Physical Education (PE) Degree Programs and Certifications

Learn about undergraduate and graduate degree options in physical education (PE), including courses and student teaching requirements. Find out about licensure and certification for PE teachers. Schools offering Exercise Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Education Do I Need to Become a PE Teacher?

To work in physical education at the elementary or secondary level, you only need a bachelor's degree and a teaching license. You can most commonly earn a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Science or Bachelor of Science in Physical Education; however, you may participate in a program geared toward health and wellness with education as a secondary focus. Some bachelor's degree programs divide into specialty groups for teachers by grade levels, like K-6 or 7-12. If you're looking to teach at a college level, a master's degree program is a requirement.

Getting Qualified Bachelor's degree and teaching license; some programs allow for specialization by grade levels; college level teaching requires a master's degree
Common Courses Health education, coaching practices, first aid and CPR, movement
Graduate Programs Online options available; usually require 2 years of study; only required for college level teaching
Getting Certified Licensure required in every state for public school teaching posts; private schools may not; secondary and voluntary certification optional; requirements depend on grade level and employer
Median Salary (2018) $57,980 (for all kindergarten and elementary teachers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 7% growth (for all kindergarten and elementary teachers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Courses Will I Take?

Courses vary depending on the school level in which you hope to work. For example, an elementary school PE teacher may be required to take a more active role in coaching courses, whereas a college-level PE teacher may take a more physical fitness and training approach. At the bachelor's degree level, you likely have to complete student-teaching experiences to prepare for your instructor certification. Undergraduate physical education classes often cover:

  • Health education
  • Coaching practices
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • First aid and CPR
  • Movement

Are Advanced Degrees Available?

Advanced degree options are available, and you can even complete some programs online. Most of your options require that you already have a bachelor's degree and teacher certification for grades K-12. Graduate programs usually last two years. Some employers don't require that you earn an advanced degree in physical education, but attaining a master's degree may be necessary to work as a PE teacher at the college level.

Do I Need To Earn Certification?

All public school teachers must be licensed by their state of employment, which also dictates the requirements for achieving and transferring licensure. Private employers may not require certification. PE teachers can also seek secondary, voluntary certification through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). Eligibility requirements include a bachelor's degree, a certain amount of teaching experience and a valid teaching license. The certification you earn may be dependent on what grade level you wish to teach or what a specific employer is seeking. Your certification process is complete once you successfully pass an exam; recertification options are also available.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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