How to Become a Physical Education Teacher in Tennessee

Becoming a certified teacher can be a challenging yet rewarding process, and you will first need to meet a few basic requirements for PE teacher jobs in Tennessee:

Choose an Institute of Higher Education and Complete a State-Approved PE Teaching Prep Program
Pass the Required Tests
Apply for Tennessee PE Teacher Certification
Maintain and Renew Your Tennessee PE Teaching Certificate

The Tennessee Department of Education is tasked with ensuring all the applications for licensure it approves from prospective PE teachers are from qualified candidates.

Every year PE teachers provide valuable instruction and opportunities for exercise to all of the nearly one million students across its 142 districts. PE teachers work in each of these districts to improve the overall health and well-being of the local communities.



Step 1. Choose an Institute of Higher Education and Complete a State-Approved PE Teaching Prep Program

Qualifying for PE teacher jobs in Tennessee begins with at least a bachelor’s degree, usually in a highly relevant field of study. Most colleges and universities will combine course material in health and fitness with pedagogical study to create a major that is specifically designed for becoming a PE teacher in grades K-12.

If you obtained at least a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated subject, you will still need to complete courses in the field of PE as well as gain entry into a state-approved educator preparation program.

Your course load while you are studying will include classes like:

  • Anatomic kinesiology
  • Motor behavior
  • Team sport skills
  • Dance and movement
  • Educational games
  • Psychological aspects of sports
  • Individual sports and the development of skills

Tennessee college and university PE teaching programs are also state-approved as educator preparation programs. This portion of your studies will focus on teaching you how to be an effective PE teacher. Areas you will study include:

  • Instructional strategies in physical education
  • Curriculum development
  • Student assessments
  • Instructional decision making

Before being admitted to a teaching program you will need to pass these tests:

Educational Testing Service (ETS) administers these tests which cover the fundamentals of these subjects. The teaching program you are applying to within your college or university will assist you with the details on how to register for these exams.

Depending on your educator preparation program, your student teaching segment can last up to a full year. During this time you will gain your first physical education live environment experience with a supervising teacher. You will get to play an increasingly active role, eventually leading and directing PE activities under close supervision. This portion of the program may also be referred to as a residency or practicum.

Once you have successfully completed your student teaching you will be nearly ready to apply for a PE teaching license. You still need to pass a few more tests, after which point your teacher preparation program can apply for an Apprentice Teaching License on your behalf.

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Step 2. Pass the Required Tests to Become a Physical Education Teacher in Tennessee

Once you’ve completed your PE-related degree program and state-approved educator preparation program along with its student teaching segment, you will need to take two more ETS exams before you can become a certified PE teacher:

The Principles of Early Learning and Teaching exam is offered in four different versions which depend on the grade levels you intend to teach. You will need to choose the one that is most appropriate for your career goals:

The PE: Content and Design exam, also referred to by its ETS classification as Praxis II, focuses specifically on the subject of physical education and how it is taught in the classroom. ETS offers a study guide to prepare for this.

You will have two hours to complete 90 multiple-choice questions and two constructed responses. The exam is divided into five segments:

  • 25% – Short response to two questions about constructional design
  • 23% – Student growth and development plus content knowledge
  • 19% – Student assessment, planning, and instruction
  • 19% – Motivation, management, and communication
  • 14% – Reflection, collaboration, and technology



Step 3. Apply for Tennessee PE Teacher Certification

When considering how to become a PE teacher in Tennessee, you will need to evaluate which type of license best applies to your situation. There are several different types of licenses to choose from. Once you find which license applies to you situation, you will need to fill out the corresponding application and submit it to the Department of Education:

Apprentice License – this license is valid for five years and must be made on your behalf by your education preparation program. It is the standard license for most PE teachers in the state, and is designed for the traditional student who has:

  • Earned a bachelor’s degree
  • Completed a state-approved education program, including its student teaching segment
  • Passed the required Praxis II Physical Education Exam

Transitional License – The director of a school that has made you a job offer must request the issuance of this certificate for you. It is valid for one year. This is more of a temporary license that will allow you to teach while you take care of the requirements to obtain an Apprentice License, and is therefore renewable a year at a time for up to two additional years. To obtain this license you will need to:

  • Have at least a bachelor’s degree
  • Be affiliated with a Tennessee-approved education prep program that has agreed to admit and mentor you as a teacher in the field of PE
  • Meet one of the following:
    • Have majored in an area closely related to PE
    • Have taken at least 24 credits in the field of PE
    • Have passed the Praxis II Exam PE: Content and Design

Interim B License – If you have a job offer and the school director where you are employed makes a request to the Department of Education for you to be granted this license, you will be allowed to teach PE while you are in the process of completing any of the following tests:

  • Core Academic Skills exams
  • Principles of Teaching and Learning exams
  • Physical Education: Content and Design

Out-of-State License – If you are already an experienced and certified teacher in another state then this is the license you will want to apply for, which is valid for five years. To apply you will need:

  • Documented PE teaching experience
  • Copy of your home state’s PE teaching certificate
  • To take the PE: Content and Design exam if deemed necessary based on your experience
  • A copy of your college transcripts including your degree and major

JROTC Teaching License – If you are in the JROTC program you are eligible for a Tennessee PE teacher’s license if you can provide the following:

  • Copy of your valid JROTC training certificate
  • Official transcripts of the college credits and degree you have earned
  • Proof that you are currently employed in a Tennessee JROTC program



Step 4. Maintain and Renew Your Tennessee PE Teaching Certificate

Each different type of certification has its own length of validity and renewal requirements. Most licenses ultimately lead to the Professional License, which itself is valid for ten years. The requirements to renew a Professional License are based on the level of academic degree that you hold:

  • Bachelor’s degree – you will need to earn 90 renewal points
  • Master’s degree or higher with less than three years of teaching experience – also 90 renewal points
  • Master’s degree or higher with at least three years of teaching experience – no renewal points required, only verification of this experience

The Tennessee Department of Education allows renewal points to be accrued in a variety of ways. In general these are educational events or classes which you attend that further your development as a PE teacher, such as:

  • Academic conferences
  • Seminars
  • Study groups
  • Peer and mentoring programs
  • College and university coursework
  • Publications you produce
  • Community projects
  • National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification

Apprentice License – Your Apprentice License will automatically become a Professional License if you teach in a public school and receive a positive evaluation after three years.

Transitional License – This is valid for only one year at a time, for up to three years, with the following requirements for renewal:

  • First renewal – complete the orientation for your university’s or transitional program’s Professional Education Core Competencies
  • Second renewal – pass the Praxis II PE Education: Content and Design ETS exam

Out-of-State License – The process of renewing this license is exactly the same as renewing the Apprentice License; after three years of PE teaching experience and a positive performance review it will be converted to a Professional License.

Interim B License – This may only be renewed once if your employing school’s director states the school will hire you for an additional year.

JROTC License – Renewing this requires you to submit the same material you did when you initially applied.

Phys Ed Teacher Salary in Tennessee

The median Tennessee PE teacher salary is $47,339, according to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. While recent graduates might find themselves averaging around $24,054, experienced PE teachers are known to average much more at $57,721, so the difference is more than double between new teachers and experienced teachers.

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However, location is an equally important consideration. Shown below are some of the PE teacher salaries across the state:


Entry-Level: $28,800
Median: $56,060
Experienced: $62,198

Entry-Level: $21,495
Median: $44,547
Experienced: $58,277

Entry-Level: $27,677
Median: $38,206
Experienced: $52,012
Additionally, PE teacher salary information taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is shown in the following table:

Area name
Annual median wage
Knoxville TN
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin TN

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