Career Information for a Degree in Physical Education

Oct 03, 2019

With a bachelor's degree in physical education, you can work in a number of jobs, including as a coach, physical education teacher, or as a sports instructor. Depending on your area of concentration, you may need specialized certification and/or state licensure, and sometimes the ability to travel or to work irregular hours is required.

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.

Career Titles Coach Sports Instructor Physical Education Teacher
Required Education Bachelor's Degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Coaching certification often required Instructor certification often required State teacher licensure or certification
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 11% (for all coaches and scouts)* N/A* 3% (for all elementary school teachers);*
4% (for all high school teachers)*
Median Salary (2018) $33,780* $34,974 (2019)** $58,230 (for all elementary school teachers);*
$60,320 (for all secondary school teachers)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,**

Career Options

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.


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 faster than average growth of 11% in the employment of coaches and scouts, including high school sports coaches, between 2018 and 2028. As of 2018, the median annual wage for coaches and scouts was $33,780, also per the BLS.

Sports Instructor

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 2019, listed a median annual wage of $34,974 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 2018, the BLS reported that elementary school teachers in all subject areas earned a median annual wage of $58,230. High school teachers earned just slightly higher, with a reported $60,320median salary for the same year. However, these figures represent elementary and secondary instructors across all subject matters, not just those teaching physical education.

A degree in physical education can be applied to a career as a coach, sports instructor or physical education teacher. You may need specialized certification to become a coach or a sports instructor, while physical education teachers at public elementary or high schools will also need state licensure or certification. Employment opportunities in this field are projected to increase at about the same rate as the national average for all occupations through 2028.

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