Physical education teachers serve as the facilitators of a school’s physical education program, and often play a role in the design and implementation of these programs. These professional educators have the goal of providing students with a quality physical education that promotes physical fitness not only in the school setting, but also in students’ daily lives. To successfully execute this mission, physical education teachers must meet a specific set of requirements in order to be licensed or certified to teach.
Although requirements to become a physical education teacher will vary from state to state, as it is up to the state’s board of education to set all requirements for the certification of teachers, those interested in becoming physical education teachers can expect requirements to have a general level of similarity.
Bachelor’s Degree Requirement
All states now require candidates for physical education teaching jobs to possess, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited college or university. Bachelor’s degrees in physical education may be obtained within an approved teacher preparation program or outside of a state-approved program.
A phys ed teacher bachelor’s program prepares students to become competent physical educators in elementary, middle and/or secondary school settings through physical education content and related disciplinary concepts. A bachelor’s degree in physical education allows individuals to:
- Demonstrate methods that support the physical, social, cognitive, and emotional development of children
- Create appropriate physical education instruction adaptation for learners of different abilities
- Understand individual group behaviors and motivations as to create a safe learning environment
- Create learning environments that encourage positive social interaction and self-motivation
- Understand effective verbal and nonverbal communication techniques to enhance learning and encourage engagement
- Plan and implement developmentally appropriate instructional strategies based on national and/or state standards
A bachelor’s degree program in physical education includes practical components, professional labs, general education requirements, and major course requirements. If the degree is obtained through an approved teacher preparation program, it will include the coursework needed to satisfy a physical education teaching endorsement.
Typical core courses in a physical education bachelor’s degree program include:
- Physiology of exercise
- History and philosophy of physical education
- Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries
- Concepts of Motor Skills
- Psychology of Sport
- Adapted Physical Education
- Psychology of Sport
- Motor Development
It is also commonplace for physical education bachelor degree programs to include professional labs that focus on any number of individual, dual, or team sports, such as track and field, gymnastics, wrestling, dancing, and net and wall games. Professional electives in a physical education bachelor’s program may allow individuals to focus on health and wellness, coaching, or sports philosophy. Finally, science-based general requirements often include courses in anatomy and physiology, biology, and physics.
Student Teaching and Teacher Preparation Program Requirements
A bachelor’s degree may be obtained as part of an approved teacher preparation program, a state-approved program that prepares individuals for licensure/certification. An approved preparation program includes all of the necessary components of a bachelor’s degree program, as well as a student teaching experience, which usually takes place in the program’s final semester. Upon successful completion of an approved teacher preparation program, individuals are prepared to take state certification examinations to become certified/licensed to teach.
It is now quite common for state licensing boards to offer a variety of alternative teacher preparation programs, non-traditional programs aimed at individuals who have already attained a bachelor’s degree or higher in a field related to physical education. Depending on the program, an alternative teacher preparation program, which typically includes the completion of physical education content requirements for certification and a student teaching experience/internship, may be completed upon securing a teaching job, or it may need to be completed before a teaching job can be acquired.
Many alternative teacher preparation programs result in a master’s degree, a fifth-year bachelor’s degree, or professional teaching certificate, which may assist individuals with the completion of specific degree and continuing education requirements. Alternative preparation programs may be offered through colleges/universities, educational centers, community colleges, and private entities.
Certification Exam Requirements
Regardless of the state in which the physical education teaching license/certificate is being sought, a standard requirement includes the completion of specific certification examinations, which may be state-specific or national-based.
Outside of state-specific certification examinations, two of the most common national examination providers are Pearson (National Evaluation Series) and the Educational Testing Service (Praxis Series).
Depending on the state, certification/licensure requirements may include general education/skills examinations and/or content-specific examinations in physical education, and each state sets its own standards regarding passing test scores.