Becoming a High School Gym Teacher: Job Description & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a high school gym teacher career? Get real job descriptions, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a high school gym teacher is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a High School Gym Teacher

As a high school gym teacher, also known as a physical education teacher, you'll have a chance to teach teenage students how to be fit, live healthy and engage in sports and recreational activities. Check out these pros and cons to see if becoming a high school gym teacher is a good fit for you.

Pros of a High School Gym Teacher Career
Above-average salary (secondary school teachers earned a median of about $56,310 as of May 2014)*
Chance to teach students how to be healthy and fit*
May have summers off when school is out*
Opportunity to serve as a positive role model for teens*

Cons of a High School Gym Teacher Career
Job outlook is expected to be slow (6% employment growth of high school teachers from 2012-2022)*
Long hours are common, responsibilities go beyond the school day (meetings, preparing tests, grading assignments and coaching)*
Pressure to make sure kids are learning and achieving in class*
Some states could require you to earn a master's degree to teach at the high-school level*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Info

Job Description

High school gym teachers instruct students in how to stay fit, exercise properly and engage in athletic programs. You'll spend time in the classroom and gymnasium and on school fields, leading lessons and discussions about how to take part in exercise routines, recreational activities and physical games. It's also common for physical education teachers to instruct students in nutrition and general anatomy. Additionally, high school gym teachers may show students how to evaluate themselves with body mass and fitness tests.

You'll need to closely monitor the progress of each of your students, provide extra instruction when they're behind on their studies and assign each student a grade that reflects their physical education knowledge and abilities. It's also common for gym teachers to serve as high school sports coaches and help run a school's athletic programs.

Career Growth and Salary Stats

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that there would only be 6% growth in employment for high school teachers from 2012-2022, which is considered a slower-than-average rate. This slow growth can be attributed to a projected decline in the student-to-teacher ratio for that decade. The BLS anticipates an overall slower enrollment rate for high school students than for other grades. The bureau reported that high school teachers earned a median annual salary of around $56,310 as of May 2014.

Education Requirements

High school teachers need a minimum of a bachelor's degree to find work at a school. For high school gym teachers, it's common to study a subject like kinesiology, exercise science or physical education at the undergraduate level. These degree programs typically last about four years and will include courses in subjects like anatomy, physiology, nutrition and biomechanics.

You'll also need to complete an educational experience in teaching, which typically includes a supervised teaching experience and courses in subjects like curriculum development, educational psychology and public speaking. Bachelor's degree programs in kinesiology and exercise science commonly offer a physical education teacher emphasis that satisfies these requirements.

Licensure and Certification

A teaching license, known in some states as teaching certification, is required to teach at public schools in all 50 states. Requirements vary by state, but typically, after completing a bachelor's degree program and teaching experience, you must pass an examination that tests your knowledge of physical education and abilities. In some states, teachers are required to earn a master's degree within a set time frame after obtaining their license or certification.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Schools across the country are hiring physical education and gym teachers who can teach high school students how to stay active. Employers generally require candidates to hold a bachelor's degree, licensure and some professional experience. Check out these job openings that were posted in May 2012:

  • A public high school in Massachusetts was looking for a physical education teacher who could teach students in grades 9-12. The teacher would instruct kids about sports, games and body movement through individual and group activities. The job required a master's degree and at least one year of experience.
  • A public school district in Rhode Island was hiring for a part-time adaptive physical education teacher. Candidates needed at least a bachelor's degree, a Rhode Island teaching certification and professional experience.
  • A public school in Kansas sought a high school physical education teacher who could also serve as the head boys' basketball coach. Candidates needed a bachelor's degree, a license to teach in Kansas and experience to be considered for the position.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

You'll be able to engage in professional development by joining organizations like the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE). This group brings together instructors from across the country for annual conferences, periodic workshops and online classes. You'll be able to network and learn new trends in physical education that can help you better connect with your students.

Alternative Career Paths

Fitness Trainer or Instructor

If you want to teach people about physical fitness, but you aren't interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree, you might consider becoming a fitness trainer or instructor. These professionals typically only need to complete a few courses to become certified; however, in some cases, a college degree is expected. According to the BLS, these professionals were expected to see 24% growth in employment from 2010-2020, and in 2011, they earned a median annual salary of approximately $31,000.

Kindergarten or Elementary School Teachers

If you aren't interested in working with high school students, consider becoming a kindergarten or elementary school teacher. You would need a bachelor's degree and licensure to work in a classroom. The job outlook is about average for these teachers, with the BLS expecting 17% employment growth between 2010 and 2020. In 2011, elementary school teachers earned a median annual salary of about $53,000.

Instructional Coordinators

If you want to work within a school, but you don't want to teach students directly, think about becoming an instructional coordinator. You'll need a master's degree as well as professional experience to find work with a public school district. In this role, you'll help develop curricula to help students learn in the classroom. You'll spend a lot of time working with teachers and school administrators to make sure your teaching strategies work. The job outlook is positive, with the BLS projecting 20% employment growth between 2010 and 2020. In 2011, these professionals earned a median annual salary of about $59,000.

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