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Frequently Asked Questions

This page addresses a number of science education questions that students have asked us.


Can I take required courses in both the Fall and Spring semesters?

Beginning in 2012, program requirements will differ for undergraduate and graduate certification candidates. All certification candidates will continue to take SCIED 411, which is offered both fall and spring semesters. Undergraduate candidates will later take SCIED 412 (Fall semester only), followed by student teaching (C I 495E) in the Spring semester. Graduate certification candidates will take SCIED 512 (Spring semester only), followed by a graduate teaching internship (C I 595) in the Fall semester. Note that students who begin their certification studies as undergraduates but plan to complete them at the graduate level (e.g., IUG students) should pursue the graduate option (SCIED 512 + C I 595).

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What are the colored Checksheets and which version should I use?

The colored Checksheets list the requirements for certification for undergraduate SECED majors. There are different versions for different subjects (e.g., Chemistry, Biology). Because university programs (and Commonwealth certification rules) change from time to time, new versions of the Checksheet are published each year. Generally speaking, you should refer to the Checksheet edition whose "Effective Date" matches the year you were admitted to the major. You have the option of using a more recent Checksheet, but if you do, bear in mind that you can't pick and choose requirements from different editions because changes to one requirement are often linked to other changes on the same Checksheet (e.g., one Bio course is dropped because another is added).

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Can I take a required course at another university during the summer? How do I get the credits acknowledged by Penn State?

Prior to taking the course, check with your adviser regarding the suitability of the replacement course. If your adviser okays the substitution, complete a Transfer Evaluation Form (available in 228 Chambers). It's best to do this before you take the course. After the course is completed, request that a transcript with your grade be sent from the other university to the Admissions Office, 201 Shields Building. If you follow these steps, you should not have to petition to have the requirement "register" on your degree audit.

If you do not submit the Transfer Evaluation Form ahead of time, you may still be able to count the course. Have a transcript sent to 201 Shields (as above), then submit a petition through your adviser.

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One of the certification requirements is a course in "Literature." What does this mean?

Could you please explain the "80 hours of work experience" requirement?

The 80 hours can be volunteer or paid work and may include working with the a group of students preparing for the science Olympiad, volunteering at the special Olympics, working in a summer camp, volunteering at school, volunteering for any number of social service providers, or any other worthwhile experience working with students in the age groups you plan to teach.

Students planning to major in SECED must complete the requirement prior to admission to the major. Students pursuing certification at the graduate level have a little more flexibility, but the hours must be documented in the same fashion.

There is some flexibility in identifying learners whose cultural, social, or ethnic backgrounds differ from your own. You should seek a setting where this possibility exists. In addition to differences in ethnicity, race, language background, you may find differences working with students who have special learning needs, such as students who are at-risk, have learning disabilities, mental retardation, autism, or a hearing, visual, or physical impairment.

Your work plan will not be approved before the service, but you can discuss your proposed plans with your academic adviser to get a sense of the expectations.

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When should I take the Pennsylvania teacher exams?

If you've been admitted to the program as an undergraduate, you've already taken the PRAXIS PPST exams (old requirement) or the PECT PAPA exam (the Reading, Mathematics, and Writing modules). If you start the program as a graduate student, you do not need to take the PAPA (this is a new exemption in 2012). All certification candidates: Take the PRAXIS content exam(s) in your certification subject(s) prior to your student teaching semester, if possible. You can take the content exam(s) during student teaching, if necessary. Pennsylvania makes frequent changes to its testing requirements; for more up-to-date information, check here and here.

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Do I need to obtain certification in First Aid and CPR?

Yes. The program accepts two forms of evidence that you are certified in First Aid and CPR:  (1) You have passed NURS 203 and it shows on your transcript, or  (2) You provide photocopies of certification cards when you submit your application for teacher certification. You can also obtain this training from an American Red Cross chapter; many offer short training courses regularly. Use the "Find Your Local Red Cross" tool at the Red Cross website. Other questions about this requirement may be directed to Ms. Tiffany Benner in 228 Chambers.

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(Undergrad question) My degree audit says I need 3 credits in "Intercultural and International Competence." What courses count toward this requirement?

This is a University requirement that will show up on a degree audit but does not appear on the Checksheets (there isn't enough room). Any course with a US or IL notation in the bulletin is acceptable. You may want to refer to the University listing online. There is a link to the Intercultural and International Competence requirement on the left side of the screen. Consider choosing a course that does double duty in your program. For example, there are a couple of 400-level EDTHP courses that carry the IL notation.

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(Undergrad question) Do extra credits in GQ and GN "migrate" elsewhere? I think my old adviser told me that they would automatically reduce the number of credits I need to take in "Supporting Courses & Related Areas."

They can migrate to "Supporting Courses & Related Areas," if these extra courses fulfill the intention of supporting area requirements.

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What is the meaning of life?

For what it's worth, Wikipedia defines "life" as an entity that exhibits growth, metabolism, motion, reproduction, and response to stimuli; and which consists of cells. They also suggest checking this article and Monty Python's answer.

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Can I get certified to teach while working on a master's degree in science education?

College graduates with undergraduate degrees in scientific subjects can complete certification requirements while pursuing an M.S. or M.Ed. degree. For more information, consult the document, Certification Options.

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If I already have a bachelor's degree, can I get certified to teach without working on a master's degree in science education?

Yes, you can get certified without being in a SCIED graduate degree program if you already have a graduate degree in a relevant field (e.g., education, biology, chemical engineering; but not business, art, or French) or if you are pursuing a graduate degree in a relevant field other than science education.

Graduate students who have not earned a master's degree are rarely permitted to seek certification through our program unless they enroll in a Penn State degree program, such as the M.Ed. in SCIED. There are "cert-only" programs at other Pennsylvania universities; however, we feel that if you're paying for a graduate education, you should be working on a degree. You are more likely to receive financial aid, will get a better education, and are less likely to run into certification or pay-grade issues later in your career.

Occasionally, we will provisionally admit a student for a semester as "cert-only" if they wish to begin selected course work but have not yet been admitted to a graduate program (e.g., they are awaiting their GRE scores). Provisional admission is temporary, and generally extends for only one semester.

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Can credits I earn toward a master's "with certification" count toward the 24-credit requirement of Pennsylvania's Level II certificate?

Yes. The Level II certificate requires that you earn at least 24 credits after you complete your baccalaureate degree. Those credits may be part of an initial certification program.

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What is a "Letter of Equivalency for a Master's Degree?"

Teachers with significant amounts of postbaccalaureate course work may be eligible for a Pennsylvania-issued "Letter of Equivalency for a Master's Degree," even if those credits were taken at different universities and did not result in a master's degree. Sometimes (e.g., for some school salary schedules), the Letter is considered equivalent to a master's degree. However, the Letter is not considered an "earned master's degree" for the purposes of initial licensure, according to the  PA Bureau of Certification FAQ page (that page has a great deal of information on Pennsylvania teacher certification). If you are considering teaching in another state or some day pursuing a doctorate, you may want to do some research on your own concerning the relative merits of earning a master's or a Letter of Equivalency. We discourage the "letter of equivalency" option.

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I currently have a full-time job. Can I pursue certification part-time?

Yes, you can, but not the entire program. Bear in mind that you're getting certified to teach, and we require extensive clinical work in schools. The two semesters that are likely to be most challenging are the student-teaching semester (this is a full-time commitment, and you would need to take a leave of absence from your employment) and the semester that usually precedes student-teaching, when you will be enrolled in SCIED 412 or SCIED 512, and will be occupied from 8 a.m. - noon for most the semester. Some of that time will be spent in schools. See also the diagram at the bottom of this page.

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How many semesters will it take to complete certification as a graduate student?

The "critical path" for certification in our program is three semesters. What that means is that no matter how cleverly you plan, your program will require at least three academic semesters. The courses that make up the critical path are diagrammed below. The sequence must be taken in order, but the semesters do not need to be consecutive; that is, you could take SCIED 411 in the spring, then take SCIED 512 the following spring. Please note that there are a number of other required courses, but they need not be taken in any particular sequence and may be available during the summer, in the evening, or through Penn State Online.

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The Critical Path

The SCIED 411 Semester
SCIED 411 (3 credits)
Notes: SCIED 411 meets on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. It is offered both Fall and Spring semesters. You can take any other required courses during this semester, except those shown elsewhere in this diagram.

The 512 Semester
SCIED 412 (3 cr., Fall only) or SCIED 512 (3 cr. Spring only)
Notes: Fieldwork associated with this course will occupy your entire mornings during parts of the semester, so you should not enroll in other morning courses unless they are specially scheduled to avoid conflict (e.g., SCIED 457). You may, or course, enroll in other courses in the afternoon or evening. Seniors with GPAs above 3.5 may take SCIED 512 with the permission of the instructor. Students with GPAs of 3.0 - 3.49 may also enroll in SCIED 512 with the instructor's permission AND University approval of a written petition. SECED undergraduates should normally take SCIED 412 (Fall). Graduate students and IUG students should take SCIED 512 (Spring) instead.

The Student Teaching Semester
C I 495E (15 cr.) Spring only, for undergraduate certification candidates, OR
C I 595 (12 cr.) PLUS SCIED 558 (3 cr.) Fall only, for graduate candidates.

Notes: Student teaching is a full-time obligation and you should not take other courses or plan to work during this semester.

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