K - 12 Careers

Interested in teaching high school physics?
Demand for high school science teachers is high!

I. Preparation as a UCI physics major:

You would complete:

  •    The core physics curriculum required of all UCI physics majors
  •     Physics 193 - Research Methods
  •     Education 55 - Knowing and Learning in Mathematics and Science
  •     Phy Sci 5 - California Teach 1: Introduction to Science and Mathematics Teaching
  •     Phy Sci 105 - California Teach 2: Middle School Science and Mathematics Teaching
  •     Phy Sci 106 - California Teach 3: High School Science and Mathematics Teaching (recommended)
  •     Physics 191 - Outreach (recommended)
  •     Four introductory science courses, selected in consultation with and approved by your advisor, to prepare you to teach general science courses and to pass the General Science Praxis exam required for the single subject credential. These might include:       

Astronomy                       20A, 20B
        Chemistry                        1A, 1B, 1C
        Biology                            1A, 93, 94
        Earth System Science:   1, 7, 25

(Alternatively, students who plan to teach primarily mathematics rather than science might take Math 6A, 7, 13, and 120A.)


II. What's next:

There are then three possible paths to a teaching credential:

  • A CCTC-approved subject matter and teaching skills program at a school such as California State University Long Beach.   Such programs include additional required science courses, and lead to a credential in about two years.
  • A one year teaching skills program such as that offered by UCI's Department of Education, plus demonstration of subject matter mastery through state exams (PRAXIS and SSAT). This is the path chosen by most UCI physics majors who proceed to a career in high school teaching.
  • Some districts reportedly hire graduates immediately. You teach full time with an "emergency credential" while completing a credential program as a part-time student.
  • Earn your teaching credential through CalTeach.


III. What's on the various credentialing tests?

  • CBEST. The California Basic Educational Skills Test in reading, arithmetic, and writing (required of all teachers).
  • Physics (Single Subject Assessment for Teaching). Mechanics (25%), Heat (15%), Electricity and Magnetism (20%), Wave Motion (20%), Modern Physics (10%), Applications (10%).
  • General Science (Single Subject Assessment for Teaching). Life Science (25%): molecular and cellular biology, biology of organisms, ecology, evolution; Chemistry (17%); Physics (16%); Geoscience (17%): astronomy, geology, meterology, oceanography; General Issues of Science (25%): history, ethics, technology, etc.

IV. What's it like to learn physics at UCI and then teach physics in high school?

We suggest you ask someone who has taken that path! Here are two possibilities:

Morrie Barembaum. Morrie graduated from UCI with a physics degree in 1992. He proceeded to San Diego State University for an MS degree in astronomy, and then returned to UCI for our Department of Education's one year credential program.  Up until very recently, Morrie taught physics at Irvine High School.  He is now an Astronomy instructor at Santiago Canyon College, and also is an adjunct faculty member at Cypress College. Morrie may be contacted at (714) 564-4685 or barembaum_morrie@rsccd.org.

Matt Harmon. Matt received a B.S. physics degree here, continued in physics at UCI for an MS degree, and then took the credential program at UCI's Department of Education. Matt now teaches physics at Los Alamitos High School. He may be contacted at matt_harmon@losalusd.K12.ca.us.

 (Note that while both of these teachers obtained MS degrees, this was not a necessary step in preparing for high school teaching.)