Physical Education Degree Program Opportunities

The role of individuals with a physical education degree has never been more important. Childhood obesity continues to rise across the country, and schools are coming to understand the value of physical education for the health and future of the nation’s children.

There is a science to health and exercise, and physical education degree seekers will learn this intimately as they earn their degree. Areas such as physiology, nutrition and kinesiology (the science of human movement) will all be covered in a physical education degree program, and graduates will leave college prepared to become a physical education and health teacher at a variety of schools.

Those who are motivated to improve the health of schoolchildren will benefit from understanding what’s involved in the pursuit of a physical education degree. Here’s a quick summary of the requirements to pursue such a degree and the career outlook for those who achieve it.

Education Requirements

It is possible to specialize in physical education across a wide range of degree programs. Depending on your goals, you can gain anywhere from an associate’s degree all the way up to a doctorate in physical education.

To pursue an associate degree, applicants must possess a high school diploma or a GED. For a bachelor’s degree program, applicants may have to score well on a standardized test like the SAT or ACT.

Typically, a master degree program will require a bachelor degree along with academic references showing the student is prepared to pursue an advanced level of instruction. To enter a doctoral program, a bachelor’s or master’s degree is usually required.

Career Options: What You Can Do With a Physical Education Degree

Career options for a physical education degree holder will depend largely on what level of degree you earn.

With an associate degree, you can find work in positions at fitness centers, as a private trainer or in certain outreach programs. K-12 schools typically require at least a bachelor degree for employment. This will allow degree holders to teach physical education and coach sports programs. Bachelor degrees are also useful for consideration for higher-paying positions in other, non-school based positions.

With a master degree, you can pursue a career in physical education at a college. A master’ degree can also be used to move into administrative roles related to physical fitness.

A doctorate is useful for those who wish to pursue research in physical fitness, as well as for priority consideration in college-level employment.

Some jobs available to those with a degree in physical education include:

  • Personal trainer
  • Physical education instructor, elementary, middle and high school
  • Fitness center director
  • Employment in the sporting goods industry
  • College-level physical education instructor

What to Consider if You Pursue a Physical Education Degree

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide data specific to physical education teachers. It does, however, provide information for teachers in general.

The job outlook for physical education teachers will depend on the region they work in and the particular school they work for. In general, the job outlook for elementary teachers is good, with 17 percent job growth expected over the next decade, according to the BLS. The outlook for high school teachers is less favorable, with only a 7 percent job growth expected.

However, it is important to remember that the new level of emphasis on physical fitness among the nation’s youth may increase the need for physical education teachers.

The median annual salary for elementary teachers in 2010 was $51,380, while high school teachers’ median annual salary was $53,230. Degree holders new to teaching should expect to make less than these figures.

For those who pursue a career in personal training, the BLS lists the median pay for such jobs as $31,090 per year. However, the job growth is faster than average at 24%.

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