Secondary Education Certification

Secondary Education Certification Master of Arts Teaching (M.A.T.) - Biology

About Biology 7–12 Teaching Certification

From anatomy to zoology, spark scientific imagination.

Embark on a rewarding teaching career. This comprehensive graduate program at PennWest California results in Level I teaching certification and a master's degree in biology education. Designed for professional biologists, but open to bachelor's degree holders in any field, it combines core courses in pedagogy with teaching instruction specific to life science.  

You'll graduate ready to teach biology to grades 7-12 in Pennsylvania and beyond.

PennWest California takes a time-honored approach to teacher education. 

  • Founded as a teacher's college, PennWest California has a 160-year reputation of producing top-quality educators.
  • PennWest California's teaching programs are approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In addition, PennWest California education programs have been accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) since 1954, and we are continuing with the successor organization, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).
  • Secondary education students gain extensive real-word teaching experience in Pennsylvania


PennWest California's teaching programs are approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. In addition, the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) accredits PennWest California. CAEP promotes excellence in educator preparation through quality assurance and continuous improvement. See CAEP reporting measures of program impact and outcomes.



Flexible Schedule: A combination of online courses, on-site field experiences and a two-day, on-campus summer residency gives biology education graduate students the flexibility to continue working while earning their degree.

Students that need additional coursework to fulfill the Pennsylvania Department of Education Requirements may need to take on-campus courses.See CAEP reporting measures of program impact and outcomes.


semesters are needed to complete Pennsylvania level I secondary education certification and obtain your master's degree ­- four semesters of classes and one semester of student teaching.
average annual salary for secondary education teachers in Pennsylvania. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Degree Benefits

Graduate degree courses in biology education will give you mastery of the latest practices and theories in teaching science while deepening your expertise of biology and related disciplines. You'll also gain extensive hands-on experience through fieldwork and student teaching.

  • Study science and biology curriculum development techniques and how to use the Standards Aligned System (SAS).
  • Learn top strategies in classroom management.
  • Master classroom technology for teaching biology.
  • Deepen your knowledge of genetics, chemistry, anatomy, ecology and other scientific disciplines.
  • Gain real-world classroom experience.
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Graduate Outcomes

Graduates of this master's degree program are prepared to teach biology or life science in middle and high schools. They also thrive in many other biology-related careers. PennWest California biology education alumni teach in dozens of schools across the country and hold positions as science program coordinators, evaluators and curriculum specialists.


Curriculum, Admission Requirements and Related Programs

Rigorous biology education courses will deepen your scientific knowledge base while equipping you with the latest theories and practices in biology and life science education. This professional graduate degree program is delivered online, on-site at assigned field experiences and on campus during a two-day residency. All students are required to have current school clearances to participate in field experience and sign up for courses.



Course Credits
Required Courses
MSE 641  Orientation to 7-12 Education 3
MSE 642  Standards-Based Instruction in 7-12 Education 3
MSE 643  Content Area Literacy 3
MSE 644  Instructional Strategies in 7-12 3
MSE 645  Technology Integration in 7-12 Education 3
MSE 646  Assessments and Interventions 3
MSE 647  Classroom Management in 7-12 Education 3
MSE 653  Methods of Science Teaching 7-12 3
MSE 661  Student Teaching 9
Total Credits 33

Undergraduate Content Course Requirements

Certification requirements for the Pennsylvania Department of Education include appropriate certification testing. A minimum of 30 credits of content area coursework is required. These courses may be taken at the undergraduate level. Students must demonstrate college coursework with a grade of C or higher in:

  • Chemistry with lab
  • Physics with lab
  • Genetics
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Ecology
  • Zoology
  • Botany
  • Cellular or molecular
  • Biology lab experiences

Note: Pennsylvania Department of Education requirements are subject to change.

Chapter 49-2

Chapter 49-2 requirements (12 credits) mandated by the Pennsylvania Department of Education must be met in order to receive certification. Courses may be satisfied with previously taken undergraduate or graduate courses, subject to approval of the program coordinator. Undergraduate 49-2 courses cannot be accepted for the graduate special education add-on certification program for students who later complete that program. If not already completed, the following courses are needed in addition to the requirements above:

  • ESP 610  Special Education Foundations and Collaboration
  • ESP 701  Introduction to Behavior Analysis
  • ESP 613  Evidence-based Practices in Secondary Inclusion
  • EDU 650  Supporting the English Language Learner

Student Teaching

Applications for spring student teaching are due October 1. Applications for fall student teaching are due April 1.

Student teaching requirements include:

  • A GPA of 3.0 or higher for all courses, including undergraduate content course requirements
  • A grade of C or higher for all required courses
  • Completion of all required courses prior to student teaching
  • Required clearances
  • No incomplete (I) grades
  • Passing of required Praxis tests
  • TB tests
  • Liability insurance
  • Education requirements, such as seminars and portfolios

Program Notes

  • The summer courses require a two-day residency in July.
  • Clearances are required at all times throughout the program and must be updated every July.
  • LiveText Watermark software is required for this program. 



Admission Requirements

Regular Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor's degree with a GPA of 2.80 or higher (Students with a GPA below 2.80 may apply for conditional admission)
  • Official transcripts from an accredited undergraduate institution

Conditional Admission Requirements

  • Conditional Admission may be granted with the following modifications of the Regular Admissions Requirements:
    • Bachelor's degree with a GPA under 2.80 will be reviewed for a decision

Provisional Admission:
Applicants who have provided unofficial documentation of test scores, prerequisite courses, transcripts or lack of letter(s) of recommendation may be admitted provisionally.

This policy also applies to undergraduate students who apply for graduate admission pending bachelor degree completion. Upon receipt of all official documents, a student will be changed from Provisional Admission to either Regular Admission or Conditional Admission. Provisional Admission students may take classes for one term but will not be eligible for Federal Financial Aid.

Program Requirements

    • Depending on the area of certification chosen, the department will provide guidance if any foundation undergraduate courses need to be completed before applying for student teaching
  • Clearances:  Students are responsible for updating clearances annually through the Office of Field Experience.  In addition, clearances must be on file before applying for student teaching  - Acts 24, 34, 114, and 151

How to Apply:

School of Graduate Studies and Research
PennWest California
Box 91
250 University Ave. 
California, PA 15419 

For additional information:
Phone: 724-938-4187

Out of State Students:
All students who will be seeking certification outside of Pennsylvania are responsible for securing and following the certification requirements in the state in which they intend to apply for certification.

Related Programs


High school professors work outside.

Experienced Professors

Learn best practices for teaching science from professors with real-world experience, such as Dr. Joseph Zisk who has taught high school biology and was a district-wide K-12 science and technology superior.

A science teacher in front of a biology lab.

Land a Job Before Graduation

If offered a teaching job while enrolled in the secondary education master's degree program, biology education students can apply for the Teacher Intern Certification program. This allows you to work full time as a teacher before certification, and use your job to fulfill field placement requirements.

A PennWest California student rides his bike on campus.

Course Spotlight: Methods of Science Education

Biology can be a daunting subject for middle and high school students. In this course you'll learn proven methods for teaching scientific concepts that will help your students understand and absorb key principles while igniting their wonder for the natural world.


Biology Certification Faculty

Dr. Marcia Hoover
Professor; field coordinator, Department of Secondary Education and Administrative Leadership

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Dr. Connie Monroe

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Dr. Susan Morris-Rutledge
Associate Professor and ESL Program Coordinator

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Dr. Michael Perrotti
Education Department Chair; University-Wide Curriculum Committee Chair; Associate Professor

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Michael Ulderich
Assistant Professor

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Please Note: All students who will be seeking licensure/certification outside of Pennsylvania should consult the State Authorization web page for more information.