According to USA Today, psychology is one of the top-ten majors in the United States, and at many colleges and universities, Introduction to Psychology is considered one of the most popular courses on campus. Educators who introduce students to the exploration and study of human behavior primarily work at high schools and postsecondary institutions. Based on the level of instruction that a teacher wishes to deliver and state laws, psychology educators must fulfill various requirements and achieve educational levels before qualifying for a teaching position at a public high school, college or university.
How can I become an elementary, middle, or high school psychology teacher?
While nearly all certified teachers take one or more psychology courses as part of their teacher training, there are very few opportunities to teach psychology at the elementary and middle school levels. In some school districts, psychology courses are offered as electives, usually at the senior level or as an AP credit class. Standalone courses are a rarity, with private schools more likely to offer such a class than a public school.
High schools are where a student in the public school system has a better chance of encountering a psychology-related course. Typically introduced as a survey course that introduces students to the general principles in the field, the psychology subject is handled on its most basic level. Since the number of psychology courses offered is relatively low, however, it is uncommon for an educator to be hired to solely teach psychology. High school psychology teachers typically teach other types of courses related to the social sciences or sciences, depending on their declared subject specialization.
Steps that individuals generally take in order to teach psychology to high school students include the following:
Earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or another discipline related to the social sciences. Other teachers earn an undergraduate degree in education, and complete a minimum number of psychology credits as their specialization.
Complete a teacher education program. All individuals must complete the required coursework (such as high school teaching methods and child psychology) to qualify for a teaching position upon obtaining a four-year degree, which is especially important for those who did not major in education.
Fulfill student-teaching requirements. Most teacher education programs require students to complete a set number of hours within a classroom environment under the guidance of a seasoned teacher. During this time, student-teachers observe typical behavior exhibited in high school, learn how to plan lessons, participate in schoolwide activities, and eventually teach a class.
Become licensed and certified to teach. All educators have set requirements to satisfy in order to become certified to teach; the licensure process differs on a state-by-state basis. For example, passing examinations are required by most states. In Oklahoma, teachers are expected to pass three assessments administered by the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation (OCTP), while the Montana Office of Public Instruction does not require future teachers to complete any state teacher licensure exams.
Obtain a master’s degree. Most states do not require a teacher to possess a graduate degree in psychology in order to teach high school level classes, but the advanced degree does enhance opportunities for promotion and higher pay.
Maintain teaching certificate or license. Many states require teachers to complete continuing education credits in order to possess valid teaching credentials.
What is required to become a college psychology professor?
Psychology is a broad school subject that allows students to explore and formulate a deeper understanding of the human mind, how it works, and the effects of human behavior. Psychology professors teach courses that delve into various areas of psychology, such as personality traits, the capacity to learn, cognition, behavior, development, and abnormal psychology.
Psychology teachers who educate students attending a two-year college, junior college or vocational school may do so with as little as a master’s degree.
To teach college-level psychology, most educators are expected to:
Have a PhD in Psychology, although some schools will hire a job candidate holding at least a Master of Arts or Master of Science in Psychology, or an advanced degree with at least 15 or more credits completed in psychology. Qualified job candidates may also hold an advanced degree in a related discipline, such as counseling or sociology.
Be willing to teach multiple courses related to psychology during a school year; it is not uncommon to find a professor teach the likes of Counseling and Psychotherapy, Research Methods, Introductory Psychology, and Abnormal/Normal Psychology in a single semester.
Have demonstrated excellence in teaching, or show the potential to excel as a professor. Previous teaching experience at the college level is also nearly always a requirement to assume a full-time position.
College psychology professors typically concentrate on teaching courses in general psychology (like introductory level courses), research methods and their area of expertise (such as child psychology, perception, or physiological psychology). At the college level, they may also teach courses designed for students who are pursuing applied degrees (for example, in education or social work).
What is required to become a university psychology professor?
Psychology courses at the university level are often referred to as ‘Psych 101,’ typically held in lecture halls where hundreds of students gather to learn about topics ranging from Pavlov’s dogs and classical conditioning theories, to Freud’s eccentric case studies and perspectives on the Oedipus complex. University professors that teach graduate courses often oversee the studies of future licensed counselors, psychologists or psychiatrists who require advanced degrees to qualify for most positions within their respective fields.
University professors are required to hold a doctorate degree (PhD) in Psychology, and in many cases, need to possess certification in certain areas of specialization. In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, psychology professors at the university level are expected to serve on departmental boards and work on scholarly pursuits – from conducting research associated with their specialization (and presenting at conferences) to publishing pieces devoted to their field of experience in journal articles, course materials, textbooks, and books.
While the majority of psychology professors concentrate on instruction and research, there are those who are also qualified to work at their college or university as professional psychologists. Many universities require their psychology professors to have an active research and/or clinical practice in the field. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see instructors assuming the roles of counselors, clinical psychologists and researchers at the university in which they teach. Psychology professors who are trained to work as clinical psychologists may also maintain a clinical practice outside of the university, meeting with their patients several times per week.
Professors with an active research practice are engaged in original research on a topic in their specialization, such as social, behavioral, or cognitive psychology. Like many scientists, some psychology professors run research laboratories, where they recruit, train, and supervise graduate students and postdoctoral students (recently graduated PhDs who have yet to obtain their own faculty appointments) to carry out research under their supervision.
Psychology is a discipline that may be housed in either the arts or sciences. In part, the location depends on the focus of the psychology program in question. A program with a strong emphasis on psychoanalysis is more likely to be located in the arts, offering Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in psychology, rather than a program with a strong emphasis on neuroscience.
Some universities offer two pathways — one in psychology and one in cognitive science — to accommodate both the arts and science aspects of the discipline. Either way, psychology professors are expected to teach, publish, and contribute to the maintenance of their department by serving on departmental and divisional committees. They are also typically expected to maintain a membership in the field’s primary academic organization, the American Psychology Association, and to regularly attend the association’s meetings as a participant or presenter.
What is the job outlook for psychology teachers?
Job prospects for psychology educators will differ based upon a range of factors, such as the level of instruction they qualify to teach, educational credentials, reputation in the field, and geographic location. Overall, the majority of positions awaiting psychology professors are found at colleges, universities and professional schools, followed by junior colleges, technical and trade schools. For example, in 2014, the BLS reported that 28,900 psychology professors were employed at the collegiate level, in contrast to the 8,860 professors hired at junior colleges.
Although the need to hire psychology teachers is not as great as outside of the postsecondary school level, there are some regions and school districts that demonstrate a shortage of teachers related to the field. For example, when the U.S. Department of Education produced their nationwide listing of teacher shortages according to subject and grade level, the state of Idaho was cited as having experienced a widespread shortage of psychology teachers for grades 6-12 during the 2015/2016 academic year.
What is the compensation for psychology teachers?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median salaries for those who taught courses in psychology in 2014 (including educators who also combined teaching and research as part of their job) were as follows:
High school teachers – $56,310
Postsecondary teachers – $68,690
The overall salaries paid to psychology teachers are ultimately affected by a variety of factors, such as educational credentials, place of employment, and geographic location. For instance, the BLS identified the following states (with annual mean salaries) as paying the highest salaries to postsecondary psychology teachers: Massachusetts ($96,890), Rhode Island ($95,330), Oregon ($94,440), Maryland ($90,390), and California ($86,890).
Differences in average salaries are also noticeable in relation to a teacher’s place of employment. In 2014, colleges, universities and professional schools not only employ the most postsecondary psychology professors, but also pay the highest average annual salaries ($79,350). Junior colleges were cited as paying an annual mean wage of $66,940 in 2014, while professors working at technical and trade schools earned an average of $50,140 that same year.
In conclusion, psychology teachers are in demand to educate students with an interest in learning about or pursuing a career associated with human behavior, observational analysis, the scientific method, and psychological theories. With most jobs found on the college and university level, professors generally blend classroom instruction and research as it pertains to multiple areas and fields related to psychology, such as child-, clinical-, and developmental psychology. Teachers with an advanced degree typically qualify for the highest-paying jobs, which are generally found at colleges, universities and professional schools.