Wednesday, October 07, 2015
Ask the Administrator: Retooling to Teach Chemistry
I have been thinking of going back to school for and Ed.D to teach college in a teacher education program or maybe a MS in chemistry to teach at a community college. I'm trying to decide what to do and what would be best for me.
Background: I got my biology degree and worked for a biotech company for (more than ten) years, then I taught high school biology for (more than ten) years and 2 years of chemistry as well during that time. A year ago we moved across the country and now I'm wondering what to do. I don't want to teach high school anymore. I have always wanted to get another degree but don't have money to do it. Is there any way to get a scholarship or TA to be able to pay for it?
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Also, with the current interest in STEM, having Ph.D.s on the faculty seem to attract more grant money for STEM projects.
If the letter writer is looking for a FT position, I’m not sure an M.S. is going to cut it these days.
(To be honest, most of our recent adjunct hires in biology also have Ph.D.’s.)
Depending on the institution, you might find that a masters in education -- if it included several graduate level chem classes -- and 10 years of teaching experience might be enough on its own to adjunct. At my CC, teaching experience is valued far more than degree level. In fact, the majority of the adjuncts in our bio dept are either retired HS teachers (who teach day sections) or current HS teachers (who teach evening sections); this is because our department chair and personnel committee both report noticing a higher quality of instruction from those faculty members who have had significant HS teaching experience.
Of course, full time is another story. We almost exclusively go with Ph.D.s there.
An MS in chemistry is not required to teach as an adjunct, just 18 grad hours, but an MS in the field would be needed to compete. That said, we would hire the MS chem + MS ed candidate on an equal footing with a PhD.
Chemistry is better, but not enough better that a Master's (even with a stellar educational background) will always be enough. I will say the American Chemical Society is an excellent resource for workshops for professional development, their local chapters are often very well run, and they have a good list of grad school funding resources on their website. I'd check that out. I would also meet with several local CCs and see if their recently hired chem faculty (if any) have MS or PhDs. If they all have PhDs and there are no recent hires, you at least know what the market is like.
@ CC Bio Prof & HS Bio Teacher:
There are a lot of reasons people get burned out on teaching HS, only a few of which have anything to do with teaching. Many issues arise from administrative headaches, or anti-union educational "reform" movements, which have hit some states much harder than others... given this corespondent's background in education, I doubt they have failed to consider the similarities and differences between HS and CC.
I've done both.
There's a big difference, at least where I am. Here's a list of things at high school that weren't an issue at community college:
• phoning home every time a student misses class
• phoning home when a student's mark drops
• providing "incidental supervision" in the building while teaching
• dealing with actively disruptive/defiant students in the classroom and elsewhere in the building
• providing counselling and make-up work for students likely to fail a course
• providing a make-up assignment for students who failed the course, so that they can do the assignment and earn their credit
• running make-up labs and classes for students who have missed class for sports, "family emergencies*", "religious holidays*", assemblies, and so forth
• running makeup labs and classes for students who missed the makeup the first time
• running more makeup labs and classes for students who missed the second makeup
• documenting all of the above
• covering colleagues classes when they are coaching, running assemblies, etc
• coaching** (not officially required, but strong administrative pressure to do it, and preference given to coaches when hiring/firing)
College students are usually much more focused on "why do I need this" and "will this be in the test" than high school students. When I started teaching high school I found the curiosity of teenagers refreshing, but after a decade I'm beginning to miss working with grownups. And I'm really not liking the increasing paperwork and extra work caused by catering to every special interest — accompanied by political invective, public scorn, and pay cuts.
*Documentation required: note supposedly signed by parent. Family emergency can include getting cheaper airfare
**Strictly volunteer up here, not a paid duty.
That said, I don't think my CC is alone in posting job descriptions that explicitly require that there be 18 grad hours in the specific field or an MS in the field (an MS in chemistry that doesn't include 18 grad hours of chemistry is fine) so the SACS requirement is met by default. And we NEVER hire outside of the job description for a FULL-TIME job. You won't get past the first pass without meeting that requirement.
We don't have an explicit preference for persons with a PhD. The very large fraction of our science faculty with a PhD results more from superior teaching that results from a more thorough knowledge of the subject. Teaching is what matters. We also have EdD and MS faculty in chemistry, for example. EXPERIENCE, first as a T.A. (where you don't need any advanced classes because you aren't in charge of the course) and as a adjunct, that results in good teaching is what we look for.
Adjuncts are a different story. After all, the hidden agenda at a CC is that you don't really need to know grad-level organic to teach chem 1, or grad-level number theory to teach college algebra. Universities have a different agenda. Research matters, and you might never teach undergrad chem 1 at a research university if that wasn't in your academic background or skill set.
Course-based master's degrees were designed with people like you in mind. They are meant for people who are going into non-academic, non-research routes, who need added specialization in an area and have some experiential understanding of how research works. To tailor to professionals who are returning to education after working for a number of years, this program is capped at 1 year full-time. Part-time options are also available; you should talk to the university you intend to attend because PT options are handled very differently amongst different colleges.
One catch is that you have to pay your own way. So that means tuition. If you can make that work financially, then you'll be ready to go in 1 year, and substantially reduce your opportunity cost.
I'd suggest there's a massive space between "teacher educator in a college of ed" and "faculty in chem" that has a very nice way of being filled. Get a phd in Chemistry Education! Don't get an edd...
Or, STEM-education... (these are more common)
Often STEM-ed jobs are in teacher education, but many chem-ed jobs are in chemistry departments. Plus, there's good NSF funding available.
Here's one such example (I can list others, but so can Google): https://www.chem.purdue.edu/chemed/