SUNY Potsdam’s Newest Online Grad Program Helps Address Teacher Shortage in Middle/Secondary Science Education
SUNY Potsdam is adding to its growing list of virtual graduate programs, with a new 100 percent online option for the College’s longstanding Master of Science in Teaching (MST) degree in adolescence education: science, which leads to certification in Grades 7 to 12.
The program allows aspiring educators with undergraduate degrees in a scientific field to enter the rewarding and growing field of science education, with just three semesters of full-time study. No GRE scores or prior teaching experience are necessary, and students can begin their graduate work as soon as Summer 2023. Applications are now being accepted.
“One of the best features of the program is the short timeframe. If you are coming in with your bachelor’s, you can start in the summer full time right away. Then, you study in the fall and complete your student teaching in the next spring semester, and you’re done in one year. Our graduates are finishing up their field placements and coursework in March and April, just before schools are hiring in May and June,” said Secondary Science Instructor Melissa Cummings, who directs the program.
Specializations in biology, chemistry, earth science and physics are available. Students can complete two specializations, depending on their background and passions, or add an extended certification for Grades 5 and 6, to broaden their career options.
The projected job growth for science educators is 4 percent nationwide through 2028, and there are currently more than 71,000 active science teacher openings in the U.S. based on job postings, according to analysis by Zippia.com. The U.S. Department of Education has designated science education as one of a dozen teacher shortage areas in New York State.
“Right now, science teachers are a hot commodity. If you’re a science teacher, you can almost write your ticket to where you want to be and what you want to teach,” Cummings said. “It’s a great field for people who love science and want to share that. You can impact young lives.”
As a result, teacher candidates are sometimes being recruited right from their field placements before graduation, Cummings said. Others are completing their degrees while working. Either way, faculty work to personalize each student’s schedule to fit their goals.
Cadence Hunkins ’23 is a great example of that collaboration. A recent graduate of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, she was recruited to take a long-term substitute position at her K-12 alma mater, Norwood-Norfolk Central School. Once she completes her degree, the district hopes to hire her permanently for a biology teaching position.
“The MST program helps you figure out how to make lesson plans and teaches you classroom management skills. Being fully online is great. It makes it more accommodating for people that might not be able to travel up to Potsdam. If you ever feel stressed or overwhelmed, all the professors at SUNY Potsdam are very encouraging."
For Cummings, who was previously a science educator at Norwood-Norfolk herself, her work has come full circle—as she helps one of her former students enter the profession she loves so much.
“Because the program is now online, that allows us even more flexibility that we didn’t have before. We have been able to modify the course of study for students who are working at the same time. We’re willing to work with the schools and with the students to make modifications so it’s smoother for them,” Cummings said.
Since candidates come in with their science background already, the focus of the program is research-based teaching practices and classroom management skills, showing the future educators how to use creative approaches and technology to engage students.
SUNY Potsdam undergraduates graduating with majors in biology, chemistry, geology or physics can go straight into the program through the College’s combined BA/MST program—giving the option of completing their final year of graduate studies online, anywhere in the world.
“Some students live at home while they study or student teach, so they don’t have to worry about rent. Most of our students get a second certification in a different science or add the Grades 5 and 6 extension, so that they get more for their money,” Cummings said.
Upon completion, candidates will be recommended for their New York State Initial/Professional Certification in Adolescence Education (Grades 7-12), Science (biology, chemistry, earth science or physics).
Student teaching field work and the culminating student teaching internship requirements are coordinated by the SUNY Potsdam Center for School Partnerships and Teacher Certification, which works with candidates to find appropriate placements with schools wherever they are located. For Canadian students, SUNY Potsdam’s School of Education and Professional Studies can assist graduates who seek to earn their Ontario certification as well.
The program is nationally accredited through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
The School of Education and Professional Studies at SUNY Potsdam has been preparing educators for more than 200 years. Today, that legacy of educational excellence also stretches to undergraduate and graduate programs in business administration, public health and human performance, to help students prepare for professions in the global economy. For more information, visit https://www.potsdam.edu/academics/SOEPS.
About SUNY Potsdam:
Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit www.potsdam.edu.