How to Become a Physical Education Teacher

how to become a physical education teacher

Interested in becoming a Physical Education teacher but need help figuring out where to start? You’ve come to the right place! Many people are interested in this career type but feel overwhelmed by the process. In this article, we’ll go over what physical education teachers do, how to become certified PE teachers, and the traits needed to be effective. We’ll also discuss other topics, such as physical education teachers’ salaries and the skills and common career paths for PE teachers.

What is a Physical Education teacher?

A physical education teacher, or PE teacher, teaches topics and skills related to health and physical activity to improve their students’ overall wellness.

Types of Physical Education Teachers

Physical education teachers can work at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. They can work in public schools, private schools, or charter schools. Some physical education teachers may teach courses focusing on skills, such as dance or running, at the middle and high school levels. These roles are typically roles for coaches rather than PE teachers.

What does a Physical Education teacher do?

Physical education teachers use state standards to plan and teach developmentally appropriate lessons focusing on physical activity and overall wellness. They also use assessment strategies to monitor their students’ progress. Job descriptions for physical education teachers also require that the teacher follows state and federal educational policies, such as providing accommodations or modifications for students with disabilities.

How to Become a PE Teacher

Becoming a physical education teacher involves a similar process across most states. This usually involves earning a bachelor’s degree, completing a teacher preparation program, and taking required certification exams.

Earn a bachelor’s degree, preferably in Education or a field related to Health or Exercise.

Earning a bachelor’s degree is the first step in becoming a certified teacher in any subject. Many PE teachers major in a health or exercise-related field, such as Kinesiology, Exercise Science, or Health Education. Others choose to major in Education, often with a minor in a health-related area.

Complete an approved educator preparation program.

An educator preparation program includes education courses and field experience as a physical education teacher (often referred to as student teaching). Many colleges have programs that can be completed while you work towards your degree. If you’re still in college, check with an academic advisor to see if your college offers this program. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you must complete an educator preparation program for alternative certification.

Planning to teach in Texas? 240 Certification has an affordable, state-approved alternative certification program that can be completed in 12-18 months!!

Pass your state’s required certification exams.

To become a certified Physical Education teacher, you must take at least two certification exams: one for general teaching practices and one specific to physical education. You may also need additional tests covering basic educational skills depending on your state.

Different states use different certification exams. Many states use Praxis or NES exams. Other states like California and Florida use their exams like the CTC or FTCE. Don’t underestimate the difficulty level of these exams. Teacher certification exams can be surprisingly challenging, even for those with a background in physical education. Be sure to use study guides and practice tests to familiarize yourself with the exam format, content, and style of questions. 240 Tutoring has study guides, free practice tests, and exam overviews for several Physical Education exams, including:

TExES Physical Education EC-12

FTCE Physical Education: K-12

NES Physical Education (506)

Praxis Physical Education: Content Knowledge (5091)

Praxis Physical Education: Content and Design (5095)

And many more!

Once you pass your exams, you’ll need to apply for certification in your state. This typically requires a fee, paperwork, and a background check. For additional information on certification applications, check your state’s Department of Education website.

Apply for a Physical Education position.

After completing your teacher preparation program and passing your certification exams, it’s time to apply for jobs! One of the best ways to find up-to-date job openings is by looking on school districts’ employment websites, but you can also check sites such as Indeed, SchoolSpring, or ZipRecruiter.

In some states or districts, you may be able to apply for jobs and start teaching while you work towards your certification. In these cases, you will be hired under a probationary contract and have a set amount of time to pass your certification exam. Remember, however, that you’ll still need a bachelor’s degree in these cases.

Tip: Try working as a substitute PE teacher while you work towards your degree or certification. School administrators are often more likely to hire someone when they’re already familiar with them.

Helpful Skills for PE Teachers

Effective Physical Education teachers possess many of the following skills and traits:

  • Communication skills – Successful physical education teachers know how to communicate effectively with students and other teachers, administrators, and parents.
  • Enthusiasm – Effective physical education teachers can engage and excite students about the skills taught. Your enthusiasm for each lesson will spread to your students, causing them to look forward to PE each day or week!
  • Strong classroom management – Classroom management is a crucial skill for all teachers, but especially important for PE teachers who often teach large groups of students simultaneously.
  • Organization – Physical education teachers see many students daily. At the elementary level, most PE teachers see every student in the school over the course of a few days. Organization skills are key for lesson planning and for keeping records of each student’s progress.
  • Flexibility – As a physical education teacher, your daily or weekly plans may need to be changed based on field trips, weather, school-wide activities, and other events. Being able to adapt to these situations is an important skill to possess.

Common career paths for Physical Education Teachers

Many Physical Education teachers stay in this role throughout their careers, although they may move to different schools. Some PE teachers may move towards coaching or athletic training roles during their careers. Others may decide to later move out of physical education and into classroom teaching positions, such as teaching health classes.

Larger school districts sometimes have a department head for their physical education department, which may also be a role that interests some PE teachers.

Physical Education teacher salary and job outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median salary for teachers is $61,350 at the elementary level and $61,820 per year at the high school level. This includes physical education teachers. However, these numbers vary greatly based on your location. For example, a physical education teacher in a metropolitan area of New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania can make nearly $95,000 annually. In contrast, a PE teacher in a nonmetropolitan area of Missouri can expect an average salary closer to $44,000.

Regardless of your location, the job outlook is promising for teachers across all subjects. The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics predicts that from 2021 to 2031, elementary and high school teacher positions will increase by 4% and 5%, respectively. Remember that there will be fewer physical education jobs than classroom teaching jobs because most schools have only one or two PE teachers. However, these positions are still expected to increase at a steady rate.

Physical Education Teacher FAQs

How long does it take to become a PE teacher?

This will vary based on where you’re currently at in your career.

  • If you are just starting college, you must earn a bachelor’s degree, complete an educator preparation program, and take certification exams. Colleges often include an educator preparation program and a student teaching internship with your degree plan. From the start of college to passing your certification exams, this usually takes 4 – 6 years, depending on how quickly you earn your bachelor’s degree.
  • If you already hold a bachelor’s degree and work in another field, you must complete an alternative certification program and pass your certification exams. Most alternative certification programs take about six months to two years to complete.

Planning to teach in Texas? 240 Certification has an affordable, state-approved alternative certification program that can be completed in about 12-18 months!

  • If you already teach another subject, you will likely need to register and take the necessary Physical Education certification exam. This can be done relatively quickly if you are adequately prepared for the exam. Passing the required exam(s) will qualify you as a certified Physical Education teacher, but remember that many schools may prefer candidates with a Physical Education or health-related background.

What is the salary range for PE teachers?

The salary range for PE teachers varies based on your location and years of experience. Teacher salaries can range from $33,000 to over $100,000! In general, you can expect a higher salary in states with a higher cost of living or in larger metropolitan areas. The good news is that school districts often publish teacher pay scales on their website, making it easy to see whether a job will meet your income requirements.

Most teachers’ salaries are based on years of teaching experience, so your salary will usually increase yearly. If you’ve taught in the past, this should count towards your years of experience, even if it was in another subject.

Can I teach Physical Education without a Physical Education degree?

Yes! Many PE teachers have degrees other than Physical Education. While a degree in this area will certainly help prepare you for your career and certification exams, it is not a requirement in most schools. Many Physical Education teachers have degrees in a health or exercise field, such as physical therapy, health education, or sports medicine. Others, particularly those who become PE teachers later in their careers, may have degrees in completely different areas. The most important thing is that you have a bachelor’s degree and are certified to teach Physical Education in your state.

Are there benefits to earning a master’s degree?

Having a master’s degree may be beneficial in some circumstances. Some schools may prefer to hire teachers with master’s degrees, and most school districts have a slightly higher salary for those with master’s degrees.

Another reason to get a master’s degree is if you would like to move into other educational roles such as a head of department. If this is the case, you may want to consider a master’s degree in an area outside of Physical Education, such as a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction.

Remember that a master’s degree may not always be worth the additional cost and time. While it’s true that salaries are higher for those with master’s degrees, it is usually only a small difference. If you plan on being a physical education teacher for several years, and if schools in your area don’t prefer their teachers to have master’s degrees, it may be best to hold off on a master’s degree for now.

What certification do I need to become a Physical Education teacher?

The certification requirements for PE teachers vary by state but typically require a general teaching certification plus a Physical Education certification. Most physical education certification exams cover all grades from early childhood through 12th grade. For example, in Texas, you must take the TExES Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities EC-12 and the TExES Physical Education EC-12. In many states, physical education exams are combined with health exams, so ensure you know what will be covered on your test.

Your college or alternative certification program will be able to direct you to the exams you need in your state. You can also check our free test series resources for articles on common teacher exams and free practice tests.

What other certifications can I get to advance my career?

Some schools or districts prefer that their teachers have certifications in other areas, such as special education or English as a second language. However, this is typically a less common requirement for Physical Education teachers.  If you plan to teach other subjects besides physical education, consider exams such as TExES Health EC-12 (for Texas teachers) or OAE Health (for Ohio teachers).

If you plan to move into an administrative role later in your career, you’ll likely need to earn a Master’s degree and take additional exams such as the TExES Principal as Instructional Leader.

Interested in teaching a different subject? Check out these additional articles:
How to Become an Art Teacher
How to Become a History Teacher
How to Become an English Teacher
How to Become a Math Teacher
How to Become a Science Teacher
How to Become a Music Teacher
How to Become an Elementary Education Teacher
How to Become a Substitute Teacher