Physical education teachers — also called gym teachers or P.E. teachers — play an important educational role by instructing students of all ages in physical fitness and well-being. In this article, you’ll learn about the requirements for becoming a physical education teacher, salary ranges and the steps toward certification and job trends in the field of physical education.
Prospective physical education teachers must complete a four-year undergraduate program and earn a Bachelor of Science degree in athletic training, physical education or a relevant course of study. Students can specialize in health promotion or exercise science if they know what area of study they’ll work with the most, but it is optional. Some of the required classes for this major include:
Before graduating, future physical education teachers must finish at least one semester of student teaching and pass the Praxis I and II exams. Also, some states and colleges require physical education teachers to pass a comprehensive test before they are licensed. A good example is the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET), but each state will have its own testing requirements.
Future teachers of physical education may want to join groups and organizations to help develop physical education standards, such as the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, which aims to enhance the profession by providing opportunities for growth and development. They can also gain experience teaching young people by working as a coach or volunteer. This type of experience will look good on a resume while job hunting.
There are some states and school districts that require new teachers to complete their master’s degree in education within a certain period of time after employment. A master’s degree in physical education or a relevant field can also lead to a higher salary.
Physical education teachers can be found in schools and colleges instructing students in sports, fitness techniques, health and nutrition. Most are employed by private and public schools, but some work for several public schools in the same district. They may serve as school coaches for sports like football, soccer, basketball or track and field. Like classroom teachers, physical education teachers are required to attend faculty and parent-teacher meetings.
Because most schools have a minimum education requirement in health and fitness, physical education teachers have to teach in the classroom as well. At larger schools, there may be a staff of physical education teachers managed by one teacher in a supervisory role.
With the estimated increase in student enrollment and the large number of teachers expected to retire, the BLS notes that the 2006-2012 employment outlook for all levels of teachers is projected to grow by 12 percent. However, schools have fewer physical education teachers than traditional classroom teachers.
The number of teachers employed in public schools is dependent on state and local budgets, but there has been a large increase in funding for education at the federal level, especially for teachers in low-income areas.
Physical education teachers are paid at the same scale as teachers of other subjects. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for high school teacher is $53,230.
Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific curriculum, and employment opportunities are not guaranteed.