Overview of Online Physical Education Degrees
A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for becoming a licensed physical education teacher. However, an online teacher licensure program might be a good option for you if you already have a bachelor's degree in another subject and want to go into teaching. For those already working as teachers who wish to add to their skillset or who are looking to make a career switch, online master's degree programs are also available. If teaching is not your career path, you can choose a concentration within the physical education major, such as coaching or sports performance, to work with individuals and teams in various other health and fitness settings.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Physical Education
A physical education degree program is designed to prepare students to teach others the benefits of physical activity and healthy living. The degree can be completed online with courses covering various health sciences and fitness topics, such as human anatomy, movement, injury prevention, team sport coaching, and nutrition. The curriculum may also explore the mind-body connection, development of motor skills, and the impact of healthy moving on overall well-being. An on-site teaching practicum is required for students pursuing teacher licensure to instruct K-12 physical education programs.
A physical education degree program is designed to prepare students to teach others the benefits of physical activity and healthy living.
Full-time students determined to pursue online physical education bachelor's programs generally expect to take four years to complete approximately 154 credit hours. The program may take five years for students enrolled in programs that also prepare them for K-12 teacher certification. Programs may take longer for part-time students. Upon completing their degree and student teaching experience, graduates can apply for state licensure where they want to teach.
Most schools require official high school transcripts or GED test scores to be eligible for enrollment. Many also have a minimum GPA requirement for applicants, generally 2.0 or higher. Prerequisites vary by program but often include English, laboratory science, math, and social sciences.
Other admission requirements for first-year students may include:
- One year of a foreign language or fine arts
- SAT or ACT standardized test scores
- An essay or letter of intent
- A completed application and non-refundable fee of approximately $50
Common Courses in Physical Education Programs
Degree program curriculum blends rigorous academic coursework with experiential learning so students can develop skills to empower others to become physically fit. Students interested in a specialization may also choose a concentration or minor such as health and physical education, athletic coaching, or physical activity and sports performance.
While course titles and electives may change from program to program, outcomes and learning objectives are similar:
Philosophy and Psychology of Coaching
This course examines the basic concepts of sports coaching, including creating player development plans and motivating individuals and teams. In addition, students may study the ethics of coaching and how to work with populations of diverse backgrounds and physical abilities.
Teaching Assessment and Management of Physical Education
This course explores source materials and assessment tools to use when selecting activities, planning and organizing instruction, and developing physical education teaching plans in elementary school. Coursework may also require a classroom teaching experience to apply these new tools and skills.
Administration and Organization of Physical Education
This course is designed to equip students with basic theoretical and practical understanding about developing, organizing, and implementing physical education and athletic programs. Topics may include management and organizational structure, budgeting, and program evaluation.
The Care and Prevention of Sports Injuries
This course is designed to increase students' knowledge and understanding of sports medicine and the basic methods used to prevent, care and rehabilitate athletic injuries. Instruction may also explain the trainer's role in their relationship with athletes to keep them fit and healthy
Physical Education for the Exceptional Child
Course content includes the best practices in planning, implementing, and adapting existing physical education and activity programs for young learners with disabilities. Instruction may also explore current administrative procedures, policies, and legislation.
Accreditation ensures a school has met quality education standards. It may also be necessary to be able to use federal financial aid or transfer credits to another accredited school to meet additional educational goals. Most non-profit universities are regionally accredited, which is often preferred over national accreditation because it has more regulations to ensure high academic standards and quality.
Programmatic accreditation is often conferred on programs such as teaching to help ensure students enter the workforce prepared to meet industry expectations. Students interested in teaching physical education at the elementary, middle, or high school level should look for programs accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). Prospective students can verify school and CAEP accreditation status on the Department of Education's Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs database.
Careers with a Degree in Physical Education
Popular career paths include becoming elementary, middle, or high school teachers, which also requires state teacher certification. Though not necessary, some also earn National Board Certification in physical education to become more competitive in the job market. Licensed physical education teachers work with children of all ages and abilities to teach them about exercising, teamwork, and making healthy choices. They also plan lessons and manage classrooms. Public school K-12 physical education teachers earn an annual median salary of $60,660 with a 7% job outlook through 2030, and those teaching in high schools earn a median annual salary of $62,870 with an 8% job outlook during the same period.
Licensed physical education teachers work with children of all ages and abilities to teach them about exercising, teamwork, and making healthy choices.
High-growth occupations for graduates who do not end up teaching include athletic training, coaching, and fitness training. While two of these occupations make less than the national median annual salary of $41,950, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects all three to have a significantly higher than average job growth rate through 2030. Athletic trainers who assist athletes in training correctly and safely earn the most of these occupations at $49,860 and have a 23% job outlook. Coaches who train and guide athletes to excel at their sport earn the least of the three professions at $36,330 but have a 26% job outlook. Fitness trainers who motivate others in exercise earn $40,510 and have an even higher 39% job outlook than athletic trainers and coaches. These high outlooks may be attributed to an increased awareness of the health benefits of physical activity on sedentary lifestyles.