Become a Physical Education Teacher: Job Description

Were you a jock in school? Do you love participating in team sports? Are you knowledgeable about various sports, and do you enjoy sharing your knowledge about it with others? If so, consider becoming a physical education teacher and helping young people to appreciate the joys of leading healthy, active lifestyles.

As an instructor of physical education (sometimes informally known as a phys ed or gym teacher by students), you may find yourself working with a variety of different grade levels in public or private elementary, secondary, or postsecondary schools. Depending on the school district you work for, you may work only in one school, or you may travel to various schools to provide physical education instruction to students on scheduled days of the week. Your classes may be segregated by sex, or you may teach mixed-gender classes.

The activities you engage in as a teacher of physical education are different depending on the ages and grade levels of the students you are working with. With elementary students, you usually help to improve your students’ basic motor coordination, physical agility, and teamwork skills through a variety of activities, exercises, and games. A high level of enthusiasm and positive reinforcement are also important when working with young children in order to impart a love of physical activity.

At the secondary grade levels, you focus on building your students’ cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and muscular strength through team or individual sports such as baseball, basketball, football, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming, track, volleyball, or wrestling. Some schools at this grade level also offer less-traditional classes in their physical education programs such as aerobics, dance, fencing, or yoga. At colleges or universities, physical education is not usually a required subject and leans heavily toward coaching and recruiting for organized team sports.

Sports are not the only thing you concentrate on as a physical education teacher, however. You are also expected to know about and pass along to your students information about proper nutrition and good health practices. This curriculum may be included as part of the students’ physical education period, or you may teach separate classes on it. This also requires you to perform all of the usual tasks that a teacher is expected to do in order to run and manage a classroom:

  • Prepare lessons, assignments, and tests
  • Grade homework
  • Maintain records of each student’s progress and overall physical fitness
  • Attend faculty and parent-teacher meetings

Physical education instructors are also usually involved in a variety of extracurricular activities such as coaching various sports teams.

A four-year bachelor’s degree with a student teaching internship is usually required for this position at all public and private schools. These degree programs give you a thorough background in general health and fitness, physiology, and kinesiology. You also usually take several classes focusing on particular sports so that you have experience teaching and coaching them.

After earning your degree, you must also become certified or licensed if you wish to teach in public schools, which typically requires passing a competency assessment test. Continuing education credits may also be required in order to renew your teaching license. Personal experience playing or coaching for some sport is also usually an important prerequisite of becoming a physical education teacher.