Online Master's Programs in Science Education

Updated on: 12/13/2018

Since science teachers are currently in demand, they enjoy a more robust job market and a higher salary compared to other classroom teachers. Science teachers engage students in hands-on, inquiry-based learning through classroom experiments and lab projects. Perhaps more than many other content-area teachers, science instructors also have a chance to get their hands dirty, so to speak, as their students explore the natural world.

Once they earn a bachelor's degree and become certified at the elementary, middle, or high school levels, teachers can add an online master's in science education to help meet requirements for specialized certification.

What to Know About Online Master's in Science Education Coursework

Academic institutions of all levels need instructors to disseminate innovative, evidence-based, scientific education to students. A master's in science education online trains future teachers do just this. For example, during the program, prospective instructors explore scientific research and theories, create lesson plans, deliver lectures, oversee experiments, and evaluate student learning — all specific to biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, life science, geology, and/or astronomy.

A typical master's in science education online takes 30-36 credits of coursework, which requires 12-24 months of study from most students. Since many science courses demand lab work, online programs usually ship lab kits to students so they can conduct experiments in their own homes. Otherwise, an online degree in science education generally mirrors an on-campus one.

What Common Courses Are Offered in a Master's in Science Education Program?

An online master's in science education draws courses from educational theory, foundational scientific inquiry, and areas of science such as biology, chemistry, oceanography, and physics. Most courses combine content knowledge with instructional theory. Courses differ from school to school, but the curriculum below represents a segment of common classes.

Secondary Science Education in Urban Settings

This course helps current and future science teachers who are seeking ways to achieve a science education that incorporates and respects the culture, language, beliefs, and experiences that urban students bring to school. Learners in this course consider how to teach science using critical ethnography, liberation theory, and human rights as pedagogical backdrops.

Teaching Inquiry-Based Life Science

Inquiry-based teaching uses an investigative approach to teaching and learning. Students take responsibility for exploring ideas, concepts, and research by themselves in an age-appropriate way. This course provides teachers with the resources to conduct inquiry-based lessons for life science curricula. Future teachers consider their role in an inquiry-based class and building a classroom community.

Teaching Comprehensive Ocean Science

Future science teachers explore frameworks for including ocean science in curriculum designed to align with state and national standards. Students in the course learn to integrate chemical, biological, geological, and physical sciences in a study of the oceans. They further explore how to introduce students to oceanic concepts when students live far from marine shorelines.

Science, Technology, and Society

Students consider the ways in which technology affects and influences social understandings of science and how social psychology uses technology to influence scientific inquiry, application, and education. In this course, learners analyze the ways in which technology influences scientific investigation and the presentation of socially relevant scientific information.

Methods in Science Education

Prospective science teachers discuss state standards, demonstrate knowledge of science content, and consider how the psychosocial developmental stages of students affect teaching science. Students in the course also consider the role of cultural diversity and linguistic background in learning science. Finally, students discover new technologies that aid in instruction in science classrooms.

What Specializations Are Available in a Master's in Science Education Program?

An online master's in science education usually consists of a core set of courses in secondary education and the fundamentals of science. Beyond that, many programs allow students to specialize in fields such as life science, earth science, or environmental science. The list below represents a sample of such specializations.

Natural Science

The ideal specialization for students focused on environmentalism and the relationship between science and public policy, natural science includes courses such as policy, leadership, and advocacy for educators. Some students in this specialization opt for careers in museums or zoos.

Biology

A biology specialization requires that students obtain competencies in human anatomy and physiology, molecular and cellular biology, zoology, and evolution. Students enrolled in a master's in science education online may use a home biology kit to complete lab assignments. Courses include biology content knowledge for secondary educators, along with heredity and genetics.

Chemistry

A 12-hour specialization in chemistry can include courses such as general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. Most students also take labs as part of this specialization, which online students can either complete at home or in on-campus residencies. Some schools offer chemistry and physics as a single emphasis, allowing students to broaden the course load they are able to teach after graduation.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

A capstone project for a master in science education online can consist of a thesis, a research project, or a comprehensive exam. In a thesis, students collect data, compile their findings, analyze the data, and present a critical theory of science education before a faculty committee. A research project concentrates on developing fresh instructional or assessment practices in science classrooms. A comprehensive exam includes questions from each course in the degree and represents the standard for some certification-focused degrees.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Science Education Program?

Students searching for a high-quality online master's in science education should look for programs at schools that emphasize math, science, engineering, and technology. Glance through a school's course catalog to see courses offered and the frequency of their rotation. Also, evaluate faculty credentials by seeing how many science education faculty hold doctorates, publish research, and teach science at multiple educational levels. Some schools even make course syllabi available online so future students can review the content of their science education courses before applying.

Finally, check your prospective school's accreditation status. Besides regional accreditation, many of the best schools maintain accreditation with the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). While not essential to student success, CAEP accreditation indicates the school's commitment to quality teacher training. Some universities also hold accreditation with specialized bodies such as the North American Association of Environmental Education.

Career Opportunities with a Master's in Science Education Degree

While most elementary teachers incorporate science into their curriculum, formal science education as a separate course typically begins at the middle school level. Public and private school science teachers can usually work at both the middle and high school levels depending upon what certification their state requires. In most states, specialized coursework in pure science plus educational theory and practice make up the academic requirements for science teaching credentials. Some science education professionals also teach in colleges and universities, which usually do not require certification but do insist on a master's degree or a doctorate.

High School Teachers

High school teachers provide formal education to students in grades nine through 12. While most high school teachers serve in public schools, some teach in private institutions, and others instruct online students. Teachers prepare lessons, deliver lectures, design and manage learning experiences, and evaluate student knowledge and skills. Most high school teachers also meet one on one with students, write college application recommendations, serve on leadership committees, and create and maintain student records.

Median Salary: $59,170 per year

Currently Employed: 76,800

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: +8%

Middle School Teachers

At the middle school level, teachers instruct students in grades five through nine. For most students, middle school is the first time they receive specialized instruction in core subjects such as science, meaning science teachers face the dual challenge of exposing students to fresh content knowledge and a new class structure. Middle school science teachers also often sponsor robotics clubs, organize science fairs, and lead chemistry competitions along with their main responsibilities of instruction and classroom management.

Median Salary: $57,720 per year

Currently Employed: 47,300

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: +8%

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers instruct students at community colleges, liberal arts colleges, and research universities. They prepare and deliver lessons in the classroom and evaluate student performance. Many postsecondary teachers also lead student clubs such as a science or education club and serve on institution-wide committees. At research universities, postsecondary teachers may write grants, conduct research, publish, and speak on topics in their field. In the field of science education, some college instructors oversee students who are fulfilling student teaching requirements.

Median Salary: $76,000 per year

Currently Employed: 197,800

Expected Job Growth in next 10 years: +15%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

What's the Expected Job Growth for Science Education Careers?

Again, aspiring science educators enter one of the fastest growing fields in education. Chemistry teachers can expect their profession to grow at a rate of 10-14% while biology teachers may see growth rates of 15% or higher. Overall, the BLS projects that training, education, and library science professions will grow by 9% between 2016-2026. For postsecondary educators, that number jumps to 15%. Public schools, which rely on state funding, may cause educator positions to expand in some parts of the country and contract in others.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Science Education

Professional organizations allow science educators the opportunity to stay on the leading front of contemporary research through publications, conferences, and online educational resources. Teachers can also publish their own research, speak at conferences, and network with others to advance their own careers. Some organizations also offer practical benefits such as job boards.

  • National Association of Biology Teachers

    Organized in 1938, NABT helps biology teachers create learner-centered content, advocates for the best in scientific accuracy in biology curriculum, and empowers individual educators by fostering robust communities. The organization publishes the journal American Biology Teacher.

  • Association for Science Teacher Education

    Through ASTE, science teachers at all levels can take advantage of leadership development support opportunities like regional meetings, international conferences, the Journal of Science Teacher Education, and science education career awards.

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science

    Boasting membership from 91 countries, AAAS opens its rolls to anyone interested in the advancement of scientific and technological understanding through advocacy, fellowships, journals, and resources for science teachers in the classroom.

  • National Center for Science Education

    NCSE works with stakeholders to ensure the effective teaching of science by helping teachers grapple with how to discuss controversial issues such as evolution and climate change.

  • National Science Teachers Association

    Membership in NSTA supports current and future generations of science teachers through time-tested student competitions, resources, conferences, and science education achievement awards. The organization publishes five journals, numerous books, and an array of online articles.

How to Pay for a Master's in Science Education Degree

Many forms of financial aid can drastically reduce a teacher's reliance on high-cost private loans or personal funds. Federal loans and loan forgiveness programs, private scholarships, and state or municipal funds can all help teachers cover tuition and related expenses. Below are some common ways students pay for their education degrees.

Federal Financial Aid

The federal government offers student aid through Pell Grants, supplemental grants, work study, and loans. All federal aid requires students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is available online at studentaid.ed.gov.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

The U.S. government helps current or future teachers eliminate student loan debt by offering up to $17,500 for qualifying applicants to the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. Recipients must have five years of full-time teaching experience in a Title I school and meet other qualifications established by the government.

State Financial Aid

Many states offer incentives, scholarships, and grants to qualifying teacher preparation candidates. Illinois, for instance, offers a scholarship program for minority teachers, a waiver program for special education teachers, and a loan waiver those who qualify for the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness program.

TEACH Grant

The U.S. government awards up to $8,000 to graduate students in education through the TEACH Grant. While the award is not based on applicant need, recipients must agree to teach for four years in a low-income school and a high-need field such as bilingual education or science. TEACH Grant eligibility is contingent upon maintaining a 3.25 GPA or higher.

Private Scholarships

Organizations, families, foundations, and corporations fund private scholarships for qualifying students. These scholarships vary in amount and qualification requirements. For example, the National Federation of the Blind Educator of Tomorrow Scholarship provides $3,000 to a blind recipient studying to become a teacher. The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and Phi Delta Kappa also offer scholarships to future teachers.