Career Information for a Degree in Physical Education

Degrees in physical education typically cover careers in coaching and sports instruction. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for physical education studies graduates.

Essential Information

If you love the idea of working outside, like being active and have an interest in working with children, you might be suited for a degree in Physical Education. Holders of a degree in Physical Education can be found working in the following career fields: coaching, sports instruction and primary or secondary education.

Required Education Bachelors Degree
Other Requirements Licensure or state certification
Projected Job Growth 12% from 2012-2022*
Median Salary (2013) $53,590*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a Degree in Physical Education?

Many people fondly remember (or, sometimes, not so fondly) their physical education teachers from junior high or high school. A physical education class is many children's only experience with being forced to exercise; it's also the only reason some adults carried their current healthy habits into adulthood. Physical education (or P.E.) teachers get to play a part in shaping those habits and in encouraging children to be healthy and productive adults. Physical education degree programs prepare future P.E. teachers and related workers to fulfill this role by educating them in sports instruction, exercise techniques, teaching strategies and other necessary skills. Graduates of degree programs in physical education might find employment as sports coaches, sports instructors or physical education teachers.

Coaching

Coaches teach, instruct and organize both amateur and professional athletes for team or individual sports. Athletes are trained for competitive sports with the aim of optimizing their physical potential and, for team sports, their ability to made decisions and operate as a team. Coaches also advise on strategies for maximum success, generally with minimum risk of injury. High school sports coaches are almost always also teachers. Working hours for full-time coaches are irregular and involve travel. The work can be stressful owing to the intensely competitive nature of the job. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), expected a 15% growth in the employment of coaches and scouts, including high school sports coaches, between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). As of 2013, the mean annual wage for coaches and scouts working at elementary and secondary schools was $32,120, also per the BLS.

Sports Instructing

Sports instructors generally train athletes on a one-to-one basis and usually concentrate on one specialty such as tennis, swimming or soccer. They use their knowledge of the sport in question, training equipment and human physiology to improve the performance and endurance of an athlete with the least amount of injury. They need to be skilled in motivational psychology. The work is intense and challenging but can be very rewarding. Irregular hours that are often seasonal, depending on the sport, are common and travel can be expected. As of 2014, PayScale.com listed a median annual wage of $38,127 for sports instructors.

Physical Education

Teachers who specialize in physical education work in elementary, middle and high schools, teaching students the skills and techniques for effective exercise, training and sports participation. Physical education teachers who work in elementary schools might oversee and implement games that primarily encourage physical activity, while middle- and high school P.E. teachers instruct students using more regulated and structured activities such as basketball games or soccer matches. In May 2013, the BLS reported that elementary school teachers in all subject areas earned a median annual wage of $53,590. High school teachers earned just slightly higher, with a reported $55,360 median salary for the same year. However, these figures represent elementary and secondary instructors across all subject matters, not just those teaching physical education.

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