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Career Info for a Degree in Physical Education

Learn about the education and preparation needed to work in physical education or fitness health. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties, certification and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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A degree in physical education is an asset for those interested in pursuing a career as a physical education teacher. Teachers are also required to have their license. Although a bachelor's in physical education is not required to be a fitness worker, it is highly recommended that these professionals also complete a four-year degree in this field.

Essential Information

Those who are passionate about physical fitness may consider pursuing a degree or certification in physical education or fitness health. Both physical education teachers and fitness workers plan activities and classes that emphasize fitness including toning and stretching, cardiovascular routines and strength training. A bachelor's degree is required to become a physical education teacher and it is recommended that fitness workers do the same, though it isn't always required.

Career Physical Education Teacher Fitness Worker
Required Education Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree (highly recommended though some fitness workers only hold a high school diploma or 2-year degree)
Other Requirements Teaching certification or licensure (varies by state) American College of Sports Medicine certification (optional)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (for all high school teachers) 8%
Median Salary $41,994 (2016)** $36,160 for all fitness trainers and aerobics instructors (2015)*

Sources: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics; **Payscale.com

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Career Options

Those who earn degree in physical education can teach at public and private schools, or can provide their services to adults in gyms, resorts, hospitals, or any number of other locations. Typical job duties for both of these careers involve instructing individuals and groups as to the best physical practices, and developing exercise plans and group programs.

Physical Education Teacher

Physical education teachers work in elementary through high schools, and instruct students on the importance of physical activities, good nutrition and health practices. They demonstrate and conduct classes in exercise and aerobic techniques, as well as introduce the fundamentals of different sports. They may also coach extracurricular sports programs.

Education Requirements

Prospective physical education teachers must enroll in a 4-year bachelor's degree program and complete a major in physical education. These programs offer courses in structural kinesiology, fundamentals of human movement, basic physiology of exercise, teaching dance activities and basic prevention and care of athletic injury. Students also take CPR, health and general education courses and enroll in student teaching, which is generally required for teacher certification. Some programs may also require passing scores on the Praxis II Physical Education: Content Knowledge Examination.

Graduates who complete their program requirements obtain certification in their state. Prospective physical education teachers may consult the education departments in their state for more detailed information on certification requirements.

Salary Statistics

According to Payscale.com, the median annual wage in 2016 for physical education teachers was $41,994. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts elementary, middle and secondary school teachers will have an average job growth rate of 6% between 2014 and 2024.

Fitness Workers

Fitness workers are employed by colleges and universities, health clubs and resorts. They lead classes in cardiovascular fitness and toning and provide one-on-one instruction with strength training equipment. They may also develop fitness programs to meet their clients' special needs. Fitness workers instruct individuals of different fitness levels and strive to make their classes challenging while also monitoring participants to avoid injury. Fitness workers may eventually move into director positions, overseeing all the activities of the health club facility.

Education Requirements

Increasingly, more fitness center directors require fitness workers to hold a bachelor's degree. Many colleges now offer degree programs in exercise science that provide the necessary training and skills for the growing fitness/wellness industry. Students in these programs take courses in basic fitness programming, methods of group exercise, personal training instruction, sport psychology, fitness management and exercise for special populations. They may also look to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), who offers certification for personal trainers, health fitness specialists and group instructors.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that employment opportunities for fitness trainers and instructors are expected to increase 8% during the 2014 to 2024 period. The main driver of this growth is the recognition of the health benefits of exercise and fitness, particularly among aging baby boomers. The BLS reported a median annual wage of $36,160 for fitness trainers and aerobic instructors in May 2015.

Physical education teachers may be employed by private or public schools, and instruct students about how to play group sports, health and nutrition, and how to prevent injuries. Fitness workers may be employed by gyms, health clubs, colleges, universities, hospitals or resorts. Some of their tasks may include demonstrating fitness activities and developing programs for clients or groups.

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