PE Degree Programs with Career Options

Programs in physical education (PE) provide students with scientific knowledge and practical training for a number of career choices. All degree programs rely on fundamental training in anatomy, nutrition, exercise science and training procedures.

Essential Information

Programs in physical education are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's, and doctorate levels. Entry requirements for these programs vary by level.

A 2-year associate's degree gives students basic knowledge in the field of exercises and athletic training and prepares the graduate to enter a bachelor's degree program. They can also find entry-level positions as a coach.

A bachelor's degree in PE, teacher training and state certification is generally required to become a PE teacher in a public school for entry-level positions in the physical education field. Other positions that might be available to someone with a bachelor's degree include a recreation director.

After this, students can increase knowledge and skills by earning graduate degrees in PE at the master's and doctoral levels. Many coaches pursue master's degrees due to the business and management training these programs provide. Doctoral programs prepare students to teach at the college level as well as work in research.


Associate of Arts in Physical Education

The program that leads to the Associate of Arts in Physical Education introduces students to the basics of physical activity and training regimens. Students learn about sports programs and how they are administered. Fitness, health and sports skills are covered in the curriculum. Applicants must supply high school transcripts and grade point averages (GPAs) from any previous college work. Some schools request ACT or SAT scores. Applicants generally need to meet liberal arts and general education requirements.

An associate's degree program teaches basic skills and theories of physical education. Students are also introduced to the medical skills needed to work in the physical education field. Courses may include the following:

  • Health and fitness
  • Sports medicine
  • First aid
  • CPR
  • Physical education careers
  • Aerobic exercise modalities

Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education

People pursue bachelor's degrees in physical education if they are seeking careers in education. Many bachelor's programs offer degree tracks in physical education instruction and licensure preparation. Coursework in a bachelor's degree program prepares graduates to teach physical education in grades K-12. Those who want to teach or coach at the college level should continue their education at the graduate level. An applicant must supply a college transcript that validates coursework in physical education. Some colleges require minimum GRE scores for entry. Schools may also require a specified minimum GPA for previous college coursework.

Students are introduced to kinesiology, anatomy and physiology. A typical bachelor's degree program may include the following courses:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Motor skills evaluation
  • Kinesiology
  • Exercise physiology
  • Biomechanics
  • Teaching field sports

Master of Arts in Physical Education

Master's degree programs in physical education often focus on the business aspects of coaching. The curriculum offers coursework in areas such as administration, advanced coaching and teaching. Many master's degree programs also emphasize kinesiology, the study of body mechanics and anatomy in humans. Most graduate programs in PE require candidates to research and write a thesis on a physical education topic of his or her choice. Students applying to master's degree programs must supply college transcripts. Some colleges require a minimum GPA for consideration. GRE scores are typically required at the graduate level.

Coursework in a master's degree program in physical education introduces the student to the business applications and administrative responsibilities of PE instruction and coaching. Advanced theory in human body movement is often part of the curriculum. Courses may include the following:

  • Kinesiology
  • Health and wellness
  • Data interpretation in kinesiology
  • Physical education issues
  • Rehabilitation
  • Service delivery systems

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Physical Education

A doctoral degree program in physical education emphasizes advanced skills in physical education, health and sports management. Biomechanics, biochemistry and sports psychology are among the topics covered by this program. Candidates are required to produce thoroughly researched and original dissertations prior to receiving their Ph.D. degrees. Applicants submit college transcripts and may need to submit letters of recommendation from several sources. A curriculum vitae (CV) is often required as well. Applicants may be required to provide examples of expository writing that outline their career goals and research interests.

Students study the historical, psychological and sociological aspects of physical education. Research in kinesiology is emphasized. Coursework may include:

  • Cognitive Factors in kinesiology
  • Motor skills mechanics
  • Philosophy in physical education
  • Research in physical education
  • Educational psychology
  • Sports performance development

Popular Careers

A graduate of an associate's degree program in PE has several career options in physical education; however, a bachelor's degree may open the door to more opportunities. Possible jobs include:

  • Personal trainer
  • Physical therapy assistant
  • Coach
  • Activities director

Bachelor's degrees in PE are generally required for sports instructors and high school coaches. These positions may require additional teacher certification, depending on state regulations. Other career options could include the following:

  • Dietitian
  • Fitness worker
  • Recreational therapist
  • Recreation director

A master's degree in PE opens the door to many job opportunities in specialized areas. A graduate may work in rehabilitation or teach physical education. Some popular career options are as follows:

  • Physical education teacher
  • Coach
  • Health club director
  • Physical therapist
  • Nutritionist
  • Kinesiologist

Salary Info and Employment Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported salaries for elementary school teachers averaging $57,730 in May 2015, while middle and high school teachers made more, averaging $58,760 and $60,440 respectively during the same time period. Fitness trainers and aerobics instructors were reported to make $40,970 on average during that time, though they were expected to enjoy a 8% increase in jobs through the 2014 to 2024 time period. Kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school teachers were expected to see an increase of 6% from 2014 to 2024.

Programs in physical education can prepare you for a variety of careers, including those in the education field. Available at several levels, these programs cover the basics of health and fitness as well as advanced topics like motor skills mechanics and kinesiology.

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