I've just graduated with my BS. I have been offered a job to teach biology at a christian university prep academy. I desperately need the money, and I was raised religiously, so I expect that I will be able to do the job fairly well. However, once I get a stable financial foundation, I want to get a PhD in cell and molecular biology. Will teaching at a Christian high school basically be "career suicide" for me? Will I forget all the complex things I've already learned?

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    First I thought that you are afraid that the Christianity of the university will be a problem. But you are actually talking about forgetting things. Since the latter depends on you and there is no way for us to tell how much you will forget, I voted to close the question. – problemofficer Jul 25 '17 at 18:31
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    Addressing the Christianity aspect: what does the curriculum of the high school look like? Does it conspicuously omit evolution? Teaching high-school biology itself (as long as you work to actively maintain your higher-level knowledge) isn't necessarily a career-killer. But if you are actively misleading students about the field you want to train in, there are going to be major concerns. – AJK Jul 25 '17 at 19:23
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    P.S. - worth considering - how much is the salary you're being offered to teach high school vs the stipend at your local university's PhD program? – AJK Jul 25 '17 at 19:25

Teaching experience is a good thing. If you want to teach again after completing your PhD, the teaching experience will help you get a job.

However, I have doubts about your financial strategy. In most STEM fields, you can expect to get paid more if you have a PhD. The sooner you complete your PhD, the sooner you get the extra pay, and the more years you will keep the extra pay for. I am not knowledgeable about teacher pay, but I suspect that the best American PhD programs pay students only slightly less than typical entry level high school teaching jobs in America.

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    While I agree about the claim that top PhD programs may pay stipends close to high school teaching jobs, it can take a while to get your ducks in a row to get into such a program! Also, even with a stipend, PhD programs can leave you with unexpected expenses - if you can save up a bit first, it'll reduce your risk of dropping out. And in the mean time, a job is better than no job! Maybe the key point is that doing a HS teaching job indefinitely - rather than as a necessary stopgap - is not a great idea financially. – AJK Jul 25 '17 at 22:42

Just Go ahead and teach at the high school and start grad school at the same time. That's what I did. Worked out great. You will continue to enhance your academic experience AND make bank. Without a doubt this is the way to go. (at least for computer scientists)

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    A lot of programs really frown upon external jobs. I couldn't imagine working a separate job while also doing grad school. It would probably take me twice as long and I'd publish half as much. – Austin Henley Jul 25 '17 at 19:43
  • However, in software engineering if you have good quality industry experience you will be far more prepped for graduate school than a recent graduate. I know I was for sure. – Travis Tubbs Jul 25 '17 at 19:46
  • I don't disagree with previous experience being beneficial in grad school (my research is in software engineering). I disagree with working while going to grad school, unless you have very good reasons to do so. A PhD is for learning how to do research. – Austin Henley Jul 25 '17 at 19:47
  • Touche. Example, if you are making 80k per year and your company pays for school, then if the whole phd program takes 6 years then all said and done you would have missed out on $500k and that is includucing minor raises and not even factoring in the tuition assistance and lack of student loans. Also if you have a very high end company that will help push your mind towards more innovative ideas as well. Yes it is harder on the student, I do not disagree with that, but it makes you better. – Travis Tubbs Jul 25 '17 at 19:53
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    Doing masters programs while working in some fields is normal; doing PhDs on the other hand rarely is, unless there is overlap (i.e., some companies will pay for their employees to get an engineering PhD, partly for the training, and partly to gain the benefits of working with a university; in this context it ends up being no different from working on a government academic grant: the work produced for the company and the research are the same). – Bryan Krause Jul 25 '17 at 20:41

A tangential answer: it is true that if you teach X at an institution that makes X be very different from what most professional X-ists think it is, you'll risk being stigmatized. Still, don't "protest too much". But, yes, you'd like to distance yourself from Bad Science, obviously.

Also, yes, teaching high school would typically degrade one's thinking, as I've experienced myself in going from one university to another: one can become lazy by accidentally thinking that ordinary things are "fancy", because naive or uninformed people aren't aware. That is a significant trap.