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Physics teacher training FAQs

Here are answers to questions we're frequently asked. If you have a question not covered here, please email teach@iop.org.


Will I have to teach other subjects apart from physics?

The short answer is: almost certainly in Key Stage 3, maybe in Key Stage 4 and in exceptional circumstances post-16. The long answer involves looking at individual schools and individual teachers within them. It also depends on what subjects you choose to train in.

At A-level you’re unlikely to teach chemistry or biology. Schools are more likely to have specialist teachers in these subjects than in physics so your time will be dedicated to teaching physics.

You can now also train to teach physics with maths through university-led and school-led training. 
 

I can’t decide whether to teach physics or maths

As physics and mathematics are closely related, a physicist or engineer is likely to have a strong mathematical background.

Fortunately you can now opt for a physics and maths training course offered by a selection of school and university training providers across England.

We understand that deciding whether to become a physics or maths teacher can be a difficult decision. Naturally we recommend you train as a physics teacher!

Here are two reasons why:
 
  1. You will be in a better position to teach maths with physics teacher training than you would be to teach physics with a maths teaching background. Despite their similarities, maths and physics are taught very differently. When you train as a science teacher you’re preparing for practical lab work and learn about risk assessments and health and safety considerations. As maths is a classroom-based subject, you will not encounter this in depth during your ITT.
  2. Imagine yourself in a room of fractious teenagers. As a maths teacher you’re in a classroom with a white board as your main tool. As a physics teacher you’re in a laboratory with a white board and a wide range of gadgets and experiments you can engage your students with.

I’ve graduated aged 21. Can I go straight into teacher training?

Some people know early on in life that they want to be physics teachers.

There is nothing to stop you taking an undergraduate degree then immediately applying for ITT. You could easily be standing at the front of a school physics lab passing on your passion at the age of 22.

Similarly, you may decide to continue your studies as a graduate before deciding to teach. Alternatively, taking a few years out exploring other options before applying will not prejudice ITE admissions tutors against your application.

What they will scrutinise your application for is evidence that you know what being a teacher is actually like. Have you spent time observing science lessons in a school? Have you spoken to physics teachers and understood the reality of the job?

It’s been a while since I took my degree

If you have a degree in physics or engineering or another physics-rich subject but have been busy elsewhere since you graduated, this is not necessarily a disadvantage when applying for ITT.

The main thing is you have decided to teach physics.

When you apply, the training provider will consider your knowledge and skills and decide what extra subject support you need. In some cases, especially if your work has used physics, this extra support may be minimal.

If the admissions tutors decide you would make an excellent teacher but feel you have insufficient subject knowledge to go directly to an ITT course, they may recommend you take a subject knowledge enhancement (SKE) course.

So, if you want to become a physics teacher but are worried that your subject knowledge is not up to date, look for ITE providers who mention SKE courses. You can also indicate on your application that you are interested in SKEs or speak directly to SKE providers.

The training provider will try to help smooth your transition into teaching. For example, there may be issues to do with getting used to a change in salary, starting again from the bottom or adapting to a new environment after many years outside education.

I don’t have a physics degree

The basic requirements to train as a physics teacher are a physics A-level and a degree, preferably in physics or a related subject.

If you have a physics-rich degree (for example engineering, biophysics, geophysics or a joint honours with physics), your application to train as a physics teacher will certainly be considered. The ITE tutors will look at your subject knowledge and decide whether you would benefit from a physics SKE course.

It is possible to train as a physics teacher without a physics-related degree. If you can demonstrate relevant work experience this will count in your favour, but you will have to clearly show why you want to teach physics and what background you have to back this up.

I studied at a non-UK university

Overseas qualified teachers

If you have qualified as a teacher inside the European Union you may be able to access teaching positions as if you trained in the UK.

If you qualified outside the European Economic Area, you will need to gain qualified teacher status to teach long-term in the UK.

Get into Teaching has further information for overseas qualified teachers

Graduates from overseas universities wishing to train to teach in the UK

The first thing you need to do is have your degree evaluated so it can be compared to an equivalent UK qualification.

Get in touch with the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) who will give you a letter of comparability.

You will then be in a position to approach ITE providers to find out if your qualifications make you eligible to apply for their courses.