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Physical Education Teacher: Job Description, Salary
Teaching Careers Updated November 14, 2017

Physical Education Teacher: Job and Salary Information for P.E. Teachers

By Eric Gill October 4, 2012

Physical education teachers have an important job — not only are P.E. teachers responsible for the physical well-being of students, P.E. teachers also play a vital role in students’ educational prowess.

Numerous studies on early childhood development and adult cognitive retention levels demonstrate that engaging in physical activities throughout the day increases oxygen to the brain and regulates hormones, which improves productivity and learning. In other words, daily cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart muscle, increases alertness, reduces stress, and helps students focus.

In addition to helping students stay mentally fit, physical education teachers raise the bar for making healthy choices throughout life — from elementary school into adulthood.

Physical education teachers are vital to K-12 learning because they contribute to the overall improvement of education across America, which ultimately leads to higher statewide test scores. Although their roles in elementary schools are somewhat limited, physical education teachers help students at the middle and high school levels stay fit, set and accomplish goals and build character.

Our guide offers insights into the required education, salary and job outlook of physical education teachers. Browse through the content or use these links to jump to your desired destination:

At-a-glance
> Who makes good physical education teachers?

Teaching at the various levels
> Elementary school physical education teachers
> Middle school physical education teachers
> High school physical education teachers
> Postsecondary/college physical education teachers

Professional development
> Continuing education
> Professional associations

Related careers
> Jobs beyond teaching

Best of the Web
> Sites and Twitter handles to follow

At-a-glance: physical education teachers

Middle school High school College/postsecondary
Education Bachelor’s; master’s preferred Bachelor’s; master’s preferred Master’s; doctorate
Typical study time 4-6 years 4-6 years 5-10 years
Median salary $55,860 $57,200 $72,470
Job outlook +6% +6% +13%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (Note: Data listed is for teachers overall, and not physical education specific)

Teaching physical education is a good career choice for people with a passion for healthy lifestyles. In addition to setting examples by staying fit, physical education teachers should demonstrate leadership skills that motivate students to embrace exercise regimens, set individual goals and participate in team sports. With a range of popular aerobics programs — from modern dance, yoga and CrossFit to rigorous walking, martial arts and kinetics — there are lots of activities from which physical education teachers can choose beyond traditional P.E. classes.

A bachelor’s degree — preferably in physical education, kinesiology or physiology, physical therapy or nutrition and health — is a minimum education requirement for physical education teachers at the middle and high school levels. A state-issued teaching certificate or license is also required. However, some private schools do not specify a teaching credential as a job prerequisite. Some states require a master’s degree for middle and high school teachers. Most postsecondary schools require at least a master’s degree to teach physical education.

For people who enjoy these subjects, a career as a physical education teacher offers an excellent opportunity to work with students to improve balance and coordination skills, nutrition programs and weight control, and advance their interest in individual and team sports.

Physical education teacher job description

Physical education teachers should be well-grounded in classroom management and school procedures. In addition to helping students exercise, they may teach physiology and nutrition and are expected to help advance core standards for language arts and mathematics.

Physical education classes are a good platform for engaging students in reading, writing and verbal communications, and improving math skills. Assignments and quizzes that focus on sports history, performance statistics and scorekeeping are good vehicles to improve core curriculum.

Full-time teachers typically work eight- to nine-hour shifts from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, many P.E. teachers also coach after-school sports teams, which requires flexible working hours. Most public and some private school teachers have summers off, along with various holidays and winter breaks that generally run from two to three weeks.

Physical education teachers also:

  • Prepare assignments, such as quizzes on the history of a given sport, athletic field and court dimensions, scoring and rules
  • Grade tests, essays and reports based on printed and online research about a given sport, human physiology, health and nutrition
  • Meet with physical education colleagues, school leaders, nurses and counselors to coordinate lessons and improve students’ fitness and health goals
  • Hold one-on-one conferences with students to keep them engaged in P.E. activities and on track to meet their individual performance and fitness goals
  • Meet with parents or guardians to discuss students’ progress, remedial issues and behavior problems and help students achieve their fitness goals

Who makes good physical education teachers?

Physical education teachers should have stable dispositions in motivating teenagers to exercise and engage in athletic activities. They need to strike a balance by encouraging students through their own excitement for sports and exercise programs while establishing procedures that promote student cooperation.

Because some students attempt to sidetrack others through antics, outbursts and other disruptive techniques, students sometimes resist P.E. activities. Consequently, physical education teachers must establish routine procedures to keep classes on track.

Physical education teachers need to be patient and authoritative, empathetic and regimented. The best physical education teachers are natural managers who lead by example. They are physically fit, talented and highly motivated — with a can-do disposition that prompts students to participate and perform above their own expectation levels.

People who teach physical education should be:

  • Comfortable speaking in front of large groups
  • Able to explain complex procedures in simple terms
  • Take-charge types who are not easily intimidated by bullies
  • Well-versed in school procedures and classroom management techniques
  • Prepared to enthusiastically teach a wide range of aerobics activities and sports
  • Education oriented, with a strong sense of fair play and inclination against favoritism
  • Able to teach diverse students with varied athletic interests and different physical abilities
  • Dedicated to healthy lifestyles, with an understanding of physiology, nutrition and metabolism

Interested in becoming a physical education teacher?

If you love all kinds of sports and you enjoy working with young people, a career as a physical education teacher may be a good fit for you.

Just as obstacle courses have challenges, physical education is currently facing an uphill climb that has placed science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curriculum at the top of U.S. education priorities. To succeed as a physical education teacher today, you must be dedicated to helping young people improve scholastically through exercise, athletics and healthy lifestyle choices that reduce stress and stimulate learning.

Here’s a video that shows why physical education teachers are important:

Teaching physical education at the various levels

The roadmap to becoming a successful physical education teacher depends on which environment an aspiring teacher decides to pursue: middle school, high school or postsecondary school (college). The higher the grade level, the more advanced the physiology, nutrition and health studies become. High school physical education teachers are also more likely to coach sports teams than their counterparts in middle schools.

Numerous factors determine what grade level to teach. These include:

  • Educational level (postsecondary institutions typically require an advanced degree, and high school teachers usually hold master’s degrees)
  • Range and breadth of physical education subjects; the higher the grade level, the more advanced the curriculum
  • Desire to teach advanced courses or coach varsity team sports, beginning in grades 10 to 12 and continuing through college
  • Age and maturity levels of students — from K-12 to college
  • Salary considerations and availability of employment opportunities

Elementary school physical education teachers

In addition to keeping children healthy and fit, the purpose of physical education in elementary schools is to give students a lifelong foundation for the benefits of daily exercise.

The Society of Health and Physical Education (SHAPE) offers standards for K-12 physical education, beginning with elementary schools. The association is a coalition of five separate national physical fitness organizations under the single umbrella of SHAPE America. SHAPE emphasizes “foundational skills, knowledge and values” as core principles for elementary schools in its “road to a lifetime of physical activity.”

Unfortunately, very few elementary schools have dedicated physical education teachers on staff. Fortunately, some districts hire physical education specialists to teach at several schools or to teach multiple grade levels within a single school.

Districtwide elementary physical education teachers have many of the same responsibilities as their middle and high school counterparts. Rather than teaching several classes at one school, however, they generally work at three to five schools. These physical education specialists typically are employed full time, with standard benefits such as summer vacations and retirement pension plans.

These positions provide physical education specialists with:

  • Full-time employment as P.E. teachers for elementary students during a crucial age of development
  • Varied school settings and diverse students within a single city or suburban community, or across a rural setting
  • Opportunities to bring P.E. to elementary schools that cannot afford a full-time physical education teacher
  • Experience for physical education teachers who are interested in advancing to middle or high school levels

Check out this video on the importance of recess and physical exercise for young students at Our Redeemer Lutheran School in Madison, Wisconsin.

Middle school physical education teachers

Because many students entering middle school have never taken dedicated physical education courses, they may be experiencing P.E. classes for the first time. Middle school physical education teachers are responsible for introducing students to organized activities that require team participation.
Click here for in-depth details about middle school physical education teachers

Procedures are extremely important to facilitate a smooth transition from elementary to middle school. Locker room management is a key function of physical education teaching at the middle school level. This includes assigning gym clothes and equipment lockers and requiring daily showers.

A middle school physical education teacher’s job is to prepare students for P.E. courses and healthy lifestyles.

Middle school physical education teacher job description

Middle school physical education teachers generally teach grades six to eight. In some middle schools, however, they may teach seventh and eighth grades. Some private and parochial, or faith-based, middle schools include ninth grade.

Private and public middle school teachers are expected to work full-time schedules (generally from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Monday through Friday.

Typical duties:

  • Organize and manage gym classes, help administrators implement school policies and procedures, and work with colleagues to carry out P.E. best practices
  • Plan and grade lessons, reading and writing assignments, such as researching relevant sports online or though printed materials like magazine articles and books
  • Test students on specific sports, fitness, health and nutrition assignments — from playing fields and court dimensions, to scoring and rules
  • Stay current with state and local standards for physical education curriculum, fitness and nutrition expectations
  • Prepare students for grade advancement through physical education assessments that test their knowledge and ability to perform at grade level
  • Develop curriculum expectation tables based on state and local standards and physical education best practices from professional organizations like SHAPE America
  • Work with students individually when necessary to assess fitness and health progress, improve performance levels and achieve overall physical education success
  • Conduct open gym sessions for parents and guardians, and schedule parent-teacher conferences as needed to provide guidance on students’ class participation and progress

Middle school physical education curriculum

Middle school physical education teachers are focused primarily on teaching exercise and healthy habits, leading individual and team sports — from soccer and flag football to gymnastics and volleyball.

In addition to teaching rules and leading practice sessions for various athletic activities, they are expected to teach students about the history and societal impact of sports. This might include distributing reading materials on Greco-Roman wrestling and the first Olympic contests, to the history of American baseball, to the dimensions of basketball courts and the meanings of numerous terms like “traveling” and “off sides” and the difference between 2- vs. 1-point foul shots.

Along with teaching the history and techniques of numerous sporting activities, physical education teachers are expected to grade students on attendance, participation and knowledge. Physical education teachers may give daily quizzes, weekly tests and end-of-course exams to evaluate students’ proficiency in the subjects they’ve been taught.

With a renewed focus on improving core curriculum standards for English language arts and math, physical education teachers are expected to incorporate reading, writing and arithmetic into their courses. Consequently, they should be prepared to spend time on lesson planning, evaluating written reports and grading tests.

Physical education teachers should anticipate working with individual students as necessary to keep all students learning alongside their classmates. This does not mean students in middle school physical education classes are graded strictly on their athletic ability, competitiveness, or performance; rather, it implies that all students should participate in activities, do their best and learn the curriculum. They are tested on participation, subject knowledge and cooperation, as well as skills development.

Here is a closer look at current physical education curriculum goals for middle school students based on recommendations from the National Center for the Prevention of Chronic Disease and Health Promotion:

Personal and social development

  • Participate fully in activities and cooperate with classmates
  • Perform physical activities safely while following procedures and rules of etiquette
  • Display self-control and discipline appropriate to middle school age level

Motor skills and movement patterns

  • Demonstrate competency in movement forms for aerobics and physical activities
  • Show competency in a variety of movement skills such as volleyball serves, gymnastics regimens and basketball dribbling
  • Use simple cues from the teacher or teammates to improve personal performance in activities

Physical activity and fitness

  • Demonstrate balance and agility and knowledge of proper nutrition for lifelong wellness planning
  • Participate regularly in moderate-to-vigorous physical activities, including sports and aerobics workouts
  • Demonstrate competency in performing individual stretching regimens and partner-based warm-up routines

Physical literacy development

  • Learn and use correct sports, health and fitness terminology for all class activities
  • Demonstrate and articulate the importance of following rules and procedures for sports and fitness activities
  • Provide positive reinforcement to others through verbal feedback, cheering and nonverbal means, such as high-fives

How to become a middle school physical education teacher: educational requirements

Middle school teachers are expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree in physical education or a specialized discipline such as physiology, physical therapy, kinesiology or nutrition. In some rural public school districts and certain private schools, physical education teachers may be expected to teach other curriculum — such as English, math or science — depending on their competency in those subjects.

  • Less than high school diploma: 0.2%
  • High school diploma or equivalent: 0.3%
  • Some college, no degree: 2.9%
  • Associate degree: 1.9%
  • Bachelor’s degree: 44.3%
  • Master’s degree: 46.5%
  • Doctoral or professional degree: 3.9%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (Note: Data listed is for middle school teachers overall, and not physical education specific)

Certification requirements for middle school physical education teachers

A state-issued teaching certificate or license is generally required to become a middle school teacher, especially for those teaching other subjects. Some private schools, though, do not indicate a teaching credential as a job prerequisite. Certification and licensing requirements for middle school teachers vary from state to state. Teachers are usually required to take professional development courses as a condition of certification.

Teaching License Reciprocity by State: Visit our state-by-state teacher licensing and reciprocity page for regulations in your state.

Alternative certification is becoming increasingly popular, with an estimated 20 percent of teachers entering the profession through nontraditional means. Because of fluctuating teacher shortages, states are offering alternative ways to certify people who already have bachelor’s degrees.

Middle school physical education teacher salary and employment projections

The salary for all middle school teachers across the United States ranges from about $42,000 to $56,000 based on estimates from 2010 to 2013. In some states, P.E. teachers may receive additional pay for coaching after-school sports. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide specific salary data for physical education teachers, online job sites such as Glassdoor.com provide estimates for P.E. teacher salaries that range from a national average of $38,800 to $59,075.

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics: $53,940
  • Glassdoor.com: $47,979
  • PayScale.com: $40,180
  • Simply Hired: $38,000

The employment outlook for middle school teachers appears stable in certain regions, and the overall demand for teachers is stronger than many other professions. In some expanding U.S. regions, such as the Southeast, Southwest and West, job growth for middle school teachers is relatively strong. Overall, the BLS estimates a 12 percent growth rate for middle school teachers through 2022.

Pros and cons of being a middle school physical education teacher

Pros:

  • Teaching young students the importance of physical education, nutrition and health
  • Challenging students to become physically fit, while working with others in team situations
  • Working in a profession that reflects the teacher’s dedication to fitness and sports

Cons:

  • Working within schools and classrooms with students who possess a wide range of abilities that can result in behavior issues
  • Dealing with administrative processes and classroom procedures that are sometimes bureaucratic and frustrating
  • Teaching adolescents at a difficult age in a subject that requires cooperation while dealing with some disruptive students

High school physical education teachers

High school physical education teachers are responsible for introducing students to organized activities that require team participation.

Click here for in-depth details about high school physical education teachers

High school physical education teacher job description

High school physical education teachers may be asked to identify students with potential to play on the school’s competitive teams, including:

  • Water polo
  • Swimming
  • Wrestling
  • Gymnastics
  • Cheerleading
  • Basketball
  • Field hockey
  • Volleyball
  • Dance
  • Springboard diving
  • Platform diving
  • Softball
  • Ice hockey
  • Baseball
  • Downhill skiing
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Football
  • Soccer
  • Cross-country running
  • Rugby
  • Track and field
  • Tennis
  • Golf

Procedures are extremely important to facilitating a smooth transition from middle school to high school, where team sports become increasingly competitive.

High school physical education teachers generally teach grades nine to 12. In some high schools, however, they may teach grades eight to 12 or 10 to 12. Private and public high school teachers generally work full-time schedules, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

However, many P.E. teachers also coach after-school sports teams, which requires flexible working hours during early morning, late afternoon and evenings, and occasional weekends. In some high schools, physical education teachers may have fewer late-afternoon classes to compensate for the after-school hours they work.

A high school physical education teacher’s job is to ensure P.E. students adopt healthy lifestyles and engage in competitive sports.

Typical duties:

  • Organize and manage gym classes, and work with administrators to implement school policies and procedures, especially around team sports
  • Plan and grade lessons, reading and writing assignments, including research
  • Stay current with state and local standards for physical education, high school sports conference rules and core curriculum requirements
  • Prepare students for grade advancement through physical education assessments that test their knowledge and ability to perform at grade level
  • Work with students individually when necessary to assess progress during sports practice, improve performance levels and achieve overall education success
  • Conduct open gym sessions for parents and guardians, and schedule parent-teacher conferences to provide guidance on students’ class participation and progress

High school physical education curriculum

High school physical education teachers are focused primarily on teaching exercise and healthy habits, while leading individual and team sports.

In addition to teaching rules and leading practice sessions for various athletic activities, they are expected to teach students about the history and societal significance of sports — from economic impact to integration. This might include distributing reading materials on international rugby, the history of American football, the integration of Major League Baseball, the dimensions of tennis courts and the meanings of terms like “set,” “love” and unsportsmanlike conduct.

Physical education teachers are expected to grade students on attendance, participation and knowledge. They may give daily quizzes, weekly tests and end-of-course exams to evaluate students’ proficiency in the subjects they’ve been taught.

With a renewed focus on improving core curriculum standards for English language arts and math, physical education teachers are expected to incorporate reading, writing and arithmetic into their courses. Consequently, they should be prepared to spend time on lesson planning, evaluating written reports and grading tests.

Physical education teachers should anticipate working with individuals as necessary to keep all students learning alongside their classmates. This does not mean students in high school physical education classes are graded strictly on their athletic ability, competitiveness, or performance; rather, it implies that all students should participate in activities, do their best and learn the curriculum. They are tested on participation, subject knowledge and cooperation, as well as skills development.

Here is a closer look at current physical education curriculum goals from the National Center for the Prevention of Chronic Disease and Health Promotion:

Personal and social development

  • Show genuine self-expression during fun and challenging physical activities
  • Offer positive feedback to classmates to improve team performance
  • Assist and encourage classmates and support inclusiveness with positive reinforcement
  • Show initiative in leading activities and helping teammates by contributing to partner performance and group goals

Motor skills and movement patterns

  • Demonstrate accurate ball control, including throwing softballs and baseballs, striking volleyballs, and dribbling basketballs
  • Display motor skills in a variety of individual, partner and group activities, including gymnastics and team sports, like executing forward and lateral movements
  • Distinguish between useful practice sessions and unproductive activities like not passing to teammates in basketball, soccer or field hockey when appropriate
  • Select appropriate protective equipment for preventing injuries such as wrestling headgear, volleyball kneepads and wrist guards for gymnastics

Physical activity and fitness

  • Set personal goals and achieve performance assessment standards, both individual and team
  • Engage in physical activities directly related to improving personal strength, muscular development, cardiovascular endurance and aerobic flexibility
  • Plan and execute daily and weekly fitness-improvement activities and identify community-based fitness opportunities, like working out at the local YMCA, boys or girls clubs
  • Demonstrate knowledge of proper hydration (thirst quenching with water or Gatorade) and various cooldown techniques such as jogging from a fast run or stretching after a rigorous workout

Physical literacy development

  • Compare and contrast rules and procedures among games, sports and other activities, such as the similarities and differences between soccer, basketball, water polo and ice hockey
  • Apply FITT (frequency, intensity, time and type) training principles to aerobic activities
  • Learn to use measurement technologies such as heart-rate monitors, calorie and step counters
  • Understand the importance of becoming a physically literate (healthy) role model

What is physical literacy? Physical and Health Education Canada offers a superb explanation on the importance of developing lifelong healthy lifestyles, beginning at an early age. Although this video applies to Canadian educators, it is relevant to all physical education teachers:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GU7LVXkvxAM[/youtube]

How to become a high school physical education teacher: educational requirements

Physical education teachers at all levels are expected to have at least a bachelor’s degree in physical education or a specialized discipline such as physiology, physical therapy, kinesiology or nutrition science. Some high school physical education teachers also hold master’s degrees.

High school physical education teachers often coach sports teams and serve as athletic department directors, which can pay an additional modest stipend. For example, a physical education teacher may serve as the high school football coach and baseball manager, as well as director of the school’s sports programs. This requires knowledge of budgeting and a tactful disposition in dealing with adults — parents, teachers and other coaches — who can be competitive when it comes to setting the school’s sports priorities.

A role as a sports director may require a master’s degree in educational leadership, but can lead to other opportunities as a school principal or postsecondary job in college athletics.

  • Less than high school diploma: 0.2%
  • High school diploma or equivalent: 0.2%
  • Some college, no degree: 2.3%
  • Associate degree: 1.5%
  • Bachelor’s degree: 43.4%
  • Master’s degree: 48.3%
  • Doctoral or professional degree: 4%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (Note: Data listed is for high school teachers overall, and not physical education specific)

Certification requirements for high school physical education teachers

A state-issued teaching certificate or license is generally required to become a high school teacher. However, some private schools do not specify a teaching credential as a job prerequisite. Specific certification and licensing requirements for high school teachers vary among the states. Teachers are usually required to take professional development courses as a condition of certification.

Teaching License Reciprocity by State: Visit our state-by-state teacher licensing and reciprocity page for regulations in your state.

Alternative certification is becoming increasingly popular, with an estimated 20 percent of teachers entering the profession through nontraditional means. Because of fluctuating teacher shortages, states are offering alternative ways for people who already have bachelor’s degrees to get certified.

High school physical education teacher salary and employment projections

The salary for all high school teachers across the United States ranges from about $37,000 to $56,000 based on estimates from 2010 to 2012. In some states, P.E. teachers may receive additional pay for coaching after-school sports. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide specific salary data for physical education teachers, online job sites like Glassdoor.com offer estimates for P.E. teacher salaries that range from a national average of $47,019 to $70,891 in Maryland.

  • Salary.com: $56,142
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics: $55,050
  • PayScale.com: $45,049
  • Simply Hired: $37,000

The employment outlook for high school teachers appears stable in certain regions, and the overall demand for teachers is stronger than many other professions. In some expanding U.S. regions, such as the Southeast, Southwest and West, job growth for high school teachers is relatively strong. Overall, the BLS estimates a 6 percent growth rate for high school teachers through 2022.

Pros and cons of being a high school physical education teacher

Pros:

  • Working with teenage students who are dedicated to various sports and healthy lifestyles is gratifying for dedicated P.E. teachers
  • Teaching young people physical fitness and healthy lifestyle principles is rewarding for people who want to help students prepare for adulthood
  • Working among colleagues with similar interests and career goals is stimulating when meeting in peer groups to discuss P.E. management goals

Cons:

  • High school physical education teachers often work with students who have a wide range of interests and abilities, which don’t include athletics
  • Salaries for high school teachers, particularly those with advanced degrees, is relatively low compared to counterparts in other professions
  • Budget cuts and declining support for physical education from school administrators can make the job challenging for high school P.E. teachers

Postsecondary/college physical education teachers

Postsecondary physical education instructors have opportunities to train future P.E. teachers through innovative techniques in athletics, physiology, aerobics, nutrition and health. This gives postsecondary physical education teachers opportunities to advance their own knowledge of subjects they care deeply about while researching and writing books, publishing reports, magazine and online articles, and peer review papers.

Click here for in-depth details about postsecondary/college physical education teachers

Postsecondary physical education teachers teach in lecture halls and medium-size classrooms, gymnasiums and outdoor sporting facilities, and even online. They specialize in teaching tomorrow’s physical education teachers, who earn credentials to teach elementary, intermediate-level or high school students. College instructors frequently serve as role models for physical education majors, who may aspire to become teachers or enter a range of professions — from professional sports medicine specialists to private physical trainers.

Postsecondary physical education teacher job description

Postsecondary physical education teachers cover the range of professional schools, junior colleges, state and private colleges, and universities. However, their audience comprises adults of all ages who are interested in physical education and a variety of athletics, physiology, nutrition and science-based health programs.

Postsecondary teachers have more flexibility over the format of their instructional methods than their K-12 counterparts. They also have greater control over their schedules, with many postsecondary instructors teaching part time, as well as full time. Although they have fewer classroom management and procedural responsibilities than grade-school teachers, they devote significant time to preparing lectures and instructions for assignments, and for grading tests.

Typical duties:

  • Prepare coursework and assignments for students focused on physical literacy competencies — from motor skills to social skills
  • Prepare and give lectures, lead engaging group and one-one-one discussion sessions, make multimedia presentations
  • Grade term papers, tests and other assignments on subjects like physiology, biomechanics, kinesiology, nutritional science, and teaching concepts
  • Work with colleagues and department heads to coordinate instructional best practices and curriculum goals and ensure consistency
  • Participate in academic panels and administrative committees and work with school leaders and administrators on policy decisions, especially around team sports
  • Work within the framework of budgets and promote the department and school through committees and sister campuses when applicable
  • Attend professional advancement seminars, symposiums and other events to expand knowledge about physical education and teaching methods

And, specific to university professors:

  • Conduct research to advance knowledge in the field of physical education
  • Write books and articles, publish research and analysis in academic journals
  • Guide and supervise graduate students who are working on doctoral degrees

What about teaching physical education online?

Today’s computer technology advancements, affordable telecommunications cloud services and memory storage systems, and the popularity of online courses give postsecondary teachers additional career options. Consequently, physical education teachers have numerous media available to them, including real-time audio, videoconferencing and presentation tools that make teaching physical education exciting.

Here’s a video produced and narrated by a physical education college major that demonstrates how technology can be used to enhance instruction and keep students interested in P.E.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B83yq2VYdBY[/youtube]

How to become a postsecondary physical education teacher: educational requirements

Educational requirements vary with the type of educational institution. Postsecondary teachers who work at four-year colleges and universities are most often required to have a doctoral degree in their field. However, some schools may hire instructors with master’s degrees or those who are doctoral candidates for some part-time positions.

Instructors with master’s degrees comprise the majority of full-time teaching positions at two-year colleges. Candidates holding dual master’s degrees are at an advantage because they can teach more than one subject. Many two-year institutions prefer applicants who have experience with distance learning or teaching.

Doctoral programs generally take six to eight years to complete, including time spent earning a master’s degree and writing a doctoral dissertation. It is fairly common for students in some fields to conduct postdoctoral research for two additional years before they seek a faculty position.

  • Less than high school diploma: 0.2%
  • High school diploma or equivalent: 0.1%
  • Some college, no degree: 2.6%
  • Associate degree: 2.3%
  • Bachelor’s degree: 16.0%
  • Master’s degree: 35.6%
  • Doctoral or professional degree: 43.3%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (Note: Data listed is for postsecondary teachers overall, and not physical education specific)

Postsecondary/college physical education teacher salary and employment projections

Postsecondary teachers earn a median salary of $68,970, according to BLS data for 2012. The statistics cover teachers working at colleges, universities and professional schools at the local and state levels, and for private institutions. On average, university and four-year college teachers earn higher salaries than their counterparts at junior colleges.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide salary information specifically for postsecondary physical education teachers. Employment of postsecondary teachers is projected to grow.

  • Junior colleges (private and public): 6%. Annual mean wage of $70,490
  • Colleges and universities (private and public): 49%. Annual mean wage of $74,400
  • Technical and trade schools (private): 24%. Annual mean wage of $57,670
  • Educational support services (public state): 1.9%. Annual mean wage of $57,400

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (Note: Data listed is for postsecondary teachers overall, and not physical education specific)

A note on tenure: For postsecondary teachers, a significant goal in the traditional academic career is attaining tenure — a guarantee that a professor cannot be fired without just cause. The tenure process can take up to seven years of moving up the ranks in tenure-track positions. The ranks are assistant professor, associate professor, and professor. Tenure is granted through a review of the candidate’s research, contribution to the institution, and teaching. However, institutions are relying more heavily on limited-term and part-time faculty contracts; therefore, fully tenured positions and tenure-track positions are declining.

Pros and cons of being a college physical education teacher

Pros:

  • Teach students who share a passion for physical education and are highly motivated about healthy lifestyles
  • Work with future leaders and teachers who are interested in leading-edge physical therapy sports innovations
  • Work on postsecondary campuses within a collegial environment where people are invested in higher learning

Cons:

  • Teaching college students is demanding and requires long hours devoted to course preparation
  • Bureaucratic policies at postsecondary schools are challenging for teachers and inhibit the creative process
  • Salaries for college professors are relatively low compared to counterparts in the private sector with PhD’s

Professional development for physical education teachers

Physical education teachers seeking professional development can benefit from learning to leverage computers. For example, graphics software and 3D imaging programs enhance multimedia demonstrations and classroom presentations, which in turn captivate audiences and facilitate learning.

Professional associations for physical education instructors offer webinars, correspondence courses, one-day seminars, symposiums and other continuing education platforms to help teachers advance their knowledge of physical education and health industry best practices. These are terrific opportunities to enhance one’s understanding of physical education concepts while meeting like-minded professionals.

For teachers interested in pursuing advanced degrees, physical education is ideally suited as a supplement to a career in physical therapy, sports medicine, fitness management and educational leadership. Physical education teachers contemplating graduate studies should consider a program specific to their area of teaching, while remaining competitive in the job market.

Benefits of continuing education for physical education teachers

BLS statistics reflect that professionals with a master’s degree have a greater chance for promotions and an increase in salaries. This is particularly true for teachers. The difference in salary between a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree for a novice teacher is $3,000 annually. After 10 years of experience, salaries increase to an average of $4,500, according to BLS data.

Continuing education is a great way to keep a career on track, expand knowledge, remain competitive, and increase one’s real value in the jobs market.

Salary Increase for Teachers from Advanced Education

What kinds of graduate programs can help physical education teachers?

For physical education teachers who are considering a master’s degree, grade level, relevant curriculum and educational leadership are three primary considerations.

For example:

  • Physical education teachers may want to expand their knowledge of physiology, brain and hormonal changes with a master’s degree that focuses on early childhood development.
  • English language and literacy development are important subjects for students at all levels, from preschool to adulthood; learning a second language, like Spanish, is useful for all teachers.
  • Special education and inclusive classrooms are a growing concern in K-12; physical education teachers are well-suited to address the needs of students with physical and cognitive disabilities.
  • Physical education teachers with advanced degrees may want to consider a role in educational leadership, such as school principal, district supervisor and various administrative positions.

Professional associations for physical education teachers

Jobs available to physical education teachers beyond teaching

Physical education teachers can find numerous jobs among public entities and private employers seeking health and nutrition specialists, physical trainers and motivational leaders. These range from non-profit community organizations to large companies that devote resources to onsite gyms and exercise programs for employees. The healthcare industry is another viable option for physical education specialists seeking future employment opportunities.

Job alternatives for physical education teachers include:

  • Exercise physiologist
  • Recreational therapist
  • Physical therapist
  • Nutrition and health technician
  • Athletic trainer/gym instructor
  • Home healthcare aid
  • Fitness trainer
  • Aerobics or kinesiology instructor

Best of the Web: our favorite physical education teacher websites and Twitter handles

The web is ideal for physical education teachers as a tool for research, lesson planning and presentations. Here are some useful websites and Twitter resources:

Favorite physical education teacher websites

Favorite physical education teacher Twitter handles

Learn More: Click to view related resources.

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