Teach, Education, School, Class

Teaching Physics (and more): What You Should Know


The Path

Becoming a Physics Teacher at UIUC can be confusing at first. You should meet with advisers at the College of Education to begin your journey. (see contacts below). They will be able to tell you if you qualify to apply for the secondary education minor. Application periods are over winter break and in June each year. See contacts for more details.

Although it is not necessary anymore, most future teachers have graduated from the college of LAS and elect to take the Physics Teaching Concentration as their major. The benefit to do so is you will be required to take a less rigorous physics schedule.  However, you may also take the minor as you would any other minor, and it is now possible to take the minor with the specialized LAS curriculum

The minor requires four semesters to complete, and you will need to take an entire semester, possibly far away from the university campus, as a student teacher.

Job Prospects for physics teachers in Illinois are very good. Most physics courses in High schools are being taught by non-majors because of the very low supply of physics majors going into teaching and staying in Illinois. Schools looking to improve upon or begin a physics curriculum are looking for people who are qualified to teach it, especially at the AP level.

There is a formal sequence to the courses starting in the junior year. This sequence is:

Block One: CI 401, CI 473; total credit hours: 6

Block Two: CI 403, SPED 405, EPSY 485; total credit hours: 9

Block Three: EDPR 442, CI 404; total credit hours: ~15 (this is the off campus student teaching course)

Remember, you will also have to complete EDU 201, EDU 202 and EPSY 201 sometime before, or during, the major. If you want to complete the full physics sequence it is important to begin early so that you can maximize split times between education requirements and upper level physics courses. And also take note that you will be required to complete IB 100, GEOL 107, and ASTRO 210. This minor has a lot of hours.


How do I apply? First start by contacting Steven Cox (see contacts), to be added to a mailing list that will make you aware of upcoming dates and meetings. Near the end of the semester, there will be a few meetings with advisers from LAS and Education regarding applying for the major. You will receive an email with a link to the application when it goes live in December and June of each year. The application has many requirements and takes a while to complete.

What are the requirements for applying? Completion/Credit of Chem 102/3, Math 221, Math 231, Math 241, Math 285, Phys 211, Phys 212, Phys 213, Phys 214, and Phys 225. Student must also have a 2.5 cumulative, Univeristy, and major GPA, Must pass the Illinois Liscensing Testing System test, or pass out with an appropriate SAT or ACT score. The rules are complex, click here for details. Student must also write a few essays demonstrating their character, writing skills, and other qualities. Student must be of junior standing (60 semester hours) upon being accepted into the program.

Will I receive a license to teach as part of the minor? YES! You will be instructed on how to apply to for the license, and receive the necessary training to do so.

What are the other commitments to consider for the minor? The semester before you are sent to student teach, you will have to complete observation hours at a high school. This high school will be assigned to you. The hours spent in observation can be quite a lot, so it is important to keep up with them during the semester. Although it is no longer required, you are heavily encouraged to become a (free) tutor for high school students in the nearby school systems.

How can I spread  out the coursework? What are some pre-requisites to consider? As a physics teacher you will be expected to be able to teach the other science as well. You will be required to take ASTRO 210, CHEM 102/3, IB100, and GEO 107.  You can also prepare by taking pre-requisites for classes included in the minor by taking PSYCH 100, EPSY 201, EDU 201, and EDU 202.

How much does an Illinois high school teacher make? in 2017, Average starting salary was $42,000 and the median salary was $69,300. Other benefits may include loan forgiveness for teaching in a high need area. There are also benefits like health insurance, and a retirement pension.

Can I also receive accreditation to teach mathematics? Yes! however, you will need to pass a content area test (Math 115 test) as well as have 24 semester hours in mathematics courses, at-least 12 of these being from 300 and 400 level courses. That means beyond all the mathematics courses that are required for the physics major, you will need 12 hours of 300 and 400 level courses to qualify. Math 415 is taken by many physics students to take Quantum mechanics, and will count towards these 12 hours. There is also a special mathematics teacher’s course in the 400 level, with a pre-requisite of fundamental of mathematics.

Experiences: Alumni Who Teach

(Under Construction)

Helpful Links With Explanation

click here to be taken to the web page that has all of the Physics majors and their required courses listed.  Helpful as a resource to plan ahead and compare course loads.

click here to see the requirements for the minor.


Merissa Jones: majones2@illinois.edu The physics academic advisor and knowledgeable in all things related to transferring majors, declaring minors, advising in which courses to take next

Mats Selens: mats@illinois.edu Associate head of undergraduate programs for UIUC physics, Mats is a good source of information for anything in the department, but especially for undergraduates looking to become teachers. Mats is also part of the Physics Education Research department and is a knowledgeable source on enhancing classroom environments, curriculum, and assessment through technology, as well as much more.

Steven Cox: rscox@illinois.edu: Academic adviser for LAS and in charge of the application process for LAS majors getting into the college of education.

las-teach@illinois.edu , The general email address for questions concerning the minor. I have found that usually within a few days your email will be responded to with a good point of contact who can get you moving in the right direciton

Andrew Engel: awe2@illinois.edu Currently an undergraduate who authors this page. Contact with questions, concerns, or corrections by email