Physical Education Teacher Career Guide

Physical education teachers educate children and adolescents on the many aspects of leading healthy lifestyles, from physical activity to nutrition. A physical education teacher should enjoy the active lifestyle and be able to communicate health concepts to students in various age groups. This guide provides further information on what physical education teachers do, how to become a physical education teacher, and physical education teacher salary and outlook.

Physical Education Teacher Job Description

A physical education teacher instructs students about sports, physical development, health and proper nutrition. A PE teacher has a basic knowledge of both sports and health sciences. Physical education teachers show students not only how to play various sports, but also how physical activity benefits the muscles and overall health. PE teachers also plan activities that help make exercise-based learning more engaging for students.

Physical Education Teacher Requirements and Common Tasks

Physical education teacher jobs require that instructors be physically fit and active as they will typically lead multiple classes and activities across the school day. They work indoors and outdoors, teaching students how to play various sports and how to exercise. They are responsible for organizing activities and curriculum, including the preparation and maintenance of gym equipment. PE teachers should have knowledge about many sports and basic health and nutrition for all developmental levels. A solid background in sports and communication skills is a definite plus. Most physical education teachers hold a four year degree in teaching exercise science or related subjects. Many PE teachers also participate in coaching activities for school sports teams and may be faculty advisors for student clubs.

How to Become a Physical Education Teacher

How to become a physical education teacher includes obtaining a four-year bachelor degree in physical education and athletic training. Some of the degrees that prepare a person for this career include a Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences, a Bachelor of Science in Health and Wellness, a Master of Healthcare Administration and a Master of Public Health. Courses available to persons wanting to become a PE teacher include Theories in Physical Education, Theories in Sport Pedagogy, Team and Individual Sports, Basic Methods of Teaching, Human Development and Teaching Physical Education to the Physically Impaired Child.

Physical education teachers must also earn state teacher certification for the grade levels they wish to teach. In most states, a four year bachelor’s degree in teaching with an emphasis on physical education will qualify an individual to sit for the state certification exams. There are several categories of certification that a physical education teacher can pursue, which are based on the grade levels to be taught (early childhood, elementary, secondary, or K-12) and the individual’s academic background. Physical education teachers may also become certified to work with special populations using adapted physical education methods for differently abled students.

Physical Education Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

A PE teacher’s salary is similar to other teacher salaries, ranging from about $53,400 per year at the elementary school level to $55,050 per year at the secondary school level.1, 2 The exact salary varies depending on many factors such as the level of the school (such as elementary, middle, high school or college), the school where the teacher will be working, the city or town that the school is in, and the teacher’s experience. Job growth for teachers is expected to be positive, with a projected job growth rate of 12% for elementary school teachers through 2022 and a projected job growth rate of 11% for secondary school teachers.1, 2

There is a demand for suitable physical education teachers who have exceptional ability in physical education and knowledge in health and nutrition. The goal of a physical education teacher is to promote physical fitness and to teach students the value of proper health and eating habits. Good PE teachers are role models for their students, and as such, should demonstrate all the attributes of good health and fitness. Physical education teachers inspire their students to live healthy, active lives.

Helpful Skills and Experience

Physical fitness, experience in team sports, and strong interpersonal and communication skills provide a good foundation for aspiring physical education teachers. Knowledge of team dynamics, kinesiology, and age-level appropriate nutrition can help new physical education teachers find employment.

Additional Resources

Shape America – The national professional organization for health and physical educators at all grade levels. In addition to publishing standards and guidelines for PE, Shape America also provides workshops and other continuing education opportunities.

Physical Education and Health Teaching Degrees and Programs

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Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a Physical Education Teacher

Question: Do I need certification to become a physical education teacher?

Answer: To teach in public schools, physical education teachers should hold subject endorsement in PE. There are alternate pathways to certification and waivers may occasionally be granted. You can check with your state Board of Education or college program for further information on certification requirements in your state.

Question: What types of courses do PE teachers need to take?

Answer: The courses required vary according to the degree earned, but most physical education teacher preparation programs include courses in child development, kinesiology, nutrition, and exercise science.

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm