How to Become a Chemistry Teacher

Kate Onissiphorou

by Kate Onissiphorou

8th December 2021

Teaching is a noble profession because of the strong influence teachers have in shaping young minds. Becoming a chemistry teacher could lead you to inspire generations of students to become scientists, physicians, or even inventors (or they might want to work in a chemical manufacturing company!). 

If this chemistry career interests you, continue reading to learn what a chemistry teacher does, what the average salary is, and what it takes to become one.

What Does a Chemistry Teacher Do?

Much like other educators in schools, chemistry teachers need to act as a kind of Swiss Army Knife, and are expected to perform a variety of tasks that may not necessarily be focused on chemistry.A chemistry teacher conducting an experiment in the classroom

For example, a chemistry teacher may also serve as a form teacher or academic coach for students participating in academic competitions with other schools. There may also be circumstances where they’ll need to cover another teacher’s class, such as biology, maths, or physics. 

In general, chemistry teachers have the following tasks that they perform on a regular basis as part of their job responsibilities and duties:

  • Creating lesson plans based on the curriculum: Lesson plans include the outline of the lessons, the objectives, the methods and materials needed, and the references.
  • Preparing and delivering classroom lectures: The main method of teaching is talking to the class, but it can also be augmented with visual aids and multimedia presentations.
  • Designing and supervising laboratory experiments: Textbooks and laboratory activity manuals issued by the school already have the recommended laboratory experiments required by the curriculum. However, chemistry teachers can also be creative in designing some of the laboratory activities themselves.
  • Recording and evaluating the performance of students: Evaluation is generally based on textbook work, class performance, or mock exams.
  • Meeting with parents and discussing their concerns about the students: Regular parents’ evenings, or PTA meetings, are scheduled so that teachers can talk to parents about their child’s progress. Teachers can also call special meetings with parents for individual students depending on their needs.
  • Meetings with other teachers, administrators, and professionals: Regular faculty and staff meetings are also conducted in order to keep everyone up-to-date on school activities, policies, and other concerns. For example, a chemistry teacher may need to discuss an issue about laboratory facilities with someone like the department head, deputy head, or headteacher. 
  • Participating in curricular and extracurricular activities within and outside the school: Sports, educational tours, prom nights, festivals, fundraisers, student government elections, field trips, and academic competitions are among the curricular and extracurricular activities that a school regularly holds each year. A chemistry teacher may be tasked to organise or facilitate one of these events.
  • Attending symposiums and seminars that are intended for career development and improving teaching: Chemistry is a dynamic science that has new discoveries and innovations each year. Consequently, the teaching methodologies about the subject matter may change over time. Therefore, a chemistry teacher must attend seminars and continue educating themselves in order to stay up-to-date with the latest developments. 

How Long Does it Take to Become a Chemistry Teacher?

It may take about three to four years of university education in order for you to become a qualified secondary school chemistry teacher. However, if you want to teach at a university, you’ll first need to earn a Master’s degree in chemistry. You may even be required to earn a PhD. This would add at least two to four more years of graduate studies, but it could be longer depending on the course, the institution, and whether you choose part-time or full-time study.Chemistry students looking at microscopes in a lab

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Chemistry Teacher?

To qualify as a chemistry teacher in the UK, you need to have a university degree in chemistry, or a subject where at least 50% of the topics are focused on chemistry. Additionally, in order to teach students aged between 11 and 16, you’ll need to earn a Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), which will allow you to teach in England or Wales and offers two levels:

  • Key Stage 3: from 11 to 14 year olds
  • Key Stage 4: from 14 to 16 year olds

Meanwhile, if you want to teach in Scotland, you’ll need to earn an Initial Teacher Education (ITE) qualification. After this, you must undergo a one-year probationary period as a teacher.

Northern Ireland is slightly stricter when it comes to the requirements for secondary school teachers. If you want to teach in Northern Ireland, you need a Bachelor of Education degree (BEd) or a one-year Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) from a university in the country. However, if you earned your degree outside the country, you need to apply for approval of your credentials from the General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI).

You can also earn a PGCE as an additional qualification if you’re studying and teaching in England. This is advisable because a PGCE is an internationally-recognised qualification that makes you eligible to teach not only in Northern Ireland, but also in other countries like the USA.

Offer Voluntary Work At Schools

While teaching experience isn’t a requirement for entry level teaching, if you want to sharpen your skills and set yourself apart, you can apply for voluntary work at schools. This will also help you to expand your network of contacts.

Even if you’re still studying at a university, you can always do some voluntary work related to teaching chemistry. For example, you can offer tutorial services in chemistry. Your university might also have a programme related to mentoring or tutoring secondary school students.

You can also do volunteer work at schools as part of your dissertation. For example, you can study the various teaching methods in chemistry in secondary schools. If this interests you, you can ask for guidance from your university’s volunteer and community outreach department. 

What is the Average Chemistry Teacher Salary?

The salary of teachers varies worldwide and depends on the experience, academic qualifications, seniority, and specialisations of the individual. Private schools also have some variations in terms of their compensation packages for chemistry teachers.

Secondary school chemistry teachers in the UK have an average salary of £37,960 per year. Around 72% of chemistry teachers are in full-time employment. Meanwhile, 26% are in part-time positions and 2% are self-employed.

A common school year consists of 39 weeks of teaching for about seven hours a day. However, the duties of a chemistry teacher stretch beyond these hours, and you’ll have to spend some time outside this period preparing lessons, grading students, and taking part in school activities.

Academic Levels For Chemistry Teachers

In the UK, you may apply as a chemistry teacher either in state-maintained schools or in independent schools. The latter include specialised academies, grammar schools, Montessoris, and Steiner Waldorf schools.

Independent schools do not require you to follow the national curriculum, but students may still need to take one of the national exams to qualify for university education or at least be recognised as a qualified secondary school graduate.

A Level Chemistry Teachers

An A level chemistry teacher needs higher qualifications than a GCSE teacher because they’ll be teaching more advanced subjects to older students who want to pursue chemistry or a related science at university level.

The three major categories of subjects taught by an A Level chemistry teacher are:

AQA GCSE Chemistry Teachers

AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance) is registered as a private charity organisation. However, it’s still regulated by the government. It’s an awarding body that is authorised to provide examinations and qualifications for GCSE, AS, and A level subjects, including chemistry. It’s valid in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

You can qualify as an AQA GCSE chemistry teacher if you have taken the necessary subjects in college and have the appropriate accreditation. Some of the chemistry subjects included in the GCSE curriculum include atomic structure and the periodic table; bonding, structure, and the properties of matter; quantitative chemistry, and chemical changes.

Private School Chemistry Teacher Salary

In the UK, the salary of chemistry teachers in independent schools varies depending on the location. Unlike state-maintained schools, the salaries may depend on the capacity of the school to pay their employees. For example, an entry-level salary for a chemistry teacher in a grammar school starts at around £27,000. The salary tends to increase if a school is near to London or any other major cities.


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