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.

Should I Become 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.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Physical education
Licensure Licensure is required in public schools
Experience Internship or student teaching
Key Skills Instructing, speaking, active listening and learning, critical thinking, and monitoring and assessing skills
Salary (2014) $54,120 (for all Elementary School Teachers)
$56,310 (for all Secondary Teachers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, P.E. Central, ONet 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 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 may vary, so physical education teachers should find out the requirements early on to ensure that they can renew their license.

Step 3: Career Advancement

Physical education teachers can find employment at any grade level. 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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