Do Physical Education Teachers Need a Master’s Degree?

While physical education teachers must know plenty about exercise science, kinesiology and sports safety, they are generally not required to have advanced degrees to work as public school teachers.

Without a sound and healthy body, many students have trouble concentrating on other subjects at school. Subsequently, physical education (P.E.) is one of the most important subjects taught in school besides health and nutrition.

Teachers who specialize in this subject must have nearly boundless energy, passion for vibrant health and expertise in sharing their knowledge of the subject to students of all ages. These educators often double as coaches at the schools where they teach or the communities in which they live.

Here is how many of them gain the necessary skills to become P.E. teachers as well as land teaching jobs in this subject area.

Academic Credentials

All states require that P.E. teachers possess undergraduate degrees to sit for their state teaching license examinations.

Most of these aspiring instructors gain four year degrees in education with specializations in health and physical education. During these degree programs, P.E. teaching candidates learn the science behind body movements through courses in physiology. They also learn the mechanics and rules of a variety of recreational sports like basketball, soccer, football, volleyball, tennis, golf and even bowling. These future educators may also take courses that relate to health and nutrition.

P.E. teacher candidates are exposed to innovative teaching methods that help them to convey methods of sports play that are both effective and safe for young audiences.

Educators who have long term career goals that extend beyond standard grade school instruction or who want to increase their pay within the current public school system may choose to pursue advanced degrees like the Master of Science in Physical Education and Coaching.

Supervised Field Assignments

All education professionals gain hands on experience through field work assignments before they actually become official teachers, and P.E. teaching candidates are no exceptions. These instructional candidates spend significant portions of their degree programs participating in observational sessions and co-teaching opportunities in nearby schools. During these assignments, student teachers learn how to plan sports activities, execute plans and assess student progress; many of them also generate health class lesson plans.

Related: 5 Tips for Staying Healthy During Student Teaching

Teaching License and Certification

Most education degree programs like those for aspiring P.E. teachers prepare students to gain their state teaching licenses. The requirements for licensing vary by state, but most education graduates must take comprehensive exams to earn their licenses. P.E. teacher candidates undergo additional assessments to gain the physical education and health teaching endorsements that they need to instruct children in their chosen specialty area.

Continued Education and Alternate Career Paths

It literally pays for P.E. teachers to continue increasing their subject knowledge and cache of credentials. One way that public school teachers increase their salaries is by taking continuing education courses and gaining related certifications. The coaching credential that is administered by the National High School Coaches Association is a useful certification for high school P.E. teachers. Savvy P.E. teachers also seek out exercise certifications like those for personal training, aerobics and Pilates that allow them to extend their class offerings at school and eventually branch out into other career paths later.


Being a P.E. teacher is a physically and mentally demanding profession that is not often appreciated by many students until well after they graduate. It can also be a financially rewarding career field for educational professionals who keep learning and gaining professional credentials. Many physical education teachers can supplement their incomes by leveraging their teaching experience and knowledge of exercise science to become personal trainers or wellness coaches for youths and adults.