How to Become a P.E. Teacher

A teacher affects eternity. They can never tell where their influence ever stops. Henry Brooke Adams.

Physical Education teachers are commonly referred to as P.E. teachers or gym teachers. P.E. teachers are skilled and educated in physical education and athletic training. Gym teachers are knowledgeable about the human body and a wide variety of sports including basketball, gymnastics, football, baseball, tennis, and aerobics.

Qualities of a PE Teacher

Gym teachers are usually enthusiastic, physically fit, patient, and excellent communicators. They positively influence their students both physically and mentally. These teachers must be able to prepare lessons while maintaining students' physical needs, apprehensions, and challenges in mind.

These teachers have the capacity motivate students to perform physical activities while making them competitive and cooperative at the same time.


Becoming a P.E. teachers comes with many benefits including health, retirement, and a great schedule. In regard to career growth, as a teacher gains experience, they may advance to department administration positions such as athletic directors or physical education directors. In addition, unlike many other teachers, gym teachers rarely have to grade homework on their time off.

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What are the Requirements for Teaching PE?

Education Requirements for Teaching PE

Those who wish to teach Physical Education in the public sector are required to possess at least a Bachelor's Degree as well as a state-issued license to teach P.E. Licensure can be attained through the completion of a teacher education program focused on health and fitness. The teacher education program must be accredited by CAEP (Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation).

Many colleges and universities offer "joint" or "blended" degree programs which allow aspiring teachers to earn their Bachelor's Degree and Teaching Certification simultaneously. However, prospective teachers can enroll in a teacher education program after they have completed a Bachelor's Degree as well. Most states also offer alternative paths to becoming a P.E. teacher, such as internship programs.

Teacher preparation programs often focus on pedagogy, teaching methods, and actual field experience as a student teacher. Classes in the program may include health teaching methods, kinesiology, exercise physiology, recreational sports, aerobics, and applied physical education.

Pre-service P.E. teachers learn how to plan and present concepts to students of varying abilities and backgrounds.

Tests to Pass for Teaching PE

Physical education teachers in public schools are also required to take and pass all state licensing exams. In order to become a gym teacher, the candidate must pass a subject matter competence exam that focuses on physical education. A general exam is usually required as well. Competency exams vary from state to state and should be taken in the state where you wish to teach.

The exact licensing requirements vary depending on the state.

Find Information About Becoming a Teacher In Your State

Each state has different requirements for becoming a certified teacher. To find out specific requirements, click on your state.

P.E. Teacher by Degree Level

The tables and charts below break down the education level obtained as averaged across the U.S.

Who Will My Students Be?

Since P.E. teachers can work with students from Kindergarten through 12th grade, they have the chance to teach students from ages five to eighteen.

High School and Middle School Students

Most commonly, P.E. teachers instruct at the secondary level (middle school and high school). Students at this level can range from 11 to 18 years old. It is important for teachers to note that students at the middle school and high school levels experience accelerated physical development and demonstrate a wide range of intellectual development as their minds shift from the concrete-manipulatory stage to the capacity for abstract thought.

Elementary School Students

On the other hand, elementary school students can range from the age of five to 11 or 12 years old. During these formative years, students are learning about themselves and others. It is important for a P.E. teacher to consider the development of his/her student in their planning.

What Does a P.E. Teacher Do?

P.E. teachers instruct students on how to stay fit through proper health practices and exercise. These teachers will plan lessons to include a wide range of skills and exercise activities. The curriculum might include cooperative team sports, individual games, or one-on-one competitions.

Physical Education teachers can work in either a primary (elementary) or secondary (middle school and high school) setting.

Teaching PE in Elementary School

Teachers working with students at the elementary school level usually focus on developing students' coordination, agility, and teamwork skills. In addition, these teachers often try to instill confidence and an appreciation of physical activity in students. Teachers generally do this through displaying enthusiasm for the games and excitement over each student's performance.

Teaching PE in Middle School and High School

At the middle school and high school levels, P.E. teachers focus more on educating students about the benefits of exercise, health, nutrition, and overall wellness. Additionally, high school P.E. typically includes team sports such as tennis, track, swimming, football, baseball, soccer and more. These P.E. teachers also maintain records of each student's academic progress and physical fitness throughout the school year.

P.E. Teacher Jobs & Job Description

More than simply ‘sports class', P.E. or Phys Ed teachers teach a variety of skills to students with all different levels of physical ability. Physical education classes promote a healthy lifestyle and students' cognitive, emotional, and social development, as well as physical skill improvements. Jobs are similar between the elementary and high school levels, but there are key differences that should be articulated - read on for more information.

Elementary P.E. Teacher

P.E. teachers at the elementary level are often children's' first introduction to sports and healthy living outside their family grouping. With that in mind, here are typical tasks that an elementary P.E. teacher might perform:

  • Empower students with the skills to develop resilience and patience
  • Help students discover elements of their personal identity
  • Help student practice communication skills and problem-solving skills
  • Impart to students the skills and knowledge to enjoy a healthy lifestyle
  • Teach students the muscle competent needed to engage in many different physical activities
  • Teach students which lifestyle factors lead to health or un-health
  • Teach children the basics of health literacy in the face of today's media claims
  • Teach children the rudiments of physical literacy so they can understand game play and healthy development of their bodies
  • Help students understand why their schools should be healthy and how to improve the health factors of their communities
  • Help students understand the concepts behind physical safety
  • Help students learn about their own bodies in the context of health
  • Empower students to be leaders in games and sports
  • Teach students about determinants of health
  • Help students develop an understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses
  • Help students understand stress and how to mitigate its effects through exercise
  • Teach students how to interpret information on the sports field
  • Teach students how to plan a strategic game play
  • Teach students how to demonstrate fair play
  • Teach students how to receive verbal and non-verbal information
  • Teach students how to present information using pictures, writing and oral skills to convey informational messages
  • Empower students to respect people with all types of abilities
  • Teach students to appreciate and engage in fair play
  • Teach students to demonstrate teamwork and collaborative problem solving
  • Teach children to be active every day
  • Improve each child's skill-related competence
  • Share with students the different kinds of awareness - body awareness, spatial awareness, effort awareness
  • Teach students about legal and ethical considerations related to sports performance
  • Offer professional time and leadership skill to extracurricular activities
  • Praise students to acknowledge their fitness and physical activity development and achievements
  • Work in partnership with students to help students engage in the activity at hand
  • Conduct all work activities in a timely and professional manner reflecting best educational practices

Secondary P.E. Teacher

P.E. teachers at the secondary level are often children's' most accessible route to amateur sports and excellent role models for healthy living. With that in mind, here are typical tasks that a secondary P.E. teacher might perform:

  • Empower students with the skills to develop resilience and patience in order to increase performance
  • Help students discover elements of their personal identity through physical activity and healthy living
  • Help students refine accuracy in game play
  • Help students play variations of sports to improve practice and game play
  • Ell students explore and discover advanced movement and muscle memory
  • Help students understand the consequence of unhealthy choices and lifestyles
  • Help students understand healthy eating
  • Teach students about personal safety and injury prevention during sports and at the workplace
  • Help students discern proper choices about substance use, addictions, and related behaviours
  • Give students a framework in which to discuss human development, health and relationships
  • Empower students to play individually or in team groupings
  • Help students explore endurance activities
  • Help students explore gymnastics and movement activities
  • Help students explore both indoor and outdoor physical activities
  • Help students practice communication skills and problem-solving skills on and off the field and in regard to personal boundaries
  • Impart to students the skills and knowledge to enjoy a healthy lifestyle i.e. self-care, relationship health, etc.
  • Teach students the muscle competent needed to engage in many different physical activities
  • Teach students which lifestyle factors lead to health or un-health
  • Teach children the basics of health literacy in the face of today's media claims
  • Facilitate students' leadership skills
  • Facilitate appropriate group dynamics and teamwork
  • Help students understand benefits of lifelong participation
  • Ell students feel empowered to manage event planning and coordination
  • Mentor students in the team-coach dynamic
  • Teach children the rudiments of physical literacy so they can understand game play and healthy development of their bodies
  • Help students understand why their schools should be healthy and how to improve the health factors of their communities
  • Help students understand the concepts behind physical safety
  • Help students learn about their own bodies in the context of health

There are several career paths open for certified P.E. teachers in every state - read on to discover more information about this field.

Where Can Certified P.E. Teachers Teach?

P.E. teachers often teach in high schools and middle schools, but can also teach in elementary schools.

Public Schools

Many licensed P.E. teachers choose to teach in a public school. Public schools are supported by federal and state funds, so there is no cost to attend. These schools are directed by the United States Department of Education, local school districts, and each state's board of education. The local school district oversees each school's curriculum, distribution of funds, and the hiring of teachers. Any child can attend a public school in his/her district because these schools are mandated by law to admit any student that resides in their district. Thus, public school teachers normally interact with students from various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. In regard to assessment, public schools have to use state mandated standardized tests to evaluate student learning. These tests often have a significant impact on school assessment, funding, and a child's class placement. It is important to note that potential public school teachers are frequently required to apply directly to the district prior to seeking employment at a specific school.

Private Schools

Private schools do not receive federal or state funding. These schools are autonomous of the government and are normally governed by a private school board or organization. Private schools are mostly funded by tuition and donations. Unlike public schools, many private schools are religiously affiliated if they were founded by a church or religious group. In some cases, teachers educate students based on specific beliefs. Private schools have the ability to create their own standards for students and teachers because they are autonomous. In regard to curriculum, private school courses are often more advanced than its public counterparts. Although private school teachers are not required to be licensed by the state, many private schools persist that their teachers hold a valid state certification. In order to uphold high educational standard, more and more private schools adhere to government policy concerning teacher qualification. At times, private schools might require that a teacher be certified by a specific school adopted program. Teaching candidates can inquire about specifications at the private school in which they wish to teach.

Charter Schools

Like public schools, charter schools are free of tuition. However, unlike public schools, they are independently run. By and large, charter schools are more autonomous than public schools and as a result are more flexible in their structure. governance, and principles. These schools are often held to greater accountability for their performance. Each charter school has a charter plan or petition. The charter plan acts as a contract as describes the school's guiding principles, governance structure, and applicable accountability measures. Lastly, charter schools tend to be smaller in size, may have additional requirements for their teachers, and are more selective.

Physical Education Teacher Organizations & Associations

What is the Salary of a PE Teacher?

Across the nation, certified PE teachers earn between $40,180 ( and $45,806 ( when beginning their careers. However, the mentioned salary does not include the exceptional health and retirement benefits that teachers receive. The salary will also increase with each year of experience as well as additional education points. Salary at the secondary level is approximately $50,000 a year. On average, private school salaries can be about $10,000 less a year. It is a misconception that secondary teachers get paid based on the subject they teach. For example, a certified PE teacher would earn a salary that is equal to that of a certified Math teacher. Teacher salaries are based on years of experience and education, not on specific teachable subjects.

To learn more about a teacher's salary, visit our Teacher Salary page.

Salary (2016) and Job Outlook (2012 to 2020) by State

According to the published BLS data from 2016, the national average salary for Coaches and Scouts is $41,000, with an estimated 230,930 being employed nationwide. Also, the job outlook growth projection from 2012 to 2020 is expected to increase by 14.8%.

StateEmployedAvg Salary
New Hampshire1,220$36,010
New Jersey5,440$43,080
New Mexico1,000$31,690
New York11,210$43,730
North Carolina6,240$38,920
North Dakota590$31,570
Rhode Island970$40,440
South Carolina3,040$40,460
South Dakota710$32,930
Washington, DC550$55,350
West Virginia690$49,400

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics ( for Coaches and Scouts (SOC Code: 27-2022)

Salary (2016) By Largest Metropolitan Areas

AreaEmployedAvg Salary
Detroit, Dearborn, Livonia890$31,660
Des Moines, West Des Moines850$26,240
New Haven840$45,340
Oklahoma City830$32,230
Boise City790$28,850
Orlando, Kissimmee, Sanford780$58,940
Louisville/Jefferson County780$32,140
Fort Worth, Arlington770$48,490
Miami, Miami Beach, Kendall760$54,270
Omaha, Council Bluffs740$31,340

Data taken from BLS Occupational Employment Statistics ( for Coaches and Scouts (SOC Code: 27-2022)