States that Require Physical Education

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
While most states have physical education requirements, they range from strictly dictated to barely existent. Read on to learn about the different guidelines and discover resources to improve physical education in your classroom.

Overview of State Physical Education Requirements

While nearly every state has some type of physical education guideline or legislation, requirements vary widely by state and grade level. According to the 2016 Shape of the Nation* study of 50 states and the District of Columbia (51 total jurisdictions), 39 require elementary school students to take physical education, 37 have that requirement for junior high school students, and 44 make physical education mandatory for high school students. Sixteen states require that students be assessed according to physical education standards created by the state.

Below are the states that require physical education and the grade levels for which it's required.

RegionStates and Grade Levels
Northeast Connecticut (K-12), DC (K-12), Delaware (K-12), Maine (K-12), Maryland (K-12), Massachusetts (K-12), New Hampshire (K-12), New Jersey (K-12), New York (K-12), Pennsylvania (K-12), Rhode Island (K-12), Vermont (K-12)
Southeast Alabama (K-12), Arkansas (K-12), Florida (K-12), Georgia (K-5/9-12), Louisiana (K-12), Mississippi (K-12), North Carolina (9-12), South Carolina (K-12), Tennessee (K-12), Virginia (K-12), West Virginia (K-12)
Midwest Illinois (K-12), Indiana (K-12), Iowa (K-12), Kansas (9-12), Kentucky (9-12), Michigan (9-12), Minnesota (K-12), Missouri (K-12), North Dakota (K-12), Nebraska (K-8), Ohio (9-12), South Dakota (9-12), Wisconsin (K-12)
Southwest New Mexico (9-12), Oklahoma (K-5), Texas (K-12)
West California (K-12), Hawaii (K-5/9-12), Idaho (K-8), Montana (K-12), Nevada (9-12), Oregon (K-12), Utah (6-12), Washington (K-12), Wyoming (K-8)

Time Requirements

Few of the states that require physical education mandate time requirements. Among these states, 17 mandate a minimum amount of physical education time each week for elementary school students, 12 mandate time requirements for junior high school students, and only five have weekly time mandates for high school students.

Exceptions to State Physical Education Requirements

Alaska, Arizona and Colorado are the only states that do not have requirements for students at any grade level. Thirty states, meanwhile, allow physical education exemptions and 31 allow students to fulfill physical education credits with other activities, such as participation in school sports or JROTC.

Physical Education Certification Requirements For Teachers

To qualify to teach physical education, educators must be certified or licensed in a majority of states, but requirements vary by grade level. As of 2016, physical education credentials are required for elementary school teachers in 35 states, for junior high school teachers in 43 states, and for high school teachers in 48 states.

If you're an aspiring physical education teacher in a state that requires one of these credentials, explore some of the study resources available to help you pass your teacher licensing or certification exam.

*Source: the Voices for Healthy Kids 2016 Shape of the Nation report, jointly conducted by the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Society of Health and Physical Educators.

Resources for Physical Education Teachers

Whether you teach in a state with stringent or loose physical education requirements, you'll want to maximize the effectiveness of the instructional time you have with students. offers several resources to help you develop impactful physical education classes:

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