Missouri State University
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Physics Education

Department of Physics, Astronomy, and Materials Sciences 

For More Information

Department Head

Missouri State University
901 South National Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65897
Office: 417-836-5131
Fax: 417-836-6226
Email: Physics@missouristate.edu

Career Preparation

High school physics teachers help their students learn about the natural world and how it works. Math skills and physics knowledge combine to find patterns in the natural phenomena that allow scientists to seek an understanding of nature - from the structure of atoms to the nature of stars. Majors in physics education must become skilled both in using knowledge of physics and in engaging students in learning physics. Students may major in physics education either as preparation for graduate study in science education or a preparation for a secondary school teaching position. Career specialties include teaching physics and doing physics education research. 

Academic Program

To prepare for a career in physics education, students should take as many units of mathematics, physics and computer science as possible while still in high school. Note that it is possible to major in physics education without a high school physics background, but it usually takes longer. At Missouri State, students may earn a Bachelor of Science in Education degree with an emphasis in physics. By completing course prerequisites students will be close to a minor in math and may want to choose that option. Elective courses are available, allowing the student to further explore topics of interest in physics, astronomy, and other sciences, such as meteorology, geology, biology and chemistry.


The following is a selected list of courses. Please consult the Missouri State Catalog for course descriptions and specific degree requirements. Also available online at www.missouristate.edu/catalog.

Required Courses

  • AST 115: Basic Astronomy
  • PHY 100: Survey of Physics w/lab
  • PHY 203: Foundations of Physics I
  • PHY 204: Foundations of Physics II
  • PHY 375: Twentieth Century Physics I
  • PHY 385: Experiments in Twentieth Century Physics
  • PHY 509: Topics In Physics
  • BIO 121: General Biology
  • CHM 160: General Chemistry
  • GRY 108: Ecology and Society
  • CSC 111: Computers
  • SCI 414: Methods in Science Teaching
  • SCI 505: History of Science and Technology

Elective Courses

  • AST 311: Astronomical Techniques
  • AST 313: The New Solar Systems
  • AST 315: The Lives and Deaths of Stars
  • AST 317: Our Universe, The Final Frontier
  • PHY 252: Introduction to Circuit Analysis
  • PHY 324: Instrumental Computer Interfacing
  • PHY 333: Intermediate Mechanics
  • PHY 343: Thermodynamics
  • PHY 352: Electronic Circuit Design
  • PHY 353: Elementary Field Theory
  • PHY 373: Radiation Physics
  • PHY 463: Physical Optics
  • PHY 475: Introduction to Solid State Physics
  • PHY 476: Twentieth Century Physics II
  • PHY 485: Advanced Experimental Methods


The Department of Physics, Astronomy and Materials Science has 16 full-time faculty members. Five faculty members specialize in physics education and physics education research. Their research interests include conceptual understanding in physics, chaos theory for teachers, computer simulations, web-based instruction, history of physics, effective strategies to promote physics learning and development of research-based instructional materials.

In addition, the physics education faculty are dedicated to developing skilled and knowledgeable educators. All are interested in their students and in helping students develop skills in teaching, assessment, research, presentation, grant writing and professional conduct. Funding is available for travel to national conventions for networking with other educators and for presentations of the student’s research. Students are mentored by all of the faculty, who provide help with detailed questions and who provide, by personal example, models of caring and professional educators.


Departmental facilities include use of the Missouri State server as well as a departmental computer lab. The Baker Observatory allows state-of-the-art astronomical observation and research. Well-equipped labs include storage oscilloscopes, lasers and optical components.


The department sponsors a chapter of the national Society of Physics Students (SPS) and a chapter of the national physics honor society, Sigma Pi Sigma. SPS members organize and participate in a number of departmental activities, including physics competitions for high school students, tutoring assistance and seminars by guest speakers. Physics students often find part-time employment in the department and may participate in the university’s Cooperative Education program. The department sponsors a Work Grant program to foster student research.

Sample Schedule

Missouri State is committed to assisting students to graduate in four years--see sample graduation plans for this major.

The following is a sample schedule for this major--your actual schedule will vary.

First Semester Courses Hours
MTH 261 Analytic Geometry and Calculus I 5
CSC 111 Introduction to Computing 3
ENG 110 Writing I 3
GEP 101 First-Year Foundations 2
PHY 100 Survey of Physics with Laboratory 4
KIN 100 Fitness for Living 2
Total Hours 18
Second Semester Courses Hours
BIO 121 General Biology I 4
MTH 280 Analytic Geometry and Calculus II 5
PHY 203 Foundations of Physics I 5
PSY 121 Introductory Psychology 3
Total Hours 17

Sophomore Year

First Semester Courses Hours
MTH 302 Multivariate Calculus 3
PHY 204 Foundations of Physics II 5
COM 115 Fundamentals of Public Speaking 3
SCI 214 Introduction to Science Teaching in the 21st Century 1
ENG 321 Writing II Beginning Technical Writing 3
Total Hours 17
Second Semester Courses Hours
AST 115 Basic Astronomy 4
SEC 302 General Methods of Instruction in the Middle and Secondary Schools 4
PSY 360 Educational Psychology 3
Humanities B Course 3
SCI 314 Techniques and Technology in Science Laboratory Teaching 3
PLS 101 American Democracy and Citizenship 3
Total Hours 18

Junior Year

First Semester Courses Hours
CHM 160 General Chemistry I 4
SPE 340 Educational Alternative for Exceptional Students 2
PHY 375 Modern Physics 3
PHY 509 Special Topics in Physics and Astronomy 1-3
EDT 365 Educational Applications of Technology and Media 3
PHY Elective 3
Total Hours 18
Second Semester Courses Hours
HST 121 Survey of the History of the United States to 1877 3
SCI 505 Intellectual Foundations of Science and Technology 3
PHY 385 Experiments in Modern Physics 2
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RDG 474 Reading and Writing in the Content Fields 2
GRY 108 Principles of Sustainability 3
Total Hours 16

Senior Year

First Semester Courses Hours
SCI 414 Teaching of Secondary School Natural Science 3
PHY Elective 6
Creativity Course 3
Humanity C 3
Total Hours 15
Second Semester Courses Hours
SEC 493 Supervised Teaching (Secondary) 5-6
SEC 494 Supervised Teaching (Secondary) 5-6
Total Hours 12