Your guide to undergraduate degrees in physical education

The CDC recommends that school age children get 60 minutes of physical activity every day for optimal health and to help fight childhood obesity. As children are at school five days a week, physical education teachers can play a significant role in encouraging behaviors that support health and well-being.

If you work toward an undergraduate degree in physical education, you have the opportunity to pursue your passion for physical fitness and inspire children to make positive choices that will impact their health today and in the future.

Is an undergraduate degree in physical education education right for you?

There are a wide array of undergraduate degrees available to you, even if you only look within the education field. Read on to see if physical education is the right path for you.

Does a bachelor’s in physical education education suit your personal and professional interests?

These questions can help you determine whether you have the enthusiasm and drive to succeed in this field:

  • Do you have a passion for sports, health, and fitness?
  • Do you want to give young people the knowledge and skills to make healthier choices?
  • Are you an active person that wants a career that involves regular physical activity?
  • Are you ready to set a good example of health and wellness for your students?

Educational program titles — what you need to know

Undergraduate physical education degrees go by a variety of names, as many institutions use unique naming systems.

Some of the more common program titles include:

  • Physical Education
  • Health, Physical Education, and Recreation
  • Physical Education/Teaching
  • Education (Physical Education)
  • Health and Human Performance
  • Secondary Education (Physical Education)
  • Physical Education/Coaching K-12

Although it’s possible to find physical education degrees offered as Bachelors of Art or Education, the vast majority are Bachelors of Science due to the focus on how the body works. Some physical education degrees include all the coursework required for a teaching license. Others focus on athletic training and fitness, and students must earn a graduate degree in teaching to meet state licensing requirements.

Sample courses in physical education education programs:

  • Teaching of Team Sports and Individual Activities — This course teaches students how to plan and organize individual and team sports while ensuring the safety of participants. It also covers how to work with people with a variety of age and skill levels.
  • Physiology of Exercise — This course studies the effects of exercise on the body and covers the effect exercise has on body composition, aging, and disease prevention.
  • Physical Education for Students with Disabilities — This course helps students develop a plan for identifying, evaluating, and implementing programming for children with disabilities. It covers modifying activities for inclusion and the implications of legislation that affect children with special needs.
  • Methods of Teaching and Assessing Health — This course looks at lesson planning, teaching methods, and assessments for mental health, nutrition, substance abuse, personal health, and similar topics. It also covers assessing the health of students using various tools and how to interpret test results.

What else makes undergraduate physical education education programs unique?

  • Specializations — A range of specializations are available to people studying an undergraduate degree in physical education, such as athletic coaching, recreation, or scouting. This opens a wide range of career opportunities for graduates.
  • Student Teaching Opportunities — Most students in undergraduate physical education programs have student teacher placements, allowing students to gain valuable experience, network with future colleagues, and ensure that a career as a PE teacher is right for them.
  • Multi-Age Licensure — Although some physical education degrees are specific to a certain age group, most look at how to teach multiple age groups. This allows graduates to pursue licenses for all levels of schooling.
  • Health Teacher Qualifications — Many undergraduate physical education degrees cover health as well as physical education, allowing graduates to teach both subjects at the middle and high school level.

It’s good to have options when searching for the right undergraduate physical education program. Keep your interests and goals in mind while you research to ensure you find the best match.

What jobs are available to people with a bachelor’s in physical education education?

Education – PreK-12 and universities or colleges

High School Health and PE Teacher

  • Teach knowledge and skills of physical fitness, health education, and individual or team sports based on the curriculum
  • Establish and maintain student standards of behavior to ensure an orderly, safe, and productive physical education environment
  • Evaluate academic and social growth of students, prepare report cards, and maintain records including attendance, checklists, and grades
  • Collaborate with other physical education teachers to plan and implement a balanced physical education program

High School Football Coach

  • Design and implement training programs to help students achieve gains in athletic and team performance
  • Make safety checks of equipment and field areas to ensure the overall safety of students
  • Develop team rules and communicate them to players and parents
  • Ensure that student athletes adhere to expected standards of behavior, follow training rules, and meet grade requirements and eligibility criteria

Elementary School PE Teacher

  • Provide engaging, fun, and effective instruction that helps young children build a foundation of health and fitness
  • Use different methodologies and modifications to encourage maximum participation and ensure all students experience success
  • Implement and support school-wide health, fitness, and well-being programs and initiatives
  • Maintain control of PE equipment, recess equipment, locker room, storage, and school property

Other corporations and businesses

Sports Scout

  • Identify prospective athletes by going to games, maintaining relationships with coaches, and following sports news
  • Evaluate performances by analyzing statistics and watching athletes play
  • Give reports and recommendations to coaches, managers, and owners
  • Coordinate offers and incentives for prospective players

Camp Activity Coordinator

  • Plan and implement indoor and outdoor recreational activities
  • Lead activities appropriate for the age group and ability level of individuals attending camp
  • Maintain regular safety checks of equipment and facilitate safety drills
  • Work collaboratively with other staff, volunteers, and management to facilitate a fun and safe camping experience