Chemistry Teacher Certification


Chemistry is a fascinating subject that can seem almost like magic. It is about studying the chemical components that make up everything in our existence, including even our own bodies.

Many of our most basic daily functions rely on chemistry: brushing your teeth involves a chemical reaction between toothpaste and your teeth; making omelets relies on the measurement of heat and the chemical properties of eggs; and drinking your morning coffee instigates a chemical reaction between the caffeine in the coffee and your body, which releases dopamine that stimulates you and makes you feel more awake. Even making ice cubes is a chemical process!

That’s because chemicals, the subject of the study of chemistry, are part of every life form. Chemicals and chemical reactions also make up every single substance that takes up space, which we call “matter.” Chemistry is in many ways similar to the study of physics, because it is also the study of matter; in fact, both chemistry and physics make up the physical sciences.

Therefore, chemistry is a fundamental part of a basic education, and chemistry teachers are valued for their ability to teach students how to use the scientific method to understand how chemicals work. Students need a teacher who can make that magic happen in the classroom, who can show them how chemical reactions can lead to the invention of new materials and provide solutions to complex problems such as pollution and disease.

What is Chemistry Teacher Certification?

Those who wish to become chemistry teachers will need to pursue certification, the process through which state boards of education evaluate aspiring teachers for their content knowledge and ability to teach their subject. While in some cases it is not necessary to pursue full certification (some may enter the classroom with an emergency or alternative certification), most schools, both public and private, want to make sure that they can trust whoever they hire to teach the subject thoroughly and accurately. The process of certification usually involves the completion of a bachelor’s degree, a state or Praxis examination, interviews, the submission of letters of recommendation, and proof of effective student teacher training or student teaching experience. This is how states ensure that those who teach chemistry are qualified to do so.

What is the Scientific Method?

The Scientific Method is the formal combination of two techniques, induction and deduction, which researchers use to examine the world around them.

  • Ask a Question
  • Conduct background research
  • Pose a hypothesis
  • Test your hypothesis in an experiment
  • Analyze the results of the experiment
  • Share the results of your experiment

Many students can achieve certification through approved college programs in which they major in Education with a specialization in Chemistry. However, certification requirements and processes can vary by location and subject. In some cases, aspiring chemistry teachers who have completed a college degree can pursue alternative certification.

Some states also honor certifications earned in other states through reciprocity agreements. This means that if you move from one state to another, you may be able to acquire certification through an interstate reciprocity agreement, because your teaching license will transfer. It is best to check with each state to find out if they have reciprocity agreements with any other states if you plan on moving. Learn more about chemistry teaching certification requirements in your own state.

What do Chemistry Teachers Do?

Chemistry teachers share many common responsibilities with other teachers. Like all good instructors, chemistry teachers will use their classroom time effectively by keeping students engaged. This will help maintain classroom control to guarantee an effective learning environment for all students. In addition, chemistry teachers are responsible for working with colleagues and, sometimes, local and state administrators to create curriculum goals. It is from these curriculum goals that chemistry teachers design lesson plans, classroom activities, and student assignments that fulfill those goals. Finally, it is also common for schools to expect chemistry teachers to continue their education to stay current in their subject. Taking continuing education credits such as graduate courses in chemistry or education, allows a chemistry teacher to stay up-to-date on current issues and technology.

Amazing Chemical Discoveries That Have Changed the World
  • Alexander Fleming helped discover penicillin by analyzing the properties of a mold called Penicillium notatum.
  • Alfred Nobel combined the dangerous substance nitroglycerine with an inert, absorbent chemical to create dynamite. He later created the Nobel Prizes to honor scientists and other contributors to society.
  • Wallace Carothers works with others to invent nylon, which is now used in millions of products.
  • John Wesley Hyatt creates a form of plastic as a substitute for rare substances like ivory, amber, horn and tortoiseshell.

In addition to their administrative responsibilities, chemistry teachers are also required to master the highly specialized content in their science field. For example, potential chemistry teachers are responsible for knowing about a wide variety of topics in their field. Chemistry teachers are expected to use the Periodic Table of Elements, a chart that organizes all chemical elements based on their properties, as the basis for the experiments they use in class to demonstrate scientific principles to students. In addition, chemistry teachers also need to master the basic components of physics principles, to explain chemical reactions on the most basic level. It is important to use a wide variety of experiments to engage students and help them learn through practice.

Some Chemistry Experiments:

1. Make Ice Cream: One of the most fun classroom experiments for any level of 6-12 education is teaching students about the chemical reaction between ice and salt by making ice cream. First, students mix together milk, cream and flavoring, like strawberries, inside a zip-top plastic bag (they can double-bag this to prevent leaks). Then, students mix salt and crushed ice together. Next, they put the bag of ingredients inside a larger freezer bag that is filled with the salt and ice mixture, and seal it. As they shake the large freezer bag, the ice surrounds the cream and starts to freeze it. In about 15 minutes, the ice cream will be ready. This works because the salt chemically interacts with the ice to lower the freezing point of ice, making it possible to freeze the cream mixture into a solid form.

2. Make a Battery from a Lemon: You can show students how to turn chemical energy into electric energy with some copper wire, a straightened steel paper clip, and a lemon. First, use sandpaper to smooth the rough ends of the wire and steel paper clip. Squeeze the lemon gently, and then stick the copper wire and steel clip wire into the lemon as close as possible without them touching. Then, students can moisten the ends of the wires with their tongues, when they will feel a small tingle. That is the electric charge. This happens because the wires act as electrodes that carry the electrolyte—lemon juice—and your tongue seals the circuit, creating a small burst of energy from the movement of electrons. If you do this with two lemons and connect them, you can power small items like digital watches.

There are so many chemicals that chemistry teachers have an almost limitless number of possible experiments they can use to help students understand this exciting subject. Though teaching chemistry often involves knowledge of how to safely use dangerous substances, many experiments can be done using everyday household products, which will help tie in learning lessons and allows students to relate more to the chemicals and experiments.

Why Chemistry Teachers are Important

Chemistry teachers have the ability to provide opportunities for students to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills that can be used throughout their lives. The study of chemistry is more than just chemicals, it is our entire environment and chemistry teachers are uniquely qualified to teach students how chemistry involves everything in our daily lives.

More importantly, chemistry teachers provide an essential introduction to science that students can use as a foundation on which to build a career that will make important contributions to society. Chemistry is relevant to many interesting careers:

  • Chemistry is at the heart of the pharmaceutical industry, and is necessary to the work that scientists, lab technicians, and many other important positions do to create new medications every day.
  • Automobile designers use both physics and chemistry to create more fuel-efficient cars.
  • Architects and builders need to know the chemical properties of the materials they use to build all kinds of structures, from highways to hospitals.
  • Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals—including veterinarians—need to understand the chemistry of the body and how it interacts with medication to properly diagnose and treat illnesses.
  • Chemistry is an important element in cooking, baking, and other valued service-industry skills.

Career Prospects for Chemistry Teachers

As science education is valued more and more in our increasingly technological society, the occupational outlook for chemistry teachers is very positive. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics places chemistry teaching opportunities at the “good to excellent” level, which suggests that there will be many positions available for those interested in becoming certified chemistry teachers.