Physical Education Teacher Career Guide

Physical education (PE) teachers educate students on how to lead healthy lifestyles, from physical activity to nutrition. This guide provides information on what physical education teachers do, how to become one, and the career’s salary and job outlook.

Table of Contents

How to Become
Job Description
Salary & Job Outlook
Additional Resources
Frequently Asked Questions
Related Pages

How to Become a Physical Education Teacher

Degrees that can prepare teachers for this career include Bachelor of Science (BS) or Bachelor of Science in Education (BSEd) degrees in health sciences, kinesiology, or physical education. Courses common to these programs include Theories in Physical Education, Theories in Sports Pedagogy, Team and Individual Sports, Basic Methods of Teaching, and Human Development.

Public school physical education teachers must earn state teacher certification for the grade levels they wish to teach (typically early childhood, elementary, secondary, or K-12). In most states, a four-year bachelor’s degree with an emphasis on physical education will qualify you to sit for the state certification exams. The most common route to a physical education teaching career is:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in health education, physical education, kinesiology, or athletic training from a state-approved program.
  2. Complete a student teaching internship in a physical education setting.
  3. Take your state’s required tests for the physical education endorsement.
  4. Apply for your teaching license.
  5. Begin applying to open PE teacher positions.

Many states also offer alternative certification pathways that may include a master’s in physical education degree. Physical education teachers may also become certified to work with special needs populations using adapted physical education methods for differently-abled students.

Physical Education Teacher Job Description

Physical education teachers inspire their students to live healthy, active lives. PE teachers have unique knowledge of sports and the health sciences and instruct students about sports, physical development, health, and proper nutrition. They teach students about the benefits of physical activity for their bodies and overall health and well-being. PE teachers also plan activities that help make exercise-based learning more engaging for students.

Common Tasks

Physical education teacher jobs typically require instructors to be physically fit and active. They are responsible for organizing activities and curriculum, including the preparation and maintenance of gym equipment. Some PE teachers are also responsible for teaching health classes in middle schools and high schools. Many PE teachers also participate in coaching activities for school sports teams and may also be faculty advisors for student clubs.

Helpful Skills and Experience

A physical education teacher must be able to communicate health concepts to students in various age groups. Experience in sports and physical fitness is a definite plus. Knowledge of team dynamics, kinesiology, and nutrition can help new physical education teachers find employment.

Teacher Quote: “So what’s the best way to sell a lesson? You show your students how and why it’s cool and worth learning. So many teachers just…teach, but never let their students know why what they’re learning is worth learning. They don’t sell it. They don’t use their enthusiasm, their passion, or their humor to show their students how gnarly or scary or fun or super cool it is to make coil pots, play Hot Cross Buns on a recorder, or throw a Frisbee through a rolling hula hoop. And this makes all the difference.” –Michael Linsin, Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers

Physical Education Teacher Salary and Job Outlook

The following teacher salaries are reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and serve as proxies for PE teachers:

  • Elementary school teachers: Median salary: $61,690 / 90th percentile: $101,3101
  • Middle school teachers: Median salary: $61,810 / 90th percentile: $100,5702
  • High school teachers: Median salary: $62,360 / 90th percentile: $101,7103

The exact earning potential depends on factors such as the level of the school (such as elementary, middle, high school, or college), the location of the school, and the teacher’s education and experience. Job growth for teachers is expected to be positive, with a projected job growth rate of 3-5% through 2031.4-6

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Answer: To teach in public schools, physical education teachers should hold state-level teacher certification with a subject endorsement in PE. There are also 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 Occupational Employment and Wages, Elementary School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252021.htm
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252022.htm
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wages, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes252031.htm
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm
5. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Middle School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm
6. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, High School Teachers: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm