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Become A Physics Instructor

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Working As A Physics Instructor

  • Training and Teaching Others
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Processing Information
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Thinking Creatively
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Make Decisions

  • $74,540

    Average Salary

What Does A Physics Instructor Do

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and career and technical subjects beyond the high school level. They also conduct research and publish scholarly papers and books.

Duties

Postsecondary teachers typically do the following:

  • Teach courses in their subject area
  • Work with students who are taking classes to improve their knowledge or career skills
  • Develop an instructional plan (known as a course outline or syllabus) for the course(s) they teach and ensure that it meets college and department standards
  • Plan lessons and assignments
  • Work with colleagues to develop or modify the curriculum for a degree or certificate program involving a series of courses
  • Assess students’ progress by grading assignments, papers, exams, and other work
  • Advise students about which classes to take and how to achieve their goals
  • Stay informed about changes and innovations in their field
  • Conduct research and experiments to advance knowledge in their field
  • Supervise graduate students who are working toward doctoral degrees
  • Publish original research and analysis in books and academic journals
  • Serve on academic and administrative committees that review and recommend policies, make budget decisions, or advise on hiring and promotions within their department

Postsecondary teachers, often referred to as professors or faculty, specialize in a variety of subjects and fields. Some teach academic subjects, such as English or philosophy. Others focus on career-related subjects, such as law, nursing, or culinary arts.

At colleges and universities, professors are organized into departments that specialize in a subject, such as history, science, business, or music. A professor may teach one or more courses within that department. For example, a mathematics professor may teach calculus, statistics, and a graduate seminar in a very specific area of mathematics.

Postsecondary teachers’ duties vary with their positions in a university or college. In large colleges or universities, they may spend their time teaching, conducting research or experiments, applying for grants to fund their research, or supervising graduate teaching assistants who are teaching classes.

Postsecondary teachers who work in small colleges and universities or in community colleges often spend more time teaching classes and working with students. They may spend some time conducting research, but they do not have as much time to devote to it.

Full-time professors, particularly those who have tenure (a professor who cannot be fired without just cause), often are expected to spend more time on their research. They also may be expected to serve on more college and university committees.

Part-time professors, often known as adjunct professors, spend most of their time teaching students.

Professors may teach large classes of several hundred students (often with the help of graduate teaching assistants), smaller classes of about 40 to 50 students, seminars with just a few students, or laboratories where students practice the subject matter. They work with an increasingly varied student population as more part-time, older, and culturally diverse students are going to postsecondary schools.

Professors need to keep up with developments in their field by reading scholarly articles, talking with colleagues, and participating in professional conferences. A tenured professor must do original research, such as experiments, document analysis, or critical reviews, and publish their findings.

Some postsecondary teachers work for online universities or teach online classes. They use websites to present lessons and information, to assign and accept students’ work, and to participate in course discussions. Online professors communicate with students by email and by phone and might never meet their students in person.

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How To Become A Physics Instructor

Educational requirements vary with the subject taught and the type of educational institution. Most commonly, postsecondary teachers must have a Ph.D. However, a master's degree may be enough for some postsecondary teachers at community colleges. In career and technical schools, work experience may be important for getting a postsecondary teaching job.

Education

Postsecondary teachers who work for 4-year colleges and universities typically need a doctoral degree in their field. Some schools may hire those with a master’s degree or those who are doctoral degree candidates for some specialties, such as fine arts, or for some part-time positions.

Doctoral programs generally take multiple years after the completion of a bachelor’s degree program. They spend time completing a master’s degree and then writing a doctoral dissertation, which is a paper presenting original research in the student’s field of study. Candidates usually specialize in a subfield, such as organic chemistry or European history.

Community colleges or career and technical schools also may hire those with a master’s degree. However, in some fields, there are more applicants than available positions. In these situations, institutions can be more selective, and they frequently choose applicants who have a Ph.D. over those with a master’s degree.

Postsecondary teachers who teach career and technical education courses, such as culinary arts or cosmetology, may not be required to have graduate-level education. At a minimum they must hold the degree of the program in which they are teaching. For example, the teacher must hold an associate’s degree if they teach a program that is at the associate’s degree level. In addition, work experience or certification may be just as important as education for getting a postsecondary teaching job at a career or technical school.

Other Experience

Some institutions may prefer to hire those with teaching or other work experience, but this is not a requirement for all fields or for all employers.

In health specialties, art, or education fields, hands-on work experience in the industry can be important. Postsecondary teachers in these fields often gain experience by working in an occupation related to their field of expertise.

In fields such as biological science, physics, and chemistry, some postsecondary teachers have postdoctoral research experience. These short-term jobs, sometimes called “post-docs,” usually involve working for 2 to 3 years as a research associate or in a similar position, often at a college or university.

Some postsecondary teachers gain teaching experience by working as graduate teaching assistants—students who are enrolled in a graduate program and teach classes in the institution in which they are enrolled.

Some postsecondary teachers, especially adjunct professors, have another job in addition to teaching.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Postsecondary teachers who prepare students for an occupation that requires a license, certification, or registration, may need to have—or they may benefit from having—the same credential. For example, a postsecondary nursing teacher might need a nursing license or a postsecondary education teacher might need a teaching license.

Advancement

A major goal for postsecondary teachers with a doctoral degree is attaining a tenure—a guarantee that a professor cannot be fired without just cause. It can take up to 7 years of moving up the ranks in tenure-track positions. The ranks are assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. Tenure is granted through a review of the candidate’s research, contribution to the institution, and teaching.

Tenure and tenure track positions are declining as institutions are relying more heavily on part-time faculty.

Some tenured professors advance to administrative positions, such as dean or president. For information on deans and other administrative positions, see the profile on postsecondary education administrators. For more information about college and university presidents, see the profile on top executives.

Important Qualities

Critical-thinking skills. To challenge established theories and beliefs, conduct original research, and design experiments, postsecondary teachers need good critical-thinking skills.

Interpersonal skills. Most postsecondary teachers need to be able to work well with others and must have good communication skills to serve on committees and give lectures.

Resourcefulness. Postsecondary teachers need to be able to present information in a way that students will understand. They need to adapt to the different learning styles of their students and teach students who have little or no experience with the subject.

Speaking skills. Postsecondary teachers need good communication skills to give lectures.

Writing skills. Most postsecondary teachers need to be skilled writers to publish original research and analysis.

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Physics Instructor Jobs

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Physics Instructor Demographics

Gender

Male

68.5%

Female

27.9%

Unknown

3.6%
Ethnicity

White

74.5%

Hispanic or Latino

9.9%

Asian

9.7%

Unknown

4.6%

Black or African American

1.2%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

28.4%

French

11.9%

Russian

9.0%

Chinese

7.5%

German

6.0%

Korean

6.0%

Japanese

4.5%

Urdu

4.5%

Persian

3.0%

Arabic

3.0%

Italian

3.0%

Portuguese

1.5%

Thai

1.5%

Hungarian

1.5%

Turkish

1.5%

Yoruba

1.5%

Mandarin

1.5%

Dari

1.5%

Hindi

1.5%

Tagalog

1.5%
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Physics Instructor Education

Schools

University of Virginia

10.4%

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

8.3%

Northeastern Illinois University

7.3%

University of Central Florida

6.3%

University of California - Berkeley

5.2%

Texas Tech University

5.2%

Texas A&M University

5.2%

University of Arizona

5.2%

University of Alabama

4.2%

Georgia Southern University

4.2%

University of Alabama at Birmingham

4.2%

Pennsylvania State University

4.2%

Georgia State University

4.2%

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

4.2%

University of Iowa

4.2%

University of Texas at Austin

4.2%

Cornell University

4.2%

Rice University

3.1%

University of Florida

3.1%

University of Nevada - Reno

3.1%
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Majors

Physics

38.8%

Kinesiology

5.8%

Business

5.2%

Health Education

4.6%

Education

4.1%

Mechanical Engineering

4.1%

Elementary Education

3.8%

Chemistry

3.8%

Mathematics

3.8%

Electrical Engineering

3.5%

Educational Leadership

3.5%

Public Health

2.9%

Computer Science

2.9%

Astronomy And Astrophysics

2.3%

Materials Science And Engineering

2.0%

Physical Therapy

2.0%

General Education, Specific Areas

2.0%

Psychology

1.7%

Medical Technician

1.7%

Statistics

1.4%
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Degrees

Masters

38.2%

Doctorate

22.4%

Bachelors

20.5%

Other

11.5%

Certificate

4.1%

Associate

2.8%

Diploma

0.4%

License

0.2%
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Real Physics Instructor Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Physics Instructor (Clinical Applications) Varian Medical Systems, Inc. Las Vegas, NV Mar 10, 2011 $100,870 -
$114,452
Physics Instructor State Center Community College District Reedley, CA Nov 08, 2016 $78,148
Math & Physics Instructor Vonity, Inc. Dublin, CA Mar 16, 2015 $76,490
Physics Instructor Shepherd University Los Angeles, CA Oct 01, 2012 $62,610
Physics Instructor Northwest Vista College San Antonio, TX May 14, 2008 $61,280
Instructor of Medcial Physics Weill Cornell Medical College New York, NY Aug 08, 2011 $61,000
Physics Instructor Bellarmine University Louisville, KY Aug 15, 2014 $59,125
Physics Instructor Central Lakes Community and Technical College Brainerd, MN Aug 18, 2013 $58,000
Physics Instructor Central Lakes Community & Technical College Brainerd, MN Aug 18, 2010 $54,500
Instructor, Physics Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny, IA May 01, 2014 $53,922
Instructor, Physics Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny, IA Jan 05, 2014 $53,922
Instructor-Physical Therapy Santa Ana Valley College Santa Ana, CA Mar 17, 2016 $53,430
Physics Instructor Columbia Union College Takoma Park, MD Aug 24, 2009 $53,198
Physics Instructor Faulkner University Montgomery, AL Mar 20, 2016 $52,175
Physics Instructor Alabama School of Fine Arts Birmingham, AL Aug 08, 2013 $52,173
Physics Instructor Alabama School of Fine Arts Birmingham, AL Sep 20, 2016 $51,367
Physics Instructor Kansas City Kansas Community College Kansas City, KS Jul 01, 2011 $51,073
Instructor of Physical Therapy University of South Dakota Vermillion, SD Jun 22, 2014 $51,000
Instructor, Physics Des Moines Area Community College Ankeny, IA Jan 06, 2011 $46,876
Math and Physics Instructor Austin Gifted, Inc. Austin, TX Aug 01, 2013 $46,857
Physics Instructor Western Texas College Snyder, TX Jan 06, 2015 $46,465
Physical Therapy Assistant Instructor Dade Medical College, Inc. Miami, FL Sep 15, 2014 $45,000
Physics Instructor The District Board of Trustees of Pensacola State Pensacola, FL Jan 02, 2013 $44,185
Physics Instructor Cleveland State Community College Cleveland, TN May 15, 2013 $43,464

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Top Skills for A Physics Instructor

PhysicsLabCurriculumDevelopmentMathematicsLessonPlansGeneralPhysicsCalculusIntroductoryAstronomyTeachGradesIntermediateAlgebraPhysicsConceptsPhysicalActivityChemistryIntroductoryPhysicsCoursePhysicsClassesLabExperimentsPhysicalScienceWeightTrainingClassesPhysModernPhysics

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  1. Physics Lab
  2. Curriculum Development
  3. Mathematics
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Participate in and contributes to safe environment in Physics laboratory.
  • Involved with curriculum development for industrial technology department.
  • Tutored individuals and groups in undergraduate mathematics and physical sciences.
  • Designed lesson plans according to state mandated curriculum and devised individual learning tracks for troubled students.
  • General physics, Quantum physics, Statistical physics, Electrodynamics.

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