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What Is A STEM Teacher? What They Teach And How To Become One

Micah Fikes
Micah Fikes on July 27, 2021

There is a growing need for specialized educators in the state of Texas, with many school districts looking for qualified applicants to fill STEM teaching positions. 

What is a STEM teacher? A STEM teacher is an educator who teaches science, technology, engineering or mathematics. STEM teachers typically specialize in one subject area at the secondary level, such as biology or computer science. At the elementary level, STEM lessons are typically integrated into the curriculum to pique children’s interests in STEM subjects.

STEM teachers are among the most in demand teaching jobs in Texas. Considering that there are a projected 3.5 million STEM jobs that will need to be filled by 2025, filling these open teaching positions is a priority for many school districts.

What Does A STEM Teacher Teach?


What Is A STEM TeacherWhile STEM stands for “science, technology, engineering or mathematics,” each of these areas are very different. Within each of them, there are several certifications you can pursue in the state of Texas.

To become a teacher in Texas, you must pass at least one content exam in the area you wish to teach. Content exams are divided by grade levels and special certification areas, including several that would fall under a STEM curriculum.

While you MUST take and pass one content exam to meet Texas teacher certification requirements, you can take more than one. This allows you to choose different tests that complement your skill sets and opens the door to being eligible for more teaching positions, such as both math and science.

If you’re interested in sciences, you may consider pursuing teaching subject areas like chemistry, physics, or science that is geared toward specific grade levels like 4-8 or 7-12. 

For those with an interest in teaching technology, Texas offers certification in subjects like Computer Science, Technology Applications and Technology Education.

Texas also offers a few certification areas geared toward engineering, including Mathematics/Physical Science/Engineering for grades 6-12 and for 8-12.

Individuals with an interest in teaching mathematics could take a content test in one of the areas above or pursue certification in an area like mathematics for grades 4-8 if you’re interested in teaching at the middle school level. 

A complete list of certification areas offered in the state can be found in our article, List Of Texas Teacher Certification Tests: What You Must Take To Teach.

How To Become A STEM Teacher


If you’re interested in becoming a STEM teacher, alternative teacher certification programs offer a great path for those who already have a bachelor’s degree.

This type of educator preparation program (EPP) offers a non-traditional route to certification that allows you to teach while completing the requirements. 

To qualify for an alternative teacher certification program, in most cases, you must have a bachelor’s degree (with a minimum 2.5 GPA) first from an accredited institution of higher learning. 

If you are applying for Health Science Technology and Trades & Industrial Education teaching certificates, but do not have a bachelor’s degree, there’s good news. You are exempt from this requirement. However, the state of Texas requires that an applicant instead have the following wage-earning experience in these fields:

  • Two years experience over the past 10 years in the field to be taught if you have an associate’s degree
  • Five years experience over the past 10 years in the field to be taught with no degree

Once you meet these requirements, you can apply to an EPP, like ECAP. The following steps are what happens next on your journey toward becoming certified to teach a STEM subject.

  • What is a stem teacherEstablish an account with the Texas Education Agency. This is the agency through which you will apply for any certificates and complete all required background checks.
  • Complete 40 hours of training and take a practice content exam. We tell our interns to aim for a score of 270 and concentrate on areas your practice exam results indicate you need further training in. 
  • Take your content exams. Once you score a 270 on your practice exam, ECAP will give you permission to take your content exams. Because there are several content exams that fall under STEM areas, the best certification programs will work with you to determine which content exams best meet your teaching goals.
  • Receive a statement of eligibility from ECAP. You can now apply for an intern certificate and begin your job hunt. Programs like ECAP offer an extensive network of resources that can help match you with the perfect internship opportunity.
  • Complete your additional training. You are required to take 150 hours of training before you can teach in the classroom.
  • Pass your PPR. Once you complete your classroom requirements, you can take the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities (PPR) exam. The best teacher training program will offer additional training for the PPR as part of its curriculum.

Once you complete the above requirements, you can apply for a standard certificate. You will apply for this certificate, as well as your intern certificate, using the TEA Login (TEAL) account that you established after enrolling in an educator preparation program. This will give you access to your profile located in the Educator Certification Online System (ECOS). 

When setting up your account, make sure you use the first and last name that matches your Texas driver’s license or state identification.

Because the TEA no longer mails paper certificates, the TEAL online portal allows you to access any future certification information. You can read more about TEAL and how to access important credentialing information in our article, Texas Teacher Certification Lookup Directions.

Benefits Of Being A STEM Teacher


If you’re thinking about a career change to teaching, specializing in a STEM field is worth exploring because you’ll likely find several openings for STEM-related teaching jobs across the state. 

You may also qualify for student loan forgiveness, if you choose to teach in one of the areas that the Texas Education Agency has designated as experiencing a teacher shortage. The 2021-2022 teacher shortage areas for Texas that have a STEM focus are:

  • Technology Applications and Computer Science - elementary and secondary levels
  • Mathematics - secondary levels
  • Career and Technical Education - secondary levels

According to the TEA, teachers with certain types of student loans may qualify for partial loan forgiveness, deferment or cancellation benefits if they choose to teach one of these subject areas.

You may also see a boost in pay if you teach a STEM subject. STEM teachers are in high demand, and school districts may be more likely to woo qualified candidates with higher pay and better benefits. 

Currently, the average teaching salary in Texas is $57,641. Those who teach middle or high school students where specialized teachers in STEM fields are more often utilized report slightly higher salaries than those who teach at an elementary school. 

(For the latest updates on teaching salaries in Texas, check out our article, How Much Is The Average Teaching Salary In Texas?)

Teaching STEM can fulfill a substantial need in education today, while at the same time offering financial benefits that include enhanced pay and possible student loan forgiveness. If your goal is to teach the next generation of scientists, engineers, health care professionals and mathematicians, becoming a STEM teacher can be a rewarding career.

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Written by Micah Fikes

Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank. In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.

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