Our view

Math and science teachers are in demand

January 27, 2014 

  • In summary

    Concentrating on math or science with the aim of becoming a teacher practically ensures that a job will be waiting upon graduation.

If you are headed to college and want to concentrate in something that will practically ensure there will be a job waiting for you when you graduate, major in math or science with an eye toward becoming a school teacher.

The numbers are obvious, and you don’t have to be a math major to figure out your odds for success. South Carolina (and many other states) are perennially short of math and science teachers.

Each year, on average, 5,200 South Carolina public school teachers leave the classroom, including nearly 1,200 who retire from the profession. As more and more baby boomers reach retirement, that number is likely to increase dramatically.

So, any future math and science majors who have focused on becoming teachers are likely to be able to find an opening just about anywhere in the state.

Despite that, universities report that they have faced shortages of students concentrating in math or science for years. According to the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, the percent of total bachelor’s degrees awarded in math and statistics in 2012-2-13 was 1.1 percent, or 252 degrees out of 23,584. And fewer than 150 also were concentrating on education with the intention of entering the classroom.

It is understandable that not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. And many math and science majors intend to try to make it in the business world.

Some students also reportedly worry that teaching is a low-prestige job that is not highly valued by the rest of society. And, while teaching offers a solid, steady paycheck (as well as long summer vacations and numerous holidays), the profession doesn’t produce many billionaires.

But the world is changing. For one, with a high demand for more math and science teachers, higher prestige and pay might be part of the bargain in the near future.

In addition, nations have begun to realize that a strong, stable and growing economy will depend to a large extent on the ability to entice students to specialize in math and science and help sustain research and development for generations to come. And someone will have to teach those students.

South Carolina universities already are aware of the need. The University of South Carolina, for one, will use a financial gift from the Duke Energy Foundation to help increase the number of students concentrating in science and math. USC wants to quadruple that number so it can reliably produce 50 math and 50 science teachers a year.

This career path might not immediately appeal to students contemplating their futures. But consider the fact that it beats taking a string of menial jobs and living with your parents after college.

Math and science majors, South Carolina schools need you. Think about it.

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