How to Become a Biology Teacher

Biology is the study of complicated things that have the appearance of having been designed with a purpose. Richard Dawkins

Biology teachers, typically referred to as science teachers, are highly skilled in the sciences, specifically biology. A biology teacher goes beyond the basics of biology to impart specific wisdom to students. A biology teacher's passion for the topic should always be evident, to the degree that students will want to learn more about this life science. A biology teacher will have to have an in-depth knowledge of the subject to be able to answer questions from students and teach content contained in school standards.

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Qualities of a Biology Teacher

A biology teacher cannot be squeamish nor light-hearted when it comes to questions, pictures or videos on biological topics. The biology teacher should also be prepared to discuss bodily functions and anatomy in all realms with students, as students may ask questions that are awkward, yet answerable. A biology teacher needs to be confident in their abilities, good with students and parents and able to work on a team with fellow teachers and support staff. A biology teacher, just as other teachers, may be responsible for basic school duties involving monitoring the bus, lunch, gym or hallways.

Teaching Biology Job Growth

Becoming a biology teacher has the obvious reward of sharing a love of science with students, but the bonuses do not stop there. Teachers in any area have a projected job outlook through the year 2029 with a projected growth rate of 4%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

However, this is a bit higher for math and science teachers who are much harder to find within school districts. In fact, high need areas such as science and math often have programs for teachers to teach while student loans are repaid a portion each year. Some schools also offer an incentive one-time payment on student loans for high-need teachers.

What are the Requirements for Teaching Biology?

Education Requirements for Teaching Biology

Becoming a certified biology teacher will require at least a bachelor's degree and the completion of a teacher reparation program from an accredited college or university. The educational institution must be accredited.

Most colleges and universities that are accredited will offer a blended program in which you earn a degree and teaching certificate simultaneously.

However, depending upon need, some states have alternative programs for science teachers to become certified in education while teaching biology. These programs still require a four-year biology degree, but allow you to teach while earning certification through alternative means. These programs vary by state, but can be found online or at the district level by contacting someone at the board office.

Many biology teachers earn a bachelor's degree in education, master's degree in education or a degree in Secondary Education with a science or biology certification.

Tests to Pass for Teaching Biology

Many programs require entrance exams to show proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics. Each exam has a state based cutoff score that you will need to know prior to taking the exam. In addition, you will be expected to student teach, complete observation hours, and design a portfolio based on these experiences.

You also will be required to take a general education exam and a biology specific exam with cutoff scores set by the state. Each state can vary as far as acceptable scores so knowing your state's score requirements is beneficial. The passage of the test and all required classes should result in the ability to teach within your subject area immediately.

Each state has different requirements for becoming a teacher.

Find Information About Becoming a Teacher In Your State

Each state has different requirements for becoming a certified teacher. To find out specific requirements, click on your state.

Who Will My Students be?

A biology teacher is most likely to teach at the middle- or high-school level. This means students will range in age from 12 to 18 and perform at varying levels. Some biology teachers will teach a general biology class at the middle-school level, while others may teach advanced placement classes at the high-school level. Increased certification may be required to teach the advanced placement classes. Biology teachers may teach other general science classes, but these will still be at the middle- and high-school levels. It is unlikely that a biology teacher will be found at the elementary level unless the teacher also holds an elementary education certification and is willing to teach all topics.

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What Does a Biology Teacher Do?

The obvious answer to this question is that a biology teacher teaches biology or a related science. However, a biology teacher must prepare lesson plans, labs, organize hands-on activities, assess students, grade and record assignments, create tests and prepare students for standardized exams.

Other Duties in Addition to Teaching Biology

This same person must be willing to attend parent meetings, attend continuing education classes, and attend staff development days. In addition to teaching, the biology teacher might be expected to do extra duties such as monitoring the hallways, restrooms, buses, or the lunchroom. This is typical of all teachers. Biology teachers may also be expected to run or help students take part in science fairs within the school or county.

Biology Classroom

A classroom for a biology teacher is usually split into two sections. Half of the classroom is usually a mini-lab while the other half is typical classroom. Lab tables allow for basic experiments to take place without displacing the class. The biology room will also usually have a whiteboard or interactive board, a few computers and cabinets to store lab equipment.

Biology Curriculum

The curriculum is typically set by the county unless you work in a private or charter school. The curriculum is chosen to be used to meet county standards, but it is up to the teacher to find supplemental materials.

Biology Teaching Jobs & Job Description

Teaching biology to students at the elementary and high school levels involves introducing and reinforcing students' understanding of a number of key concepts about the world, humans, and natural systems. The job does vary in scope and depth between biology taught that the elementary level - usually grouped in science, technology and social sciences, and biology taught in high school.

Keep reading for a typical job description for each level:

Elementary Biology Teacher

Elementary school biology teachers are often tasked with introducing students to a number of scientific strands including general science, social studies, technology as well as biology. With that goal in mind, teachers:

  • Help students develop the skills and strategies for scientific problem solving
  • Understand the basic concepts of science
  • Assist students in understanding the natural and human-designed worlds
  • Teach students how to obtain knowledge about nature
  • Show students historical models of biological processes and concepts and explain how they've changed
  • Show students what biologists do as individuals and as a community
  • Demonstrate how scientific knowledge is generated and tested
  • Explain to students what are the benefits and risks of using or ignoring biological discoveries
  • Relating biology in abstract to environmental change in specific and abstract
  • Help students understand the concepts behind individual scientific facts
  • Assist students in developing and applying an objective inquiry-driven mindset
  • Show students relationships between facts and ‘big ideas' - underlying concepts
  • Teach students how to ask valid questions and demonstrate curiosity about the world and its natural systems
  • Develop an emergent sense of whether a scientific question and ‘answer' are fair or unfair
  • Lead students to make educated guesses (hypotheses) as to possible outcomes
  • Demonstrate safety in the classroom with teacher-selected equipment for observation and measurement
  • Teach students how to record data in an objective fashion using pictures, writing, and charts
  • Enthusiastically participate in collaborative co-curricular and extracurricular teams; draw students into these projects
  • Be open to receive teaching feedback and support from teaching partners and administration
  • Demonstrate creativity and economy, while focusing on the scientific method; seek additional sources of funding and materials where appropriate
  • Be an active listener
  • Support the mission and vision of the school district and school
  • Be committed to teaching students in their particular community
  • Set rigorous goals for students to achieve
  • Engage in professional development on a regular basis
  • Support the mission and vision of the school district and school
  • Be committed to becoming a part of the students' community
  • Communicate with families about student progress in a proactive manner
  • Promote the school culture and practices, as well as instructional strategies and student rules through extracurricular and co-curricular activities and direction
  • Acknowledge students in meaningful ways in regard to their academic development and achievements
  • Collaborate with other teacher's to support the school's mission statement and values
  • Develop positive and meaningful relationships with students and their families
  • Conduct all work activities in a professional manner

Teaching Biology in High School

Secondary school biology teachers are responsible for refining students' developing scientific experiences and directing them toward a study and appreciation of all living things. With that goal in mind, secondary biology teachers:

  • Teach students about relevant taxonomic systems
  • Assist students in discovering the scope of human interaction and its impact on biological systems
  • Assist students in discerning likely hypotheses for theories of origin
  • Teach students formulaic approach to genetic prediction and heritability
  • Assist students in determining hierarchical structures and systems of animals
  • Lead students to understand human impact on animal systems, including technological and medical considerations
  • Teach students the ways that plant structures differ from animal structures
  • Teach students the effect that biodiversity - or lack of it - impacts humans
  • Guide students to create relevant and insightful scientific inquiries
  • Have students identify credible sources of information from which to study
  • Have students select, test and safely use appropriate lab equipment
  • Show students how to evaluate and report on whether evidence supports or refutes a particular line of scientific inquiry
  • Teach students how to use appropriate formulae and symbols to express ideas
  • Lead students to describe the contributions of scientists
  • Lead students to explore a variety of biology careers
  • Demonstrate creativity and economy, while focusing on the scientific method; seek additional sources of funding and materials where appropriate
  • Be an active listener
  • Support the mission and vision of the school district and school
  • Be committed to teaching students in their particular community
  • Set academic goals for students to achieve
  • Commit to planned and ad hoc professional development
  • Work to embody the mission and vision of the school district and school
  • Commit to becoming a part of the students' community as a teacher
  • Communicate effectively and professionally with families about student grades and behavior
  • Support the school's culture and practices through extracurricular and co-curricular activities and direction
  • Make appropriate connections with students to acknowledge their academic development and achievements
  • Work collaboratively with students and their families to achieve best outcomes
  • Conduct all work activities in a professional manner

Certified biology teachers have a number of employment avenues open to them. Read on to learn more.

Where Can Certified Biology Teachers Teach?

A certified biology teacher can be employed by a public, private, or charter school. The biology teacher will most likely serve as a teacher in a middle or high school of any type of institution. Those that choose to work in public school may be able to use a form of alternate certification and will use the curriculum provided by the state. A charter school can choose their own curriculum, but students must still pass proficiency exams. Although private schools will have biology classes, some religious schools may limit what is taught in the realm of science.

What is the Salary for a Biology Teacher?

On average, certified biology teachers make an annual average salary of $69,530 at the secondary level, according to the BLS. Biology teachers in the public school system can earn up thousands more than their private school counterparts with an average of $59,110. Considering that biology is taught almost exclusively at the secondary level, teachers usually must hold a Bachelor of Science degree with certification; while this is not strictly required at a private school. Teachers who earn a master's degree or doctorate in their area of subject expertise can earn up to $15,000 more per year than their counterparts.

Read more about a teacher's salary and all the benefits that come with it.

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Biology Teaching Organizations & Associations

National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT): The NABT is an association that empowers educators to provide the best possible biology and life science education for all students.

National Science Teaching Association (NSTA): Organization where science teachers can access professional teaching and learning resources and connect with a continuously growing community of educators.

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS): AAAS is a multidisciplinary scientific society and a leading publisher of cutting-edge research through its science family of journals with members in more than 91 countries around the globe.

Human Biology Association: The Human Biology Association is a nonprofit scientific organization that supports global research and teaching on human biological variation in evolutionary, social, historical and environmental context.

2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for High School teachers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed March 2023.