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Online Master's Programs in Science Education

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Updated on: 10/24/2018

Master’s in science education programs prepare graduates to work as math, science, engineering, and technology (STEM) educators. Students explore educational theory and learn pedagogical techniques for teaching STEM subjects. STEM education is an especially promising field, with policy makers pushing for improved STEM education. Many American students lack proficiency in these subjects, yet the U.S. Department of Education expects the opportunities for jobs in STEM fields to increase substantially in coming years.

A master’s in science education leaves holders well positioned for teacher positions around the country. This page includes a list of the best online master’s programs in science education, what to expect from these programs, and information about careers in science education.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Science Education Program?

In an online master’s in science education program students learn to effectively provide instruction in the STEM subjects by focusing on proven educational philosophies and teaching strategies. Some programs focus on teaching specific groups, such as elementary children or grades seven through 12. A typical program takes about two years of full-time study to complete. Most programs require students to fulfill about 36 semester credits to graduate. Students to select a concentration may need to complete more credits. However, those who enroll in accelerated programs or who take summer classes can earn their degree faster. Many programs, even those online, require students to complete an in-person internship or capstone project to get practical science education experience. If you choose an online program, you will likely complete your internship at a local school.

What common courses are offered in a master’s in science education program?

The courses you take in a master’s in science education program vary depending on the type of program and school you choose. However, most programs include core courses that cover issues like research, pedagogy, and technology. Students also take science content courses in subjects like biology, math, physics, or chemistry. See below for an example curriculum.

Foundations of Science Education

Students explore the historical, philosophical, political, economic, and social factors influencing science education in the American educational system. They learn about fundamental pedagogical theories, contemporary issues in the field, and models for program planning and curriculum development. The course also incorporates critical perspectives in science education.

Advanced Methods in Science Education

In this course, students learn to improve their classroom teaching using evidence-based practice. They read current research on various pedagogical techniques and case studies in science education in K-12 schools. Other topics include evaluation, teaching diverse populations, action research, and the role of the science teacher.

Technology for Science Teaching

Students leave this course with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively use technological tools in science teaching. They get practical experience using software, laboratory equipment, and presentation technology. They also learn how to evaluate the effectiveness of technology tools in the science classroom.

Research in Science Education

This course introduces different techniques for conducting research in science education. Students perform quantitative and qualitative research methods using tools like surveys, experimental design, ethnography, statistics, and action research. They also learn to interpret research findings, write research reports, and present findings.

Science Curriculum Development in Multicultural Education

Students explore multicultural curriculum development for science teaching. They learn to design, implement, and evaluate textbooks, lesson plans, and school policies within a multicultural framework. They also explore diverse teaching and learning styles and the meaning of multicultural education.

What exams or projects should I expect?

Most master’s in science education programs require students to complete a final project or practicum to graduate. This usually involves experience developing a science education curriculum, presenting lessons, and evaluating students in a local classroom. If the student currently works as a teacher, they can often complete their final project in their own classroom. Other programs let students design and conduct a science education research project to meet practicum requirements. Some programs also require students to pass a comprehensive exam at the end of their studies, demonstrating proficiency in their chosen science subject area.

What specializations are available in a master’s in science education program?

Many master’s in science education programs offer areas of specialization. Specializations available may differ depending on which school you choose. In some cases, specializations cover content knowledge in a specific scientific discipline, like chemistry, biology, or environmental science. In other cases, they focus on student populations or issues in education. See below for typical sample master’s in science education specializations.

Biology

Students take courses such as biology I: diversity, ecology, and behavior; introduction to ecology and evolution; and organic chemistry within the context of science education. Some courses require students to enroll in biology laboratory sections.

Educational Technology

Students learn to effectively use a variety of contemporary educational technological tools in and out of the classroom, specifically in the context of science education. They take courses like multimedia development and instruction in the classroom, technology and problem solving in schools, and technology proficiencies for teachers in K-8 schools.

Chemistry

Students learn the content knowledge needed to effectively teach chemistry. They learn the foundations of chemistry by exploring topics like bonding, structure, thermodynamics, kinetics, electrochemistry, and solubility. They take courses like general chemistry, introduction to organic chemistry, and principles of biochemistry.

What Can I Do With a Master’s in Science Education Degree?

Most graduates pursue science teaching careers in K-12 schools, but some become instructors in community colleges. To teach in a K-12 public school, you need to earn a teaching license. Each state lists its own requirements for teaching licensure. Some pursue non-teaching positions in the educational field, working as instructional coordinators, curriculum designers, and teacher trainers. Still other individuals with a master’s in science education find work in STEM fields.

High School Teachers

High school teachers provide instructions to grades nine through 12. They plan lessons, assess students, communicate with parents, and enforce classroom rules. They usually specialize in a subject area and need a state-issued teaching license. High school teachers with master’s degrees typically earn higher salaries than those with less education.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers provide basic instruction to young children in subjects like reading and general science. They create lesson plans, evaluate and grade students, teach lessons, and supervise children. Working as a kindergarten or elementary school teacher requires a license. Kindergarten and elementary school teachers who hold master’s degrees tend to make more money than teachers with a bachelor’s degree.

Middle School Teachers

Middle school teachers typically provide instruction to students in grade six through eight. They create and teach lesson plans, grade assignments, prepare students for standardized tests, and enforce classroom rules. They build on the skills children learn in elementary school and prepare them for high school. Middle school teachers must hold a valid teaching license, and those with a master's degree usually make higher annual salaries than those with less education.

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators develop and oversee teaching standards and curriculums. They also coordinate, implement, and assess the effectiveness of curriculums. They train and mentor teachers, review and recommend educational materials, and recommend evidence-based teaching techniques. Most employers prefer to hire instructional coordinators who hold a master’s degree in an educational field. They also typically need relevant work experience in school administration or classroom teaching. Those who work in public schools sometimes need a state-issued license.

Postsecondary Teachers

Postsecondary teachers provide instruction to students at the post-high school level. They also publish articles and books and conduct research. They work in colleges, universities, professional schools, and community colleges teaching in their area of expertise, planning lessons, and grading assignments. Most postsecondary teachers hold doctorate degrees in their field, but in some cases, they can teach with only a master’s degree.

Current students and recent graduates can gain a lot by joining a professional organization in science education. For one thing, you can stay up-to-date on new developments in the field. For another, you can benefit from a variety of networking opportunities, career services, job boards, continuing-education workshops, publication subscriptions, and discounted admission to annual conferences.

National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)

NSTA promotes excellence in science teaching. Members enjoy access to teaching and learning resources for professional development, including books, journals, an e-newsletter, and special-focus websites. NSTA also offers classroom resources and assistance with curriculum planning.

Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE)

ASTE welcomes more than 800 members from around the world. It fosters innovation and scholarship with the goal of improving science teacher education globally. Members get access to publications, discounted conference registration, and opportunities to network with other members.

National Middle Level Science Teachers Association (NMLSTA)

The only professional organization for middle school science teachers, NMLSTA fosters networking opportunities, helps create curricula, and recruits and trains teachers. It aims to promote science education at the middle school level.

School Science and Mathematics Association (SSMA)

SSMA promotes and advances the integration of school math and science. It also works to build a community of teachers, scientists, mathematicians, and researchers. Members receive subscriptions, voting privileges, and the chance to serve on committees.

International Organization for Science and Technology Education (IOSTE)

IOSTE advances education in science and technology. It encourages the peaceful use of science and technology and opposes its use for military purposes. It also offers publications, symposia, and newsletters.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Science Education?

Earning a master’s in science education opens up a variety of careers in the educational space that come with salaries well above the national mean salary of $37,690 per year. Earning this degree does not guarantee eligibility for these positions, but it can lead to these career paths. Most teaching positions require applicants to hold a teaching license and pass a criminal background check.

Job Title Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
High School Teachers Less than $39,080 $59,170 More than $95,380 +8%
Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers Less than $34,840 $56,900 More than $83,920 +7%
Middle School Teachers Less than $38,540 $57,720 More than $91,670 +8%
Instructional Coordinators Less than $35,550 $63,750 More than $101,500 +11%
Postsecondary Teachers Less than $39,040 $76,000 More than $170,160 +15%

Source: BLS 2018

The BLS expects job growth in the science education field to keep up with or exceed the economy as a whole. The average growth rate for all occupations through 2026 currently lands at 7%, and K-12 teachers can expect average or slightly above average job growth. That said, the BLS expects the rate for instructional coordinators and postsecondary teachers to rise faster than average.

Your degree level influences the salary you earn. Typically, the more advanced your degree, the higher your earning potential. The Center on Education and the Workforce reports that individuals who hold a master’s in science and computer teacher education make a median salary of $64,000 per year, while those with just a bachelor’s earn only $48,000 annually.

Online Master’s in Science Education Program Accreditation

Attending an accredited institution means that your school meets educational quality standards set by a third party accrediting agency. When you attend an accredited institution, you know that you will learn the things needed to succeed in your field. Other practical benefits include qualifying for federal financial aid and the ability to transfer your credits to other accredited schools. If you attend an unaccredited school, you typically cannot apply for federal student loans, grants, work-study, or scholarships. Students should only attend schools with regional accreditation.

Science education students should also find a program with field-specific accreditation. Education programs hold accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, and the North American Association for Environmental Education provides special programmatic accreditation to some master’s in science education programs.

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

Students pay for their degrees using a variety of resources, including savings, scholarships, grants, fellowships or assistantships, and student loans. Most students need to apply for some type of financial aid to fund their education. Though paying for your master’s can seem overwhelming, keep in mind the many different options you can pursue.

  • Federal Financial Aid

    The federal government offers an array of financial aid opportunities for master’s in science education students. Make sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible to determine if you can get aid. You may qualify for subsidized and unsubsidized student loans, grants, and work-study. Many organizations that give out scholarships also use the FAFSA to determine eligibility.

  • Scholarships from Professional Organizations

    Professional organizations in the science education field sometimes offer scholarships to students pursuing master’s degrees in science education. Check the websites of science education organizations or email their staff members for more information. The National Science Teachers Association runs an awards and recognition program that includes scholarships for science education students.

  • Program Scholarships

    Students can help pay for their master’s in science education by winning a program scholarship through their school. Many science education master’s programs set aside money specifically to award scholarships to their own graduate students. For example, North Carolina State University’s master’s of education in science education offers scholarship opportunities to admitted students. Additionally, Hamline University’s master’s of education in natural sciences and environmental education also offers a scholarship program.

  • Program Assistantships/Research Positions/Fellowships

    Many schools provide graduate students with the chance to receive a tuition discount or waiver in exchange for working as program or research assistants. For example, Western Michigan University’s master’s of arts in science education offers most full-time students graduate assistantships that cover tuition and fees and provide a small living stipend.