In addition to such education programs as the one at UCLA, the University of California system has undertaken a large-scale effort to encourage math and science students to consider teaching as a profession.
During the last school year, the UC system launched California Teach, an initiative sponsored by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and private industry to urge math and science students to consider teaching as a career, said Lynda Goff, director of California Teach and a biology professor at UC Santa Cruz.
"The UC system produces about 5,000 biology students a year, and while a number of these kids go into graduate school, 50% don't go into the biological sciences," Goff said. "But nobody had ever talked to them about teaching; it's crazy."
Boeing, Adobe Systems Inc. and Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc., among several program sponsors, pay for UC students to assist in elementary, middle and high schools throughout their academic careers and set them on a path to becoming full-time teachers.
At UCLA, more than 60 students enrolled in the program's courses, said Kelly J. Worden, academic coordinator for UCLA's California Teach. Students going through the UCLA program assist teachers at schools within Los Angeles Unified.
Although James Beach, 20, has always enjoyed teaching, the California Teach program at UCLA has given him an even better sense of what the profession is like through real classroom experiences. Beach, a junior, is thinking of teaching biology at a public high school in his hometown of San Diego.
At UCLA, Beach has come across many science majors who thought their only option was to go into medicine, but he is hopeful that things are starting to change.
"A lot of it is the prestige and the paycheck; that's what their parents want them to do," Beach said, referring to students considering medical school. "But there are students that are thinking a lot like myself.
"What other job do you get summers off and help kids grow?"