Physical Education Teacher: How to Become a P.E. Teacher

Learn how to become a physical education teacher. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career as a physical education teacher.

Do I Want to Be a Physical Education Teacher?

Physical education (P.E.) teachers are educators who instruct students in health, fitness and sports. They may work in public or private schools, instructing students in grades K-12. Teaching physical education to children can be tiring and stressful. On the other hand, many P.E. teachers are rewarded when they observe the improve physical fitness or sports performance of their students.

Job Requirements

Becoming a physical education teacher requires a bachelor's degree in physical education that usually includes a student teaching experience. In order to teach in the public schools, a state teaching license is required. Below are the requirements to become a physical education teacher:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree*
Degree Field Physical education**
Licensure and Certification Licensure is required*
Experience Internship or fieldwork is helpful*
Key Skills Instructing, speaking, active listening and learning, critical thinking, and monitoring and assessing skills*
Computer Skills Microsoft Office, PowerPoint, Excel and video editing software***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **P.E. Central, ***O*Net Online.

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program

Physical education teachers must complete teacher education programs focused on a health and fitness-related subject. Some colleges and universities offer a Bachelor of Science in Education program with an emphasis on physical education. These four-year degree programs prepare students to become teachers for all grade levels. Courses may include kinesiology, exercise physiology, health teaching methods, aerobics, recreational sports and applied physical education.

Most schools include a student-teaching experience towards the end of a physical education bachelor's program, which allows teachers to gain first-hand experience instructing students in classrooms under the supervision of licensed instructors.

Success Tips:

  • Get experience working with kids and sports. Aspiring physical education teachers can begin by volunteering at a local community center and interacting with children of varying ages. Volunteers may even get to lead some sports activities, which can give students a taste of what it's like to teach athletic activities. Students can also find youth coaching and refereeing opportunities in most cities.
  • Find out state licensing requirements before enrolling in a program. Each state has different licensing requirements, so students should make sure that they'll be able to get licensed right after graduating from the program. This may be especially important for students who plan on getting licensed in a different state than where they went for their bachelor's degree.

Step 2: Become Licensed

While licensure is not required to teach at private schools, all physical education teachers in public schools need to obtain state licenses. Requirements are determined by each state's licensing board. In general, all states require a physical education teacher to hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited teacher education program and pass state licensing exams. Most states require one general exam followed by an exam that focuses on the particular specialty of the teacher.

Success Tip:

  • Take continuing education courses. Physical education teachers are usually responsible for maintaining their licensure by earning continuing education credits. The number of credits needed to maintain licensure may vary, so physical education teachers should find out the requirements early on to ensure that they can renew their license.

Step 3: Advance with Experience

Physical education teachers can find employment at any grade level. They may have to work part-time or for multiple schools in separate districts until full-time positions become available. Along with instructing students, many of these teachers coach sports teams. As they gain more experience, physical education teachers may progress to higher-paying teaching or department administration positions, such as athletic director or physical education director.

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