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How to Become a PE Teacher: Education and Career Roadmap

Watch this video and learn how to become a physical education teacher. Learn about the job duties, education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career teaching physical education. View article »

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PE Teachers

Physical education (PE) teachers train students to achieve and maintain optimum health and physical fitness by engaging in physical education activities and school-sponsored athletic programs. PE teachers may also teach health education classes, coach school sports teams and advise schools about physical fitness curriculum.

Depending on the grade level, elementary, middle and high school, teachers may teach PE, as well as other subjects. If they also coach, they'll have to work both before and after regular school hours. PE teachers, like other instructors, typically get to enjoy a two-month summer break.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Elementary education, secondary education, physical education
Licensure or Certification Public schools require licensure; private schools may or may not
Experience Student teaching
Key Skills Strong verbal and written communication skills; comfort speaking in front of people; knowledge of various sports; adept at providing instruction; patience and creativity; proficient in Microsoft Office, instructional, and presentation software; able to pass a background check; physical strength and stamina
Salary $54,550 (median for all elementary school teachers)
$55,680 (median for all middle school teachers)
$57,200 (median for all secondary school teachers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, CareerBuilder.com (job postings from July 2012)

PE teachers may hold a bachelor's degree in elementary, secondary, or physical education. In addition, all teachers working in public schools must be licensed. PE teachers are often required to complete a student teaching internship. Prospective PE teachers should also be able to demonstrate a variety of important skills, including verbal and written communication skills, public speaking skills, and patience, along with knowledge of various sports, physical strength, and stamina, and being able to pass a background check.

As of 2015, the median annual salary for elementary school teachers was $54,550, with middle school teachers earning $55,680 and high school teachers earning $57,200 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Steps to Becoming a PE Teacher

The road map to becoming a teacher and advancing a career in physical education involves earning a bachelor's degree, completing student/teacher training, obtaining licensure, completing the required continuing education and mentoring other teachers.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A physical education training programs are generally offered through a school's education, physical education or kinesiology department. Bachelor's degrees are often awarded in physical education or physical education teacher education. These programs teach aspiring teachers how to adapt physical activities to certain ages and plan appropriate physical education programs.

Classes could include anatomy and physiology, psychology, K-12 literacy and physical education assessment. Many curriculums are based on guidelines established by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

It might also be a good idea to:

  • Complete student teaching to gain experience. Most PE and teacher education programs include an internship, practicum or student teaching requirement. These requirements are typically supervised by PE education faculty and include fieldwork at elementary, middle and high school locations.

Please also consider:

  • Broaden your knowledge of fitness programs. Physical education and teacher education programs include a variety of classes involving different fitness activities. Students could take classes in track and field, tennis, soccer, bowling, swimming, ballroom dance, rock climbing, gymnastics, floor hockey, and/or flag football. Schools typically have extensive PE facilities to host these fitness options and to conduct research. Facilities could include a fitness laboratory, instructional gym or wellness center for strength training.

Prospective and accomplished teachers may also want to:

  • Join a student physical education association. One way for PE teachers to stay in physical shape and socialize with their peers is to become a member of a physical education club. Depending on the school, there may be clubs for specific sports like fencing or dance or a general physical education group.

Step 2: Obtain Teaching Licensure or Certification

Like all teachers, PE teachers must be licensed to teach in public schools. However, depending on the state, private schools may not require such credentials. Although state licensure rules differ, according to the BLS, the basic prerequisites for obtaining licensure are the completion of a teacher preparation program, student teaching experience and examinations on general teaching and specialty area content.

Many states require prospective teachers to take The Praxis Series exams for licensure, which are administered by the Educational Testing Service. The PE knowledge test consists of multiple-choice questions about fitness, health and sports for elementary to high school age students. The exam is divided in four sections: content knowledge and student growth and development; management, motivation and communication; planning, instruction and student assessment; and social science foundations.

  • Getting CPR certified might be useful as well. Some bachelor's degree programs include first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification as prerequisites for engaging in fieldwork. If the school doesn't provide such an option, several organizations offer training, including the American Heart Association, which offers both classroom and online certification programs.

Step 3: Complete Continuing Education

Requirements to renew teacher licensure vary by state and the type of license, but usually include completing a number of continuing education courses. For PE teachers, coaching courses may be acceptable for renewal. Also, attendance at a PE conference may result in a certificate for professional growth credits.

Step 4: Consider Career Advancement Options

Once teachers acquire work experience, they can serve as mentors to other teachers. Individuals interested in taking on administrative roles might consider completing a graduate program to prepare for licensure as instructional coordinators or principals.

Remember, to become a physical education (PE) teacher, you must earn a bachelor's degree, complete student teacher training, and obtain licensure. And to fully advance your career, you should complete any and all continuing education and consider mentoring other teachers.

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