Physical Education (PE) Teacher Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a physical education teacher career? Get real job duties, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a physical education teacher is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Physical Education Teacher Career

Your salary as a physical education teacher and job prospects will differ depending on whether you want to teach physical education in high schools or colleges. Keep reading for a few pros and cons about being a PE teacher.

Pros of a Physical Education Teacher Career
High school teachers can find work with an undergraduate degree (87% have just a bachelor's degree)**
Tenured positions offer job security*
Work offers personal rewards*
Option to have the same vacation allotment as students do*

Cons of a Physical Education Teacher Career
College teachers may need about 10 years of education for entry-level positions*
High school teachers have lower-than-average job prospects (6% growth between 2012 and 2022)*
Difficult students can create a stressful work environment*
Position may require evening and weekend hours if you coach*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine.

Physical Education Teacher Career Information

Duties and Responsibilities

Whether you work at the high school or postsecondary level, you will be responsible for teaching students the basics of physical education. You will plan lessons, give assignments and award grades to students. Other duties can vary greatly depending on whether you're teaching college or high school. For example, high school teachers may be required to cover a broader range of duties, such as teaching a class in a related area like health education. If you find yourself coaching a sport, you'll be required to travel and supervise the team. You may also be required to budget inventory for your department and ensure everything is in working order for safety reasons.

Coaching at the college level is usually done by those specifically hired for the sole purpose of coaching that sport or athletic event. In an arena where adrenaline can run high, you must also be able to control your students when emotions may get the better of them.

Job Prospects and Career Growth

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth prospects for high school teachers will only increase by 6% between 2012 and 2022. College teachers fared better with the projection of a 19% increase for that decade. The BLS noted that as of May 2014, high school teachers earned an annual median wage of about $56,310, while college teachers were bringing in over $62,330. According to O*Net OnLine, physical education professors in particular earned a yearly median wage of almost $58,280 in 2014.

Physical Education Teaching Requirements

What Are Employers Looking for?

High school teachers generally need at least a bachelor's degree. If you plan on teaching at the high school level, you're also going to need a teaching certificate. Each state has its own criteria that may require further education and state exams, but you should check with your state Board of Education for specifics. Private schools offer an exception to this rule, since they are allowed to set their own hiring criteria.

At the college level, you may be required to hold a doctoral degree, but some community colleges might allow you to take an entry-level position if you have a master's degree. Regardless of which level you teach, it's generally preferred that your degree is either in physical education or a related field. Two of the most important aspects needed by all teachers are communication skills and patience.

Actual Job Postings from Real Employers

Education and certification are the key components in most physical education teacher job postings. The job postings below were found in November 2012.

  • There's an opening in a North Carolina university for a physical education assistant professor. The school prefers that you have your doctorate in physical education pedagogy (the science of teaching), but you can still be considered if you've completed everything but your dissertation. You'll also need to demonstrate that you've been responsible for distance-based education.
  • A private high school in Massachusetts is looking for a physical education teacher. You'll only need a bachelor's degree to qualify for the position at this college prep school, and no experience is required.
  • A Wyoming school is seeking a physical education teacher. You'll need a bachelor's degree with a physical education major or minor and a Wyoming state teaching certificate. Along with traditional classes, you'll have the opportunity to teach special education students and athletics. This position is also responsible for inventory and requisitioning of athletic equipment and gear.

Standing Out in the Field

Get Experience

There are a variety of ways you can gain experience. One way is to actually engage in sports. You can do this by participating in sports throughout your academic years. Another way is to participate in youth sports organizations. Many towns and regions have youth sports organizations that need coaches, mentors and game officials. These are usually volunteer positions, but when you apply to become a school teacher, you'll be able to demonstrate that you've had real-world experience and that athletics are a passion, rather than just a job.

Certification and Education

The National Council of Youth Sports offers an array of certifications and educational programs on subjects ranging from sports safety to coaching tips. They also have resources that can direct you to other organizations that encourage you to participate in programs such as Let's Move or the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award group, which encourages children to meet activity challenges and offers rewards for reaching their goals. Another way to continue your education is to stay on top of the rule changes in games. With the ongoing concerns about player injuries in many sports, rules are being altered at professional and amateur levels on a regular basis.

Alternative Occupations

Coaches and Scouts

If you're passionate about a specific sport, you might consider a career as a coach or scout. You'll need a high school diploma or its equivalent and long-term, on-the-job training. Coaches and scouts work long and irregular hours during the season. Coaches frequently travel for games, and scouts travel extensively across the country. The BLS expected the need for these professionals to increase by 29% between 2010 and 2020. In another BLS report, scouts and coaches were shown to have earned an annual median wage of over $28,000 in May 2011.

Umpires, Referees and Other Sports Officials

If you love the idea of being on the field, but you don't want a 320-pound linebacker charging at you, a career as an umpire, referee or sport official might be right for you. They generally only need a high school diploma, but the career may require extensive on-the-job training. In one of these positions, you'll monitor sporting and athletic events to make sure that the players and competitors adhere to the rules of the game. You'll also issue penalties and be responsible for determining the outcome of close calls. The BLS predicted these professionals to experience a job growth of 20% in the 2010-2020 decade. As of May 2011, umpires, referees and other sports officials' annual median wage was more than $23,000 according to the BLS.

Popular Schools

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Sports Marketing and Media
      • B.S. - Sports Marketing and Media
  • Online Programs Available
    2. The George Washington University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
      • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
      • MSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences
      • MSHS in Translational Microbiology
  • Online Programs Available
    3. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Sports Analytics Management
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Ed.D. - Sports Management
      • PhD in Education - Sports Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Healthcare Admin
      • Master: Nursing/Nurse Educator
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Nutrition Science
      • Bachelor: Health and Wellness
      • Bachelor: Health Science
      • Bachelor: Healthcare Admin
    Associate's
      • AASBA in Health Club Operations
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Practical Theology - Practical Healing
      • Master of Divinity - Practical Healing
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
  • Online Programs Available
    7. University of the Southwest

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSE Exercise Science
      • MBA Healthcare Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Penn Foster

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma - Physical Therapy Aide
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA: Sport Business

Featured Schools

Full Sail University

  • B.S. - Sports Marketing and Media

What is your highest level of education?

The George Washington University

  • MSHS Medical Laboratory Sciences
  • MSHS in Immunohematology and Biotechnology
  • MSHS in Molecular Diagnostic Sciences

What is your highest level of education?

American University

  • Master of Science in Sports Analytics Management

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • Ed.D. - Sports Management
  • PhD in Education - Sports Management

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master of Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor: Nutrition Science
  • AASBA in Health Club Operations

Which subject are you interested in?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Practical Theology - Practical Healing
  • Master of Divinity - Practical Healing

What is your highest level of education completed?

University of the Southwest

  • MSE Exercise Science
  • MBA Healthcare Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Physical Therapy Aide

What is your highest level of education?