The path to becoming a physical education teacher is a little different than becoming a classroom teacher. Most classroom teachers either have a college degree in education or have moved over from other disciplines after becoming certified in the state. PE teachers typically take a slightly different route to their careers.
Employers in the public and private schools like to see PE applicants with four-year degree from colleges and universities. The preferred degree is one in health and physical education, which is a degree offered at most major schools. In the course of obtaining this degree, students will take courses in exercise physiology, health, anatomy, kinesiology as well as courses in specified athletic activities such as basketball and tennis. Many schools prefer to see at least some basic courses in classroom management and education, as well as a student teaching internship.
In addition to some classroom experience in the form of internships, potential PE teachers should have a great deal of hands-on experience in the various activities associated with a PE class. This includes team sports, individual sports such as gymnastics and running, and aerobic and strength training exercises. While playing college sports competitively is not a requirement, it certainly looks good on a resume.
PE teachers should be well prepared for the responsibilities that come with the career. While no two schools are exactly alike, the day of a PE teacher will be similar no matter where you find a job. Typically, the day will include teaching a full day of classes, each of them lasting between a half hour to an hour. Mixed with that will typically be a couple of classes in which you will teach the subject of health. Responsibilities may also include planning a field day once a year. Many PE teachers choose to coach a sport or two in addition to their regular schedules.
It's not unusual for first- or second-year teachers in any subject, including PE, to realize that they don't care for teaching as much as they thought they would. As much as being good with kids and preparing for the work will help, there's nothing that compares to being in the classroom or the gym with kids day in and day out. Some will love it and some will not. Fortunately, qualified PE teachers have educations that can translate into a number of different fields, including coaching, physical therapy, exercise physiology and work throughout the health industry.
PE teachers are paid at the same rate as other teachers. Rates for teacher salaries vary not only by state, but by county. As of 2010, average teacher salaries across the country are between $40,000 and $45,000, with secondary school teachers making slightly more on average than elementary school instructors.
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images