K-12 Education

What it is

Teaching science, math, and/or engineering to children and youths in formal K-12 school settings, or, less obviously, participating in the K-12 education process from outside the classroom: tutoring, curriculum development or teacher professional development. Some informal science institutions (museums, zoos, non-profit educational organizations) and universities hire STEM PhDs to provide educational outreach services to K-12 teachers and students.

Starting points

With experience teaching kids, and geographical flexibility, a PhD can get a teaching job in an independent/private school. With extra credentialing, one can also teach in public schools. Charter schools are founded on models that can be like private or like public schools, so requirements can vary accordingly. STEM teachers are in demand, so depending on your geographical area, you may be given an emergency credential. Tutoring provides another starting point: you can work for a tutoring company, or freelance. Some organized homeschooling families hire freelance STEM teachers to teach small groups of their K-12 aged students of multiple ages.


Though salaries are modest, teachers can move up through multiple pay grades and can eventually become head of the science department, a science or math curriculum coordinator, or with still more credentialing, perhaps ultimately Principal or Head of School. Teachers do have school vacations and holidays off (although this varies by school).


All STEM disciplines are welcome in the K-12 world.

Personality and outlook

Obviously you must really enjoy teaching children or youths! And you must be versatile in your subject matter: you will probably teach STEM subjects other than your primary specialty. Extroversion is extremely helpful. For no matter what your exact role, you will constantly be interacting with students, parents and colleagues. Still, some introverts find ways to thrive.


Seek out paid and volunteer experiences that involve this kind of teaching. Take a child development course or two. Do informational interviews and classroom observations with science and math teachers in your local area. Inquire about subbing. Learn about the hiring processes of public, private, and charter schools.

Real Life Examples