Becoming a Physical Education Teacher
We receive many requests from a number of people (including students) who are interested in learning what it takes to become a physical education teacher. We hope the following information, presented in a question and answer format, is helpful to those interested in becoming K-12 Health and Physical Education teachers. If you have further questions send email to [email protected].
What educational background is needed for this career?
Typically you need to complete a degree in Health and Physical Education at a 4 year college or university. Some of the classes you may have to take are Kinesiology, Exercise Physiology, Health and Wellness classes, activity courses like golf, aerobics, basketball, tennis, racquetball, and other team and/or individual sports, a number of Teaching PE/Health Methods Classes, and Student teaching or internships. Classes vary from school to school.
See below for a few colleges and universities that may offer undergraduate PE Programs.
What experience do you need?
It is best to have plenty of experience and knowledge about how to perform and teach different physical activities such as rock climbing, rollerblading, tennis, cooperative activities, golf, running, ultimate frisbee, basketball, fitness, aerobics, dance, gymnastics, etc. The university you attend should help you learn and teach many of these activities so don't worry if you don't know how to do all of these now. Coaching experience helps also.
Also, it is important that you have experience with being around and teaching youngsters. As you get older it may be good for you to help coach a team or two maybe at the youth sport level. We recommend that you volunteer to work with Boys/Girls Clubs, YMCA's and Special Olympics. The university you attend should allow you to practice your teaching skills in schools in their area.
Lastly, you must truly enjoy being around people and kids. This is a helping profession and you will be spending a lot of time with kids and large numbers of them.
What are the major responsibilities of this job?
Most of the time you will be in charge of teaching health and/or PE classes during the day. If you are at a secondary school (grades 6-12) you will probably teach 5-6 classes and they would meet for an hour to an hour and a half. If you are at an elementary school (grades K-5) you will probably have 8-10 half hour classes with very few breaks (e.g., planning periods). Many teachers have to teach at more than one school.
At the secondary school you may have to teach a Health class or two.
Coaching is another duty you may choose to do especially early on in a career. In fact, you may choose to coach several sports.
There is no doubt you will have to teach children who have disabilities. You will learn about helping these students from the University you choose.
Other duties that you may have to partake in (many teachers do not get paid for these) during the day are duties such as after school monitoring of students, lunch, hall, and bus duties. And, of course you will need to attend faculty and parent-teacher conference meetings throughout the year.
Lastly, many physical education teachers are required to do a year end Field Day or a physical education show of some kind.
What is your daily routine like?
These vary for every teacher and situation, but in general your day may start as early as 7 AM so you can prepare any equipment or your teaching areas for the day. Depending on the grade level you are teaching you may get done teaching between 2:30 and 4:00 PM.
You have to be in good physical shape to do this job because you are on your feet a majority of the day and some teachers take their students outside for class so wear your sunscreen and hat!
Describe the benefits of this job.
Being around kids to teach them the benefits of being physically active. It is great to see children succeed and for them to thank you for your efforts with a hug or a thank you note at Christmas or at the end of the year. Also, it was nice to hear good things from parents about the positive influence you have on their children through your teaching.
Describe the most difficult responsibilities and things you have to deal with as a PE Teacher.
Believe it or not, sometimes finding ways to motivate some youngsters to participate and move in class is one of the most difficult struggles during the year! In addition, there are problems with PE Teachers having too many classes to teach in a week/day and teaching overcrowded and very large classes is difficult--especially at the secondary level (100-200 kids in the same class). Lastly, sometimes there is a lack of respect from others about the profession of Physical Education. PE Teachers constantly have to educate others about the "New" PE which is developmentally and instructionally appropriate. It is no longer acceptable to "teach" dodgeball, pick teams, etc. and that is so great for all kids attending PE classes that have a teacher who uses these "new" techniques and practices. You can learn more about the "New PE" and appropriate practices in our Professional Section on PE Central (see links below as well).
What are the related fields if your current job does not work out?
Exercise physiology, Sport Management, Health Industry, Coaching, etc. Interestingly, a number of PE teachers become principals!
What is the pay?
The pay is the same as it would be for any other teacher at a school so it depends on the state you decide to teach in. See the helpful links below for resources that will help you see the current pay in different states.
The following articles may be helpful in looking at what folks are calling "The NEW PE".
Important Documents to Be Familiar With as a PE Teacher
- Shape America
- Certification Map is a simple, yet effective way to determine the requirements needed to become a teacher in your state.
- Salary.com (find salaries for teachers in different states)
- National Education Association
- Dept. of Education
- PE Central's Professional Information Section
- PE Central's Job Center
Colleges/Universities That May Have a PE Program/Major
Written by Mark Manross, Executive Director of PE Central