How Do I Become a High School PE Teacher?

Research what it takes to become a high school physical education (PE) teacher. Learn about the job duties, education requirements, and licensure to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Athletic Coaching degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a High School PE Teacher?

High school physical education (PE) teachers use the curriculum guidelines to develop lesson plans, teach classes and use tests, assignments and exams to assess student progress. Their classes may involve instructing students in the rules of a particular sport, demonstrating a technique used in a sporting activity or leading a game or activity that gives students the opportunity to experience a sport that they're learning about. Other subjects that may be covered in PE class include health, first aid and nutrition. High school PE teachers need a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as physical education, exercise science or kinesiology. All public school teachers also need a teaching license from the state they work in. According the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) most high school teachers work in public or private schools. While the primary focus of a PE teacher is covering the material in the curriculum and assessing their students, they may also have to address behavioral issues with students, and they may meet with parents to discuss a child's performance.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Physical education
Kinesiology
Exercise science
Key ResponsibilitiesInstruction on physical activities
Instruction on health and wellness topics
Coaching a school sports team
Mentoring student athletes
Licensure Required State-issued teaching certification required
Job Growth (2014-2024)6% (for all high school teachers)*
Average Salary (2015) $60,440 (for all high school teachers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do As a High School PE Teacher?

The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) states that high school physical education teachers provide children with instruction on physical activities that can be used throughout their lives (www.aahperd.org). In a high school PE class, you could teach a variety of activities, such as aerobics, biking, running or archery within a single school year. You could also incorporate health and wellness topics within the classes that cover first aid, nutrition and social interaction.

As a high school PE teacher, you might be required to coach at least one organized sport. Sports activities taught in a PE class usually aren't competitive in nature, though as the coach of a sports team, you'll need to provide guidance and endurance training to prepare athletes to compete with other school teams. You'll need to be able to teach specific sport skills, make game decisions and offer mentoring to athletes. You might also deal with budgeting issues, game scheduling and equipment purchasing.

What Education Do I Need?

If you work in a public school, you'll be required to have at least a bachelor's degree and educational training. You can earn your degree in several majors to prepare for a PE teacher job, such as physical education, kinesiology or exercise science. You'll usually receive instruction on how to administer first aid and prevent sports injuries in addition to learning how to teach children in an academic setting. Courses cover specific activity sports, such as basketball, soccer, golf, tennis and football. You might need to provide classroom teaching for understaffed schools.

If you want to teach high school students about wellness topics, you could benefit by taking college health courses. Some schools offer programs that combine physical education and health, satisfying the requirements to teach both subjects. In addition to learning about physical education, you'll learn about school health programs and using exercise therapeutically.

To be a high school coach, you might need to earn a coaching certificate. These certificate programs cover universal coaching topics, such as conditioning, sports administration or playing strategies. You could find programs that focus on specific sports, including swimming, volleyball, tennis, football and soccer. You might need to earn continuing education credits to maintain certification or licensure, which could be satisfied through a certificate program.

What About Licensure?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you'll need to obtain a state-issued teaching license to become a high school PE teacher (www.bls.gov). Each state has its own licensing requirements that usually includes earning at least a bachelor's degree in the subject you wish to teach, as well as education instruction and teaching experience. Some states allow you to possess provisional licensure if you have a bachelor's degree with no educational training, requiring you to obtain the instruction within a specified time period.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Instructional coordinators, middle school teachers and postsecondary teachers all work in the field of education, which is the same field that high school PE teachers work in. Middle school teachers need a bachelor's degree and teaching license, like high school PE teachers. They teach one specific subject, and use the curriculum guidelines to develop lesson plans, teach classes and assess student performance. Instructional coordinators need a master's degree, and they determine the curriculum guidelines for all classes at all grade levels in elementary, middle and high school. Postsecondary teachers instruct college and university students and need a master's or doctoral degree.

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