Did You Know…

Getting the Facts Out about Teaching as a Profession

Welcome to UNG and the Maximize Your Major session for Physics and Dual-degree Physics/Engineering majors. This activity is a presentation of a new program we offer at UNG through the Department of Physics & Astronomy and the College of Education.

Dr. Sarah Formica


I am a Professor of Physics on the Dahlonega campus. I look forward to meeting you this fall, either in Dahlonega or Gainesville. Today, I'm going to present some facts about the teaching profession and then tell you about a program we've designed at UNG to increase the number of high school physics teachers.

To begin, I want to learn a little something about you and your background. I will do this by using interactive polls scattered throughout this activity. You can click on the response of your choice and afterward you will be able to see how others responded to the question. All the polls are completely anonymous.

The first thing I would like to know about you is if you took a physics course in high school. Go ahead and answer this question below:

Next, I'd like to know about what kind of degree your physics teacher had. It's ok if you don't know this, not everyone will know about their teacher's education.

Qualified Teachers

This chart shows the percentage of high school teachers who have a degree in the subject they teach. Notice how the percentage of physics and chemistry teachers with a degree in the field is below 50%. (You can click on the figure to read more about the physics teacher shortage in this country.)

Did you know...

We currently have a national physics teacher shortage with only 47% of physics classes being taught by a teacher with a degree in the subject, compared with 73% of biology classes and about 80% of humanities classes.

Here at UNG, we want to change this. We developed a pathway for students to earn two degrees: one in physics and one in secondary education, with certification to teach after graduation. However, one reason why we have a physics teacher shortage is because many people are unaware of the facts about the teaching profession. The rest of this activity will get the facts out about teaching and hopefully provide you with another option for a career pathway to consider.

Have you ever considered becoming a teacher? Do you have a lot of interest, or maybe just a slight interest in teaching at the high school or middle school level? Let us know in the following poll:

Over 7000 STEM majors were asked the same question I just asked you, and nearly half of them responded with some interest in pursuing a teaching career.

So why the teacher shortage? There's interest at least. But it may be because people have misconceptions about teaching. For example, some people believe that teachers' salaries are too low, that teachers don't have very good options for retirement, and that teachers are not satisfied with the job.

Teacher Salary

Without looking anything up, answer the following question based on what you personally think. Consider a teacher who just finished their Bachelor's degree and certification to teach, and they begin their first teaching job. What do you think a typical starting salary is for this new teacher?

Now imagine that this teacher has worked in the school system for 15 years and has earned a Master's degree. What do you think their salary is now?

This is a salary schedule for teachers in the Atlanta Public School system and it shows teachers' salaries based on the number of years of experience and the highest degree obtained. This is public information and you can always look up the salary schedule for any public school system.

Recall how you answered the first question about salary. Did you get close to $48,086?

Also recall how you answered the second salary question. Were you close to $69,798?

Usually, people are surprised by teachers' salaries and realize they are actually higher than expected. Something else to note is that these salaries are for a 202 day schedule because teachers get a fall break, winter break, spring break, and of course an extended summer break. Oftentimes, teachers will work an extra job in the summer for extra money.

You might not be aware of typical starting salaries of other professions, so this figure can help with that. I've added the red dashed line to indicate the Atlanta Public Schools starting teacher's salary for comparison.

Something else to note here is that Private Sector STEM jobs certainly pay the best, but they also happen to be the most difficult positions to obtain. To land one of these private sector jobs right out of college is rare. On the other hand, because of the national physics teacher shortage, you are practically guaranteed a teaching job after you graduate.

Teachers Retirement System (TRS) of Georgia

Did you know...

Teachers in the state of Georgia have a terrific option for retirement. And after they have worked for at least 10 years in the school system, they can receive retirement benefits. These benefits are calculated with a simple formula:

(highest monthly salary) x (number of years of service) x 2%

So, if you were a teacher who earned a masters degree and worked in the Atlanta school system for 25 years, your benefits after retirement would be:

($6587) x (25) x 2% = $3294

which is what you would be paid every month.

Let's do a side-by-side comparison of working as a teacher and working in the private sector. The table below shows the salary, benefits, and contract for Atlanta teachers and employees of Lockheed Martin.

Notice how the salary + benefits compares quite closely for the two careers, but the contract is very different. Teachers have something like 74 days off each year, while Lockheed employees can only request a small fraction of that to take off. And teachers can retire in their 50s but private sector employees have to wait until they are 65 to receive retirement benefits.

Job Satisfaction

Think of some teachers you know. Are they happy being teachers or do you think they want to do something else with their lives? When you think about these teachers, consider this: What fraction of grade 7-12 teachers do you think remain in the profession at year 5?

Teachers are quite satisfied with their jobs and for many reasons. This chart shows some of the reasons teachers gave for their job satisfaction.

Did you know...

  • When asked about their job satisfaction, five out of six science teachers said they would choose the same career again.

  • After year 5, 78% of high school teachers continue in the profession.

Did you know …

Teachers in the United States rate their lives better than all other occupation groups, trailing only physicians. (You can click on the chart below to read more about the life satisfaction survey.)

So, teachers are paid well, they get a lot of time off, they can retire earlier than other professions and receive great benefits, and they love their job and life. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

Here's one more question I'd like to ask you. After you graduate, where would you most like to get a job and settle down?

Did you know ...

Physics teachers are in extremely high demand. How high? Well, there are people who study this sort of thing. In the 2018 AAEE (American Association of Employment in Education), Educator Supply and Demand in the United States Report, a Considerable shortage is given a numerical score between 5.00 – 4.21. Here is a list from that report that shows the greatest shortages and their scores:

  • Spec. Ed. – Severe/Profound Disability (4.61)

  • Spec. Ed. – Visually Impaired (4.59)

  • Physics (4.59)

  • Mathematics (4.49)

  • Chemistry (4.47)

This physics teacher shortage is spread across the entire nation.

This figure shows the physics teacher shortage state-by-state, with red and orange being the greatest shortage and blue being less of a shortage.

In Georgia, right now...

We need 75 new physics teachers this year, but we are only producing about 15 annually. So, if you decided to become a physics teacher, you would definitely get a job in Georgia, and pretty much any other state in the U.S.

The Physics Teacher Education Program at UNG

We have designed a pathway for you to become a highly-qualified high school physics teacher. If you choose this path, you'll major in Physics with a second major in Secondary Education.

  • You will be advised by two experts: a professor in physics and a professor in secondary education.

  • You will have many early teaching experience opportunities

    • Learning Assistants

    • Telescope Operators

    • Student Teaching

    • Outreach

  • You will complete the program with Teaching Certification

If this presentation has piqued your interest in becoming a teacher (even if only a little bit), I hope you will reach out and contact me. I would love to talk more with you about the program and give you more facts about teaching that you might not know about.

If you have interest or questions, please email me:


Thank you for listening and participating in this activity. See you in August!