application, which allows you to apply to many programs with the same set of personal information. Applicants must write a brief personal essay, running approximately 1,000 words in length, outlining their academic and extracurricular accomplishments.
You should also plan to submit up to three letters of recommendation as part of your application. Ask teachers, former employers, and community service leaders who can speak to your experience and potential, avoiding asking family or friends. Give your recommenders at least two months to write and submit your letter. Finally, some schools charge a small application fee, typically in the range of $50-$100. You may qualify for a fee waiver if you can demonstrate financial need or have served in the military.
What Will I Learn?
Undergraduate programs in science education typically consist of 120 credits, and full-time students usually earn their degree in about four years. Part-time students may need anywhere from 6-8 years to graduate.
Expect to take about 50 credits worth of general education coursework in areas like English, mathematics, and the social sciences. Students must also take another 40 credits within their majors. For science education students, this means classes in subjects such as educational technology, advanced methods in science education, and curricular design. Finally, you can take approximately 30 credits worth of elective classes. You may decide to use your electives to specialize in a particular facet of science education, such as evolutionary biology or oceanography, or to pursue a completely unrelated personal interest.
The list below includes six courses commonly taken by students pursuing their science education degree online below.
Foundations of Science Education
This course offers an introduction to the historical, philosophical, economic, and political factors that affect science education in the United States. Students learn about current instructional and curricular trends, current challenges facing the field, and arguments for the importance of increased investment in STEM education.
Advanced Methods in Science Education
In this class, students examine classroom methods as they relate to the teaching of science. In particular, the course provides an overview of action research used to assess the impact and design of various educational strategies. Students also consider different approaches for teaching science to diverse populations, such as children of immigrants.
Technology for Science Education
More than many other disciplines, science teachers need a firm grasp of educational technologies to instruct and engage their students. In addition to more general classroom technology like distance learning tools and project management software, students in this class explore laboratory probeware, microscopic imaging technologies, and statistical analysis applications.
Teaching Exceptional Learners
Exceptional learners benefit from integration with other students, but they still come with unique needs. Students analyze the concepts of universal design and differentiated instruction, exploring how teachers can ensure that all students benefit from the presence of gifted students -- as well as those with intellectual, physical, and emotional disabilities.
Curriculum design involves the process of creating lesson plans, assignments, projects, and assessments. Aspiring science teachers in this course learn how to engage their students in experiential and experimental ways through dissections, environmental observations, shared readings, and case studies.
Assessment allows teachers to monitor their student's learning progress and appropriately modify their instructional strategies. Topics covered in this class include designing effective assessments and rubrics, evaluating skill-based learning, and the concepts of reliability and validity. Students also review the history of standardized testing policy in the United States.
What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's Degree in Science Education?
An online bachelor's qualifies you for a variety of science teacher jobs. For example, you may choose to work in a K-12 classroom, instructing students in subjects such as anatomy biology, chemistry, or physics. You may instead work at a nonprofit organization, such as a national park, overseeing educational and enrichment activities for student visitors. After earning a science education degree and several years of classroom experience, you may also consider a position in educational administration, supporting the work of a team of science teachers.
Among many other critical competencies, an online degree in science education helps you develop content knowledge, communication skills, and mastery of assessment and evaluation.
Many programs allow students to specialize in a particular grade level or subject. For example, students who plan to teach in elementary schools must develop foundational content knowledge in areas such as geology, astronomy, and introductory biology. Aspiring middle school teachers may choose particular branches of science, enabling them to offer more nuanced instruction to their students. Prospective high school and advanced placement (AP) teachers may study even more specialized subfields, such as microbiology or inorganic chemistry.
At all levels, science teachers require exceptional communication skills. In a bachelor's program, students learn how to support a student's line of inquiry so that they can solve a problem themselves. They also develop skills in communicating and collaborating with parents, community members, fellow teachers, and administrators. Many programs also require students to take coursework specifically in instructing exceptional learners.
Finally, undergraduate education programs almost always feature classes in assessment. These courses allow teachers to create effective evaluation tools, incorporate assessment data into curriculum design and instructional strategies, and support students as they prepare for district-wide standardized tests and college entrance exams.
Potential Careers and Salaries
Most graduates of science education positions take on teaching positions in public or private schools. You may feel drawn to teaching young children, introducing kindergarteners and first-graders to the wonders of the natural world. You may instead want to work with teenagers and adult learners, equipping these students with skills in science and technology that can assist them in starting new careers. Special education calls to some prospective teachers, where they work for a nonprofit educational or community service organization -- or even a for-profit company that designs curricular materials and instructional tools for science teachers.
Regardless of the career path you choose, science education jobs require exceptional interpersonal, communication, and analytical skills, as well as a high degree of patience, empathy, and resourcefulness. Below, you can read more about five common professional roles for those with an online science education degree.
Adult Literacy and High School Diploma Teacher
Annual Median Salary: $52,100
Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers instruct older teens and adults, supporting the development of basic academic and professional skills. Those teachers focused on science typically work to prepare their students for the GED exam, which includes a scientific content area.
Kindergarten or Elementary School Teacher
Annual Median Salary: $56,900
Kindergarten and elementary school teachers work with young children, usually aged 5-9. Rather than focusing on a particular subject, these teachers instruct students in reading, writing, and basic math and science. All public school teachers must hold at least a bachelor's degree to qualify for licensure.
Middle School Teacher
Annual Median Salary: $57,720
Middle school teachers instruct students aged 10-13. While some serve as general education teachers, others may opt to specialize in areas like science, particularly at larger schools. These roles require an understanding of multiple fields of science, including biology, chemistry, and elementary physics.
igh School Teacher
Annual Median Salary: $59,170
High school teachers typically work with students aged 14-18, preparing students either for college or careers after graduation. Science teachers at this level often specialize in particular branches of science, like biology or physics. Schools generally prefer to hire candidates who hold a bachelor's degree specifically within the area in which they hope to teach.
Special Education Teacher
Annual Median Salary: $58,980
Special education teachers work with exceptional learners of all ages. Though special education teachers usually do not solely offer instruction in an area like science, an online science degree may benefit these educators as they seek out unique ways to engage their students and meet their unique learning needs.
Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Science Education?
You typically do not need a graduate degree to find entry-level roles as a science educator, especially for jobs as a kindergarten, elementary, or middle school teacher. A bachelor's degree also qualifies you for most positions at educational nonprofit organizations.
You may, however, benefit from earning a master's as you seek to advance in your career. Many school districts reward teachers who continue their education with higher salaries and more desirable positions. And if you hope to become an education administrator, like a department chair or school principal, you may need to pursue graduate studies.
Instead of seeking out an advanced degree, you may instead consider pursuing a graduate certificate or professional certification. These programs require a less substantial investment of time and money but still allow you to signal expertise and commitment to a certain skill set or subject area, such as the teaching of science to gifted students.
Accreditation for Science Education Bachelor's Programs
When researching where to earn a science education degree online, make sure to choose an accredited program. The accreditation process ensures that colleges and universities meet certain academic standards and adequately prepare their students for careers in education. If you attend an unaccredited program, you may miss out on financial aid opportunities, and school districts may not recognize your degree when you apply for a job.
At the undergraduate level, two primary forms of accreditation exist: regional and national. Most public and nonprofit schools hold regional accreditation. The Higher Learning Commission, for example, serves as a regional accreditor for schools in states like Iowa, Missouri, and Wyoming.
For-profit and some vocational schools may instead seek out national accreditation. For instance, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission offers accreditation to online programs at institutions throughout the country. Due to different standards, regionally accredited colleges may not always accept transfer credits from schools accredited nationally.
To confirm that your school holds either regional or national accreditation, check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's online directory.
Science Education Professional Organizations
After earning a science education degree online, joining a professional organization may help you find a job, continue your learning, and advance in your career. These groups often organize local and national events, giving you the opportunity to meet other science teachers and share best practices. They also host helpful online resources, including sample lesson plans, model rubrics for project-based learning, and briefs on new scientific developments. Teachers' unions also represent the professional interests of their members when negotiating salaries, benefits, and responsibilities with school and district leadership.
National Science Teachers Association
NSTA represents public and private school science teachers from all fields and at all grade levels. It publishes five scholarly journals, hosts an online resource and learning center for its members, and organizes a variety of professional development and networking conferences across the country. The association also works to establish science standards.
National Association of Biology Teachers
Founded in 1938, NABT aims to empower educators to provide exceptional education in biology and the life sciences to their students. In addition to events and resources, the association sponsors Biology Teacher Academy workshops throughout the United States to train teachers in leading AP courses. NABT also grants awards to recognize exemplary biology teachers.
National Education Association
With more than three million members, the NEA serves as the largest professional union in the United States. It advocates for increased education funding, provides legal representation to its members, and even provides scholarships to aspiring teachers. Current educators can also access many resources, including draft school policies and classroom management techniques.