University of Wisconsin–Madison

Science

Igniting a passion for learning is a science in itself

High school and middle school science teachers introduce students to the study of the structure and operation of the natural world through observation and experiment.

Piece of cake, right? Not exactly.

Great science teachers are naturally curious individuals who have a passionate interest in how the world works. They like to ask questions and puzzle over natural processes. They are interested in what makes things tick and how they came to be. The most powerful science teachers, though, are those who connect with students in ways that excite and inspire. This is the human part—which is often overlooked in the learning process.

While preparing you with the knowledge and skills you’ll need to become a science teacher, we also take care to help you understand effective strategies for connecting with students in ways that allow them to dive deeper into complex ideas, be nimble and flexible, and understand science in a variety of compelling ways.

In the UW-Madison Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction: Secondary Education program, we’ll examine this closely in an environment where research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection are emphasized.

We believe in a teacher’s ability to expand science education beyond the four walls of the classroom into every facet of the students’ lives.

If you have questions about the field of secondary science education or about the science preparation within the program, please feel free to reach out to the SED Science Coordinator,  Professor John Rudolph at john.rudolph@wisc.edu.

 

Prerequisites

  1. Relevant undergraduate degree
  2. Coursework or experience that spans the necessary content domains
  3. Passing an approved content examination

Undergraduate Degree

Applicants need to have (or have completed by June) a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts with a major in one or more of the following areas:

  • Biology or other Life Science-related major
  • Environmental Science
  • Geology or other Geoscience
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Engineering
  • or some other Natural Science or Science-related degree

If you do not have one of these degrees, and believe you have a special case for consideration, including significant professional experience, or comparable university courses, you may send an email to Professor John Rudolph explaining your situation.

Content Domains

Prior to admission, all applicants must demonstrate competency in the following general areas through coursework or other experiences.

  • Structure and Properties of Matter
  • Chemical Reactions
  • Forces and Interactions
  • Energy
  • Waves and Electromagnetic Radiation

For content competencies required for each of the certification areas offered in science, please see the information below under Certification Areas.

Admissions Criteria

The admissions process of the Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction: Secondary Education is highly competitive. The program will select students in each subject area for admission based on the following:

  • Is the applicant well-qualified academically? Does the academic background reflect the needs of the profession?
  • Is the applicant thoughtful and reflective about the meaning of teaching? Are the applicant’s motivations for entering the profession worthwhile and do they reflect a commitment to professional improvement?
  • Has the applicant shown the ability to work effectively with young people, especially those different in important ways from the applicant?
  • Does the applicant show a genuine commitment to working with all children, not just the privileged or highly motivated? Does the applicant provide evidence of working with adolescents?
  • Is the applicant capable of working effectively with other professionals in the school, parents, caregivers, and members of the community outside of school?
  • Does the applicant have work experience that may add to their ability to assist students in building their own knowledge of the subject?

Certification Areas

Wisconsin teaching certifications are available in the subject areas listed below. Each certification enables a teacher to teach secondary-level courses (grades 6-12) in that particular domain. More specific details can be found on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Licensure Program Content Guidelines website.

If you need additional coursework for any of the certifications listed below, you are free to take courses online or in person at any institution (a community college, tech school, or another campus in or out of state). One option to consider is the online Science Seminars for Teachers offered by the American Museum of Natural History (check out their offerings here). These do not need to be taken for “graduate credit.”

One other option for content for a certification may be to complete the Praxis II: Subject Assessments/Specialty Area Tests through the Educational Testing Service (ETS)—

Certifications can also be added after completing the master’s program through additional coursework or exams for those interested.

Broad Field Science

Certification in Broad Field Science is required in the State of Wisconsin for anyone seeking to teach science at the middle school level (grades 6-8). The required content background includes general knowledge of physics, chemistry, biology, and earth/space science. We typically look for a year-long course sequence (2 semesters) or relevant experience in each of these areas. (For the earth-science area, at least two courses in subjects such as geology, geophysics, meteorology, oceanography, weather, climate/climate change, and astronomy are ideal.)

For the broad field certification, candidates may also choose the “General Science Exam # 5435.”  This test is offered through Educational Testing Service (ETS).   A passing score is 154.

Biology/Life Science

Certification in biology enables one to teach biology and life science courses at the high school level (grades 9-12), including advanced and AP courses. The required content background includes knowledge in the following areas:

  • Evolution and Genetics
  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Organismal Biology
  • Ecology
  • Physiology

Individuals with the equivalent of a minor in biology (approximately 22-24 credits or relevant experience) can be certified in this area.

Chemistry

Certification in chemistry enables one to teach chemistry courses at the high school level (grades 9-12), including advanced and AP courses. The required content background includes knowledge in the following areas:

  • Introductory Chemistry Sequence
  • Inorganic Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Biochemistry

Individuals with the equivalent of a minor in chemistry (approximately 22-24 credits or relevant experience) can be certified in this area.

Earth and Space Science

Certification in physics enables one to teach earth/space science courses at the high school level (grades 9-12), including advanced and AP courses. The required content background includes knowledge in the following areas:

  • Geology and Geophysics
  • Astronomy
  • Weather/Meteorology and Climate

Individuals with the equivalent of a minor in physics (approximately 22-24 credits or relevant experience) can be certified in this area.

Environmental Science

Certification in this area enables one to teach environmental science and environmental studies courses at the high school level (grades 9-12), including advanced and AP courses. The required content background includes knowledge of the following:

  • Interaction between living and non-living elements of the natural environment
  • Energy and its transformations in physical and biological systems
  • Interactions between people and the environment in historical and philosophical perspective
  • Principles of resource management including renewable and non-renewable resources
  • Impact of technology on the environment
  • Ecological, social, economic, and political implications of environmental issues

Individuals with the equivalent of a minor in environmental science (approximately 22-24 credits or relevant experience) can be certified in this area.

Physics

Certification in physics enables one to teach physics courses at the high school level (grades 9-12), including advanced and AP courses. The required content background includes knowledge in the following areas:

  • Introductory Physics Sequence
  • Mechanics
  • Electricity and Magnetism
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Modern Physics

Individuals with the equivalent of a minor in physics (approximately 22-24 credits or relevant experience) can be certified in this area.

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