Becoming a PE Teacher Careers & Salary Outlook

What is a P.E. Teacher?

Physical education (P.E.) teachers have the responsibility of working with students in elementary, middle, and high school. They are teaching professionals who have learned about human health and fitness; they know what good fitness and daily exercise mean to the young body. Their role is to instruct students in physical activity that leads to increased physical fitness.

Steps to Becoming a P.E. Teacher

When you know that you want to become a P.E. teacher, you need to make sure that all your high school or GED requirements have been completed. You will begin the process of getting into a physical education program in a college or university you are interested in attending.

There, you will take all the classes you need for your future career. To gain needed teaching experience, you’ll complete a mandatory student teaching unit. Once you have graduated, you can sit for your licensure/certification exam that will allow you to be hired by a school district.

  • Step 1 Choose the School or College You Are Interested In

  • Step 2 Complete The Required General Education And Core (Education And Physical Education) Major Courses

  • Step 3 PE Teacher Course Examples and Take Required Tests

  • Step 4 Apply For Certification In Your Area of Teaching (PE)


Step 1

Choose the school or schools you are interested in attending. Find out if they offer education majors and physical education majors. Most colleges and universities do. You’ll still need to check, just in case any school you’re considering the physical education focus and courses you’ll need to earn certification.

After narrowing your choices down, order and submit your official high school transcripts to the schools you’re interested in. Begin the application process. Once you are accepted to a college you can begin the enrollment process.

Step 2

Take your required general education and core (education and physical education) major courses. These will prepare you for P.E. teaching and either coaching or health education careers.

Two major components of your physical education major include teacher education and kinesiology. You will take courses that focus on age-appropriate education in fitness and movement (kinesiology). You’ll also learn about the different educational strategies that you might use with your students.

Step 3

Some of your courses may include:

  • Motor Learning and Control
  • Physiology of Exercise
  • Bio-mechanical Aspects of Human Movement
  • Sport Psychology
  • Adapted Physical Education, should you teach children with physical disabilities
  • Methods of Teaching P.E.
  • Dance
  • Multicultural Awareness and non-sexism in the classroom
  • Physical Education Curriculum Design and Program Organization
  • Professional Activity/Skills Classes, such as individual sports, team sports, dance, and others.

Complete your student teaching at a school in the community where you are attending school. You will be placed in a school within the K-12 grades, where you will teach under the guidance of a supervisory teacher. You may have a separate practicum that you may be required to complete.

Step 4

Apply for certification in your area of teaching (PE). If you are still completing student teaching, you can ask your college advisor how you would handle this issue. Each states Department of Education has various licensing requirements for teachers. You should make sure you are familiar with the requirements for certification early on in your educational journey.

Read through the certification or licensure instructions and follow each step. Sign up for your licensing exam and begin studying the material that will be on the exam. If you don’t pass your exam right away, you’ll likely be able to take them again after you take a little more time to prepare. Once you have your licensure in hand, you will be ready to teach P.E.

What Does a P.E. Teacher Do?

In the elementary grades, you will welcome individual classes of students and lead them in warm-ups and exercises, then move on to the day’s planned activity, such as volleyball or running. You may find it easier to get younger students to try new skills—they aren’t yet at the age of middle and high school students, who have become highly self-conscious about their appearances and how they look as they are trying something new.

If you are teaching middle schoolers or high school students, you will have a day that is similar to that of the elementary school P.E. teacher. If you don’t have an assistant, it will be up to you to set up and take down equipment in between each class. You, as well as your students, will stay physically active throughout your day. You’ll walk long distances (probably 6 to 8 miles a day).

Being a P.E. teacher means you have to think creatively and shouldn’t be afraid to come up with new solutions to old problems, or even new physical fitness activities. You may be required to write grants if the equipment you need is not be available and the school district doesn’t have funds earmarked for physical education items.

Schools, P.E. teachers, and kinesiologists know much more today about the human body. They understand how physical fitness affects students. So, you may have access to equipment such as heart monitors (fitness testing) and pedometers (when you and your students know how much they are walking, it’s easier to track their progress in physical fitness).

P.E. Teacher Skills to Acquire

You may have some of the skills you need as a P.E. teacher. You may need to learn additional skills. These include:

  • Complex problem solving
    After identifying a problem, you’ll have to go through any information you may have so you can determine how to correct the problem.

  • Active listening
    Listening only to your student without doing something else like looking for a piece of paper and understanding the student by asking questions as needed.

  • Critical thinking
    Using reasoning skills to determine which solution is the better one, then concluding what to do.

  • Coordination
    Making changes depending on someone else’s actions.

  • Grading
    Reading through your students’ progress to determine at their grade.

  • Diagnostic Tests
    Being able to interpret tests and assist in determining diagnosis, needs, identification, and placement.

  • Judgment and Decision Making
    Weighing the pluses and minuses of different actions before choosing the best one.

  • Instructing
    Training, coordinating, facilitating, coaching, and teaching.

  • Lesson Plan Development
    Creating a curriculum and including different learning strategies and problem solving.

  • Learning Strategies
    Choosing and using instructional methods that fit a particular situation as you are teaching or learning a new process.

  • Monitoring
    Watching your students’ performance as they improve and assist with creative action.

  • Management
    Guiding and coordinating students in achieving goals.

  • Multitasking
    Handling several tasks simultaneously and staying calm.

  • Relationship Management
    Resolving conflicts, organizing, troubleshooting, motivating, and developing rapport.

  • Speaking
    Delivering information effectively while talking to students.

  • Service Orientation
    Finding ways to help people.

  • Time Management
    Being aware of time and managing what you get done.

  • Social Perceptiveness
    Seeing the reactions of other people and understanding the “why” of their reactions.

  • Writing
    Expressing your ideas and plans in writing.

Alternative Paths

You may have begun with a career completely separate from that of a P.E. teacher. You may have always been interested in teaching PE, but got settled in another career. You want to teach PE, but you don’t want to go back to school—or you can’t afford the time and money.

Can you take another route to becoming a teacher that doesn’t involve earning a master’s degree? Definitely. Depending on where you live and the universities in your locale, you may be able to take advantage of a few different programs.

  • Multiple and Single-Subject University Intern Program
    Here, you can work in a P-12 public school as a classroom teacher as you complete university coursework. You should be able to complete in three semesters (about 18 months).
  • Transition to Teaching Online
    This is geared to recent college graduates and professionals with degrees and backgrounds in math and science. TTT Online allows you to teach full-time, receiving pay and benefits as you complete preliminary credentials. All of the credentials are earned online and should take about one year. You’ll receive one-on-one guidance from mentor-teachers, individualized advising, and job placement assistance in partnering urban schools that needs qualified teachers.

Make sure you check with your state’s Education Department to discover all of the available routes to teacher certification in your area.

PE Teacher Career & Salary

Where Might You Work?


Once you graduate and complete all of your required licensing paperwork, you will be qualified and eligible to teach in both public and private schools in your state. Your job role in a school and school district are vital; you’ll help your students to improve their fitness and overall health. You also teach them how important it is to develop and maintain a daily exercise regimen.

No matter where you teach, in a private or public school, you will be required to ensure that your students receive a set number of minutes of physical fitness education. This varies by grade level, from first grade through 12th grade.

If you teach at the high school level, you will, in conjunction with other teachers, be providing students the opportunity for physical fitness activities. Cheerleading teachers, marching band teachers, and sports coaches all provide physical fitness activity. Still, they don’t cover the required areas required in a P.E. class.

You may work as a coach for a sport or conduct research in physical fitness in youth. You may also teach health classes at the elementary, middle, or high school levels. Or, depending on the job situation in your state, you may be an adjunct faculty member at a college.

Potential Career Paths

Even though you may earn a degree in physical education, you may not spend your entire career teaching. You may find it necessary to move into another professional field that relies heavily on your knowledge of physical fitness. If you have a bachelor’s degree, you may easily be able to transition into these new careers. Some of the careers may require that you return to school and earn a master’s degree or even your doctorate.

Optional fields you can enter with your education (you may need an extra certification for some) include:

  • Dancer or Dance Teacher
  • Activities coordinator
  • Consultant
  • Personal Fitness Trainer
  • Special Olympics Worker
  • Recreational Therapist
  • Athletic Trainer
  • Sports Coach
  • Corporate Wellness Trainer
  • Prison Recreation Specialist
  • Dietician
  • Nutritionist
  • Fitness Consultant
  • Sports Medicine Specialist
  • Camp Director
  • Spa Director
  • Cruise Recreation Director
  • Recreation and Fitness Worker

Employers are seeking physical education teachers:

Physical Education Teacher
Bring passion to teaching students. Lead them in physical fitness education; increase overall physical and health awareness; develop a culture of teamwork, participation and collaboration between students; plan and carry out physical education lessons; maintain and communicate high academic and personal expectations for each child.

Set Designer
Local live theaters often need talented visionaries to design and build sets for their shows. While this might not be full-time work, it can certainly augment your work as an art teacher. Further, when you put your artwork on display you may find other opportunities for paid artistic work.

Regional Director of Athletics and Physical Education
Direct the business affairs of the athletic program, to include preparation and administration of program budget; develop and maintain master athletic department operations calendar; conduct pre-season coaches meetings; manage the athletics transportation department to include driver certification, driver medical examiner cars, bus maintenance, bus registration, bus insurance, entering and approving working hours for drivers, cleanliness of buses and ensuring timeliness for athletic trips; develop effective and efficient systems for scheduling games, referees, and transportation; create systems for behavior reporting with each school administration; attend all league meetings and conferences; understand and communicate emergency procedures; advise on development of a physical education program from K through 12; handle responsibility for curriculum development and any revisions of physical education program, working closely with the administration and staff.

Adjunct Physical Education Activity Instructor
This part-time position requires teaching lower division physical education activity courses when needed each semester. Lead safe, effective, enjoyable classes in different disciplines and activities, such as cross training, yoga, walking for fitness, aerobics, jogging, strength training, fencing, archery, volleyball, basketball, water aerobics, swimming, scuba diving, Tai Chi, self-defense, hiking, rock climbing, bicycling, snowboarding, skiing, or ice skating.

Physical Education Faculty, Grades 9-12
This position requires more than just an ability to teach physical fitness. The successful candidate should be open-minded, collaborate well, and have top-notch listening skills. They should be able to think independently.

The teacher will teach sports, games, physical fitness, and functional movement methods. They will be able to use a wide variety of instructional approaches so that students benefit. Technology can be a large part of the curriculum.

Physical Education Career Salaries

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Teacher's Assistant $15,000 $23,000 $36,000
Elementary School Teacher $40,000 $46,000 $59,000
Middle School Teacher $40,000 $48,000 $59,000
Associate Professor $61,000 $77,000 $80,000
Elementary School Principal $68,000 $82,000 $93,000
Postsecondary Education Administrators $45,000 $69,000 $65,000

**Salary info provided by PayScale

Career Outlook

The current job outlook shows that this field will grow 13% between 2016 and 2026. The increase in participation in high school and college sports leads to the increase in demand for scouts and coaches. In addition, there are signs that high school enrollment may increase throughout the next ten years, which will lead to a larger number of student-athletes. Schools are also beginning to offer additional athletic programming, leading to more students beginning to participate.

As with high school sports, college sports participation may also increase throughout the next ten years. Smaller colleges and women’s sports will show the largest increases. Division III colleges are also expanding sports programming and adding new sports teams, which helps to promote the schools.

The overall U.S. population is growing ever more interested in college and professional sports, which may also lead to the increased demand for college scouts. If colleges are going to remain competitive, they will need to attract the best athletes they can find.

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Benefit of PE Teacher Certification

Where do you go after working as a physical education teacher? You have the option of returning to school for your master’s in physical education. You’ll receive a course of study that includes research on teaching physical education, as well as on teacher education in this field.

You can also turn your efforts to becoming a coach. Returning to school means you’ll develop the skills you need, using state-of-the-art technology to become even more competent as a coach in the K-12 sector.

After graduation, you can work as a personal trainer, activity specialist and director, youth and sports camp director, strength and conditioning coach, YMCA director, sports coach, or manager. You may work for community organizations

Education Career Paths