2023 Best Online Physical Education Degrees [Bachelor’s Guide]

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A physical education degree could be a strategic choice for anyone who loves sports and fitness and enjoys working with children.

Best Online Physical Education Degrees

This bachelor’s degree typically leads to licensure that allows you to work as a school PE teacher. As a skilled educator, you could teach students to play games, inspire them to pursue good health, and encourage them to value teamwork.

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If this is the college and career path for you, then read on to look into bachelors in physical education online degrees that would allow you to study in a way that’s convenient for you.

Online Physical Education Degrees

Woman taking Online Physical Education degree

PE teachers are experts in keeping bodies healthy and fit and in educating young learners. Developing those skills requires a robust college education, and a physical education bachelor’s degree is designed to prepare you for a career as an effective teacher.

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Like all aspiring teachers, students in this program study child development, learning theories, classroom management, and literacy skills. You can learn how to work with kids and deliver meaningful lessons.

In addition, a good deal of your curriculum will focus on topics from the field of exercise science, such as:

  • Anatomy
  • Fitness routines
  • Health assessment
  • Individual sports
  • Kinesiology
  • Motor development
  • Nutrition
  • Physiology
  • Team sports

An online degree for physical education is likely to include some in-person experiences in addition to the computer-based coursework.

During your studies, you may visit local schools to observe the students and the teachers in action. Before graduation, you will likely work as a student teacher as well. You’d be assigned to a classroom with a supervising teacher, and you could learn from that educator and have opportunities to lead the students in lessons.

If your degree covers grades K-12, then your student teaching might be divided into two sessions, one with elementary kids and one with teens. Student teaching is an essential step in the licensure process. You’ll also have professional exams to pass. Once you’ve met all the qualifications, you may receive a teaching license in your state.

Once licensed, you could then be eligible to teach phys ed to students. Your degree might also allow you to teach related subjects, such as health or nutrition. In addition, some graduates pursue coaching positions at their school. This degree could also be suitable for a career in fitness or athletics in other settings, such as gyms and community organizations.

Physical Education Careers & Salaries

Physical Education Careers & Salaries

Typically, PE teaching degrees lead to licensure, which qualifies graduates to teach in public schools. In many states, training in this area allows licensed graduates to teach PE at any grade level. You might become an elementary, junior high, or high school PE instructor. Both public and private school jobs might be available to you.

Your understanding of sports could also help prepare you to work in a related field. Some graduates become coaches, referees, or athletic scouts. Jobs are available within school systems and through other organizations. Some PE teachers hold one of these positions part-time in addition to their teaching responsibilities. For example, it’s common for educators to work as coaches for school sports teams.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall median annual salary for educational instruction and library occupations is $57,490.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
K-12 Education Administrators $101,320
High School Teachers $62,360
Middle School Teachers $61,810
Elementary School Teachers $61,690
Athletic Trainers $53,840
Exercise Physiologists $51,350
Fitness Trainers and Instructors $45,380
Coaches and Scouts $44,890
Umpires, Referees, and Other Sports Officials $36,010
Recreation Workers $31,680

Several of these jobs require licensure or certification in addition to educational training. Some positions require graduate education as well.

If you like the idea of teaching but don’t want to work in a school system, you could consider becoming a fitness instructor who leads adults in exercise programs. As an exercise physiologist, you could plan fitness regimens to address specific health issues.

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Some graduates work with kids or adults as recreation workers. They can plan engaging activities to get people moving, help them learn new things, or engage with others. Getting your degree in physical education might be only the first step for you. Additional education could grant you new job opportunities.

If you study school administration, you might be able to work as a principal. In some districts, the athletic director’s position is also considered a role within the administration. Alternatively, going back to school for a master’s degree could help qualify you to become board-certified as an athletic trainer.

Bachelor of Physical Education Curriculum & Courses

Students taking Bachelor of Physical Education degree

Students getting an online bachelor’s degree in physical education usually take a mix of exercise science and education courses. Here are some course examples:

  • Anatomy and Physiology: To prepare for a career focused on health and movement, you’ll study the organs and systems of the human body.
  • Fitness and Exercise: You can study the body’s need for regular movement, learn how to exercise safely and effectively, and discuss how to motivate kids to be active.
  • Health and Nutrition: This class will cover what’s involved in caring for and fueling the human body as well as how to teach those concepts to students.
  • History and Theories of Education: You’ll develop your philosophy of teaching as you study the development of education and the latest research in effective instruction.
  • Kinesiology: You’ll study the science of movement to learn about bones, joints, and muscles as well as the mechanics of walking, running, and swimming.
  • Literacy Throughout Education: All teacher candidates at your school may need to take a class in supporting literacy development.
  • Lifespan Motor Skills: This course will introduce you to the development of gross and fine motor skills, particularly during the years of childhood and adolescence.
  • Physical Education Instructional Methods: You’ll learn specific strategies for teaching health and fitness concepts to K-12 students.
  • Special Education Instruction: One of your college’s core teaching classes may focus on working with students who have physical or cognitive disabilities.
  • Teaching Strategies for Sports: You may take a few classes on helping students learn to play various individual and team sports.

To qualify for teaching licensure, it’s necessary to complete a semester of student teaching in a local school.

How to Choose an Online Bachelor Degree in Physical Education Program

student searching for physical education bachelor degree online

Once you decide to earn your physical education bachelor degree online, you’ll then pick a school for your studies. As you weigh various factors, there may be a college that stands out to you above all the rest. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Accreditation. For licensure, it’s necessary to attend a regionally accredited college. Programmatic accreditation from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education is optional but worthwhile.
  • Faculty. The most experienced instructors often have experience in K-12 classrooms, and they also hold terminal degrees.
  • Location. While online education provides an easy way to study at a college far from home, you might want to pick a school in your state so the curriculum will likely align with your state’s standards for teacher licensure.
  • Online vs. in-person lessons. Some PE programs may be available for fully online studies, but others require a mix of on-campus and online coursework.
  • Practicums and student teaching. Licensure-track programs require in-person experiences in real-world classrooms. You’ll probably want to look for a program that will work with you to find placements in your local area.

When you enroll at a school that’s a great fit for you, your online college experience may be quite fulfilling.

PE Degree Admissions Requirements

Man preparing requirements for PE Degree Admissions

Before you start sending applications to colleges, it’s helpful to pay attention to the admissions requirements at each one. You’ll probably find that some schools request more application materials than others.

You might be asked to send in:

  • High school transcripts with a minimum GPA of 2.5 or 3.0, on average
  • Personal essay
  • Recommendation letters from past teachers or work supervisors
  • Standardized test scores (may be optional or not required at all)

Admissions standards vary from one school to another. While some accept most of the students who apply, others are quite selective.

Bachelor in Physical Education Degrees Online Accreditation

University offering Bachelor in Physical Education degrees

Selecting a school for your teacher education can be a big decision. As you’re narrowing down the options, it’s strategic to focus only on schools that hold regional accreditation. In the world of higher education, regional accreditation is a big deal. It’s given only to colleges that provide reputable educations that prepare students for the workforce.

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A regionally accredited degree is often necessary for getting licensed in your state or receiving admission to a master’s degree program. Also, accreditation can make a difference in whether you can transfer your credit hours from one college to another.

Physical Education Licensure and Certifications

Licensed PE teacher guiding students with exercises

To work in public schools, teachers must be licensed. This licensure is given by state boards. Qualifying for it usually requires completing an education bachelor’s degree, working as a supervised student teacher, and taking professional exams. Your license will show what subject areas and grade levels you are qualified to teach.

In addition, you can also consider becoming certified in a particular area of physical education. National organizations offer optional certification programs that can enhance your resume. For example, the National Consortium for Physical Education for Individuals with Disabilities administers the Certified Adapted Physical Educator (CAPE) credential.

Physical Education Majors Financial Aid and Scholarships

Physical Education Majors Financial Aid

Becoming a teacher is an important goal. If you need some assistance as you work toward achieving it, you can look into your options for financial aid. As you begin the process, you can fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The federal government administers both loans and grants for qualifying students. Your state might have similar programs to offer as well. Some grants may be designated especially for aspiring teachers. Scholarships can be a valuable source of free money for college. Some organizations offer scholarship funds for people who are going into education. Others base their awards decisions on other factors, such as academic performance or community service.

Scholarship funds may come directly from your college or be granted by an outside group. Employers can be another source of tuition help. Some workplaces offer college funding as an employee benefit.

What Is a Physical Education Degree?

PE teacher, discussing exercise activity with students

A bachelors degree in physical education is designed to prepare students to become schoolteachers. In particular, students in this degree program learn how to teach physical education classes to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

A physical education degree might include courses in human anatomy, exercise science, and nutrition. It will also have courses in teaching methodologies, learning disabilities, athletic instruction, and the history of education. Students in this program complete one or more sessions as a student teacher. After meeting state requirements for classes and student teaching, they may be eligible for licensure.

What Can You Do with a Degree in Physical Education?

PE teacher and sports coach in school

If you have a degree in physical education and hold an educator’s license, then you can teach PE classes for students. Phys ed teachers often qualify to work with any students in grades K-12.

You might also work as a coach or an athletic trainer. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that many coaching positions are part-time. In fact, some people coach sports in addition to teaching PE classes. Alternatively, you might want to do a job outside of a school system. Ideas include leading exercise classes, offering personal training services, scouting college athletes, or running recreation programs.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor’s in Physical Education Degree Online?

Man pursuing Bachelor's in Physical Education online

It can take around 4 years of full-time study to earn a PE teacher bachelor’s degree. If you take some or all of your classes online, your program length might be a bit shorter.

Online schools often hold classes year-round and organize courses into 8 week terms. That can help reduce your program length by a few months or even a year. One thing to note with teacher education programs is that you’ll be required to do a session of student teaching. Your state may require a set number of weeks for that in-person experience.

Are PE Teachers in Demand?

PE teacher guiding her students perform exercises

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 4% to 5% growth rate for teaching positions over the next decade. That’s in line with general job growth in the US. Your PE teacher licensure could help prepare you to fill a job opening as new positions are created or current teachers leave the field. With additional training, you might be able to teach other school subjects as well.

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Some related jobs are experiencing tremendous growth. For example, positions for exercise physiologists are expected to grow at a 9% rate over the next ten years, and the number of jobs for fitness trainers and instructors may grow by 19% (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

What Can You Do with a Bachelors Degree in Physical Education Besides Teach?

Athletic Trainer monitoring his client's workout progress

Although teaching PE in a school setting can be a rewarding career, you might be interested in other job paths. Getting a degree in physical education could help prepare you for a variety of jobs related to health, wellness, athletics, or fitness.

Some related careers include:

  • Athletic recruiter
  • Camp or community recreation director
  • Coach
  • Curriculum writer
  • Educational consultant
  • Fitness instructor
  • Gym manager
  • Personal trainer
  • Sporting equipment sales representative
  • Wellness director

You could also go back to college to study school administration, which might qualify you to work as a principal.

Is an Online Degree in Physical Education Worth It?

PE teacher doing exercises with his elementary students

Yes, an online degree in physical education is worth it for many students. Teaching young people can be a fulfilling career. In a PE position, you’d get to help improve their health and achieve their fitness goals. You might also help young people discover their athletic talents or fall in love with a particular sport.

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Licensure is required to work as a teacher in a public school, and this type of degree program may fulfill the licensure requirements in your state. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 7% job growth for education, training, and library occupations over the next ten years.

Universities Offering Online Bachelors in Physical Education Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Arkansas State University

Arkansas State University campus

Arkansas State University offers an online Bachelor of General Studies with an emphasis in Physical Education. A second area of emphasis is also available to customize the program. There are multiple start dates every year, with classes lasting 5 to 7 weeks.

Arkansas State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Athens State University

Athens State University campus

Athens State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Education in Physical Education, which may lead to P-12 teaching certification. The program focuses on theoretical knowledge and practical skills for creating developmentally appropriate learning environments. Courses are available in traditional and blended formats, with some elective options online.

Athens State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Eastern New Mexico University

Eastern New Mexico University campus

Eastern New Mexico University offers a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education with an emphasis in Sport and Recreation Management. The program may be completed online, on campus, or in a hybrid format. Lectures are recorded so coursework can be completed anytime. Online students may also have access to tutoring and a virtual library.

Eastern New Mexico University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Eastern Oregon University

Eastern Oregon University campus

Eastern Oregon University offers a BS or a BA in Health and Human Performance – Physical Education and Sport. The program is designed to be flexible to fit various schedules. Courses are offered online. Hands-on experience is available through an internship or capstone project.

Eastern Oregon University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.

George Mason University

George Mason University campus

George Mason University offers a BSEd in Physical Education. The program focuses on research-based approaches to education in GMU’s state-of-the-art facilities. Potential courses include Personal Health, Functional Anatomy, and Psychomotor Learning. Some courses are in person, while others are available online in synchronous or asynchronous formats.

George Mason University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Salem University

Salem University campus

Salem University offers a Bachelor of Science in Education – Physical Education. The program focuses on how to plan lessons, evaluate students’ skills, and create productive learning environments. The program is available on campus in the Appalachian Mountains and is in a blended format designed to provide flexibility.

Salem is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

South Carolina State University

South Carolina State University campus

South Carolina State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education in online, on-campus, and hybrid formats. The program includes experiential learning opportunities. Potential courses include Health Education Services Seminar, Contemporary Health Problems, and Concepts of Community Health Education.

South Carolina State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of West Georgia

University of West Georgia campus

The University of West Georgia offers a Bachelor of Science in Education with a major in Physical Education. The program is mostly in person at the Carrollton campus, with some courses also available in online and hybrid formats. Potential courses include Educational Psychology, Personal and Community Health Issues, and Foundations and Principals of Coaching.

The University of West Georgia is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Wayne State University

Wayne State University campus

Wayne State University offers a BS in Health and Physical Education Teaching. The program aims to provide 600 hours of direct teaching experiences, including a practicum in adapted physical education. Potential courses include Management and Instruction, Motor Learning and Development, and Health Behavior Change. Some courses are available in online and hybrid formats.

Wayne State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

William Carey University

William Carey University campus

William Carey University offers a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Physical Education. This flexible program is delivered fully online. Graduates may pursue careers in schools, recreation centers, and other environments that emphasize health and fitness.

William Carey University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Education Online

student getting Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education Online

If you love movement and fitness, then you might want to pass your passions on to eager students. By getting a degree in physical education, you can prepare to become a licensed PE teacher. In a school setting, you could help K-12 kids learn about sports, exercise, health, and teamwork.

If you’re interested in flexibility for your college experience, you could look into online coursework for your physical education degree. You might be able to do some or all of your classes through distance learning, followed by an in-person student teaching session.

If you’re ready to get started, you can check out online teaching programs from accredited schools today.

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WRITTEN BY
Joy is pursuing her Ph.D. in Public Policy & Foreign Policy at Liberty University and holds a Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management from Amberton University, as well as a Bachelor's in Business Administration from Columbia College. With over 20 years of experience navigating online degrees and courses, Joy's focus is helping non-traditional students find accelerated degree options and credit for prior learning opportunities.