Becoming a Gym Teacher: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a gym teacher career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a gym teacher is right for you.
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A Gym Teacher Career: Pros and Cons

Gym teachers, often called physical education (PE) teachers, are responsible for school physical education curriculum and classes, and in some schools, nutritional and health programs. Read on to learn about some of the pros and cons of being a gym teacher.

Pros of Becoming a Gym Teacher
Ability to teach children about the benefits of being physically active*
Allows you to be a positive influence in the lives of children*
Options in work environments (elementary, middle or high schools; public or private schools, etc.)**
Elementary and middle schools offer average job growth potential (12% from 2012-2022)**

Cons of Becoming a Gym Teacher
May require teaching large, overcrowded classes*
There may be a level of disrespect for teaching PE*
Requires a professional license for public school employment**
May have to pass a background check **

Sources: *PE Central, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

As a PE teacher, you'll be expected to create lesson plans that follow the state-mandated curriculum. During class, you'll be responsible for the well-being of students, ensuring they have the proper safety gear and understand the rules of each activity. The curriculum will be based on what grade level you teach. In general, physical education is about teaching students about sports, physical activities and living healthy. The goal of a PE class is to help students learn to live an active life. You may influence students to take up a sport or incorporate physical activity into their everyday lives.

In elementary school, you'll teach students the basics of PE and introduce them to new activities. In middle and high school, you may have a more structured curriculum where you teach students the rules of specific sports and help them improve their physical abilities. While you will work in a gymnasium, some schools may have outside courts, fields and swimming pools. Your work schedule is usually during the day time, but you may take on coaching duties after school. Most teachers work ten months out of the year with a two month break during summer.

Job Growth and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), elementary and middle school teachers were expected to see a job growth of 12% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). High school teachers were expected to have lower job growth with a 6% projection during that same time period. PayScale.com reported in July 2015 that the salary for gym teachers in the 10th-90th percentile range was $29,252-$65,990 per year.

Education and Training Requirements

To become a teacher, you need to have at least a bachelor's degree in physical education or related area. Some states may require you to earn a master's degree. To teach in public schools, you must be licensed by the state. Some private schools may also require licensing. In order to maintain your license, you'll usually have to complete continuing education courses.

Schools may also impose other requirements, such as a criminal background check or drug screening. You also need to have skills and qualities that will make you a good teacher, such as:

  • Patience
  • Communication skills
  • Ability to explain difficult concepts
  • A creative mind to keep younger students engaged

What Employers Are Looking For

Some employers prefer to hire teachers who are also willing to serve as a coach. Employers also want to hire applicants who are experienced in the field and can demonstrate a strong knowledge of physical education. In April 2012, job postings from real employers stated:

  • A school in Massachusetts was seeking someone with experience teaching young children PE and preferred someone with an interest in working with technology. The duties of this position include designing programs, performing administrative duties and coaching. A bachelor's degree is required for this position, and anyone who receives the job must remain current on the developmental needs of children and teenagers.
  • A Michigan school is looking for a full-time health/PE teacher. While no specific degree is mentioned, the school does want all prospective applicants to have a current MI Certification.
  • A California school was looking for a teacher for grades 6-12 who was willing to teach year-round, including summer activities. The school also requires that applicants teach all PE subjects and develop lesson plans and examinations. In addition to earning at least a bachelor's degree, speaking a foreign language is also required for this position.

How to Maximize Your Skills

In some schools, physical education is combined with health, and a PE teacher is expected to teach both subjects. You may consider earning a degree in both subjects to prepare for this possible requirement. Additionally, you may wish to seek a master's degree even if it isn't required for licensing in your state, because some employers may give preference to those with an advanced degree.

Alternative Fields

There may be certain aspects of working as a PE teacher that discourages you. Perhaps you don't want to earn a college degree or teach students. If you have doubts, you may consider alternative careers in areas that allow you to express your passion for physical activity and encourage others to live a healthy lifestyle.

Coach

Coaches develop game plans and teach athletes how to succeed at their chosen sport. You may coach many different sports, such as baseball, basketball, football, dance and gymnastics. While a degree may be beneficial, the biggest requirement to become a coach is to gain skills and experience in a specific sport. According to the BLS, coaches earned a median annual salary of $28,500 in 2011.

Fitness Trainer

A fitness trainer teaches clients how to be physically active and stay healthy. In this career, you may teach group classes or train individuals. Your main goal is to help individuals become physically fit. The requirements for the job will vary; however, in many cases, you need professional certification. Personal and fitness trainers earned a median annual of $31,000, according to the BLS in 2011.

Sports Official

As a sports official, you ensure sporting activities are conducted according to the rules and regulations of the game. You also administer penalties if rules are broken. To become an official, you need to have specific training and earn certification. The BLS reports that umpires, referees and other sports officials earned a median annual salary of $23,200 per year in 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA/Health Education
      • BA/Health Education
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - Online College Teaching
      • Master: Education (for Practicing Teachers: K-12)
      • Master: Higher Education - College Teaching/Learning
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Early Childhood Administration
      • Undergraduate in Early Childhood
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Ed.D. - General Education
      • EdD - Learning Analytics in Higher Education
    Master's
      • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
      • MEd - General Education
      • MEd - PK-12 Principal Leadership
      • M.Ed. - Early Childhood Education
    Certificate
      • Education Specialist - Sports Management
      • Education Specialist - Curriculum and Teaching
      • Education Specialist - Early Childhood Education
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Teaching and Learning
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
    Master's
      • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
      • M.Ed. in Elementary Education
      • M.Ed. in Secondary Education
      • M.Ed. in Early Childhood
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
      • B.S. in Elementary Education with an Emphasis in Christian Education
      • BS in Early Childhood
      • B.S. in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Elementary Education Teacher Preparation (FL)
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Regent University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Trident University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master's - Education
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. Athletic Training
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Early Childhood Education - Non-Licensure
    Associate's
      • A.S. Early Childhood Education
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Special Education
      • MS - Special Education with Wilson Reading Certificate
    Certificate
      • Certificate - Online Accelerated Teacher (OATCERT)
      • Certificate - Special Education
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Higher Education Administration
      • MEd in Curriculum and Instruction - Dyslexia Studies & LBLD
      • MEd in Curriculum & Instruction
      • MEd in Curriculum & Instruction - Reading Specialist

Featured Schools

Ashford University

  • BA/Health Education

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master: Teaching (for Aspiring Teachers: Grades 5-12)
  • Master: Higher Education - Online College Teaching
  • BS in Early Childhood Administration
  • Undergraduate in Early Childhood

Which subject are you interested in?

Northcentral University

  • PhD in Education - Curriculum and Teaching
  • M.Ed. - Curriculum and Teaching
  • Education Specialist - Sports Management

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Teaching and Learning

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership - Behavioral Health
  • MA in Curriculum and Instruction
  • Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education
  • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Elementary Education Teacher Preparation (FL)

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education

What is your highest level of education completed?

Trident University

  • Master's - Education

What is your highest level of education completed?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • M.S. Athletic Training
  • B.S. Early Childhood Education - Non-Licensure
  • A.S. Early Childhood Education

What is your highest level of education?