Some college-level courses and degrees are a natural fit for distance learning—business administration, computer science, English, and history, for example. But when you think of majors that would seem a little less online-friendly — physical education would probably top that list. However, you might be surprised to find that almost all of the coursework and training needed to become a physical education teacher can be completed through online programs.
This guide will help you identify online physical education degrees that prepare you with the right certifications. We will look at some specific programs, coursework details, how to pay for your degree, and some career paths you could take with this degree. Keep reading to find out and how to get started.
Spotlight on Physical Education Bachelor’s Degrees Online
Your first question may be, “How much schooling do I need to teach physical education?” The answer depends on if you want to teach full-time and where you want to teach.
Primary and secondary schools have strict regulations, and full-time teachers have to be certified. That certification requires at least a bachelor’s degree in the relevant discipline. As for advanced degrees, those are required to teach at a post-secondary level, but generally not required otherwise.
With that in mind, we’ve focused most of the information in this guide on bachelor’s degrees that prepare you for a job teaching physical education. Below are three examples of fully online degrees in physical education that prepare future physical education teachers.
William Penn University (WPU) offers a variety of education degrees, including a fully online physical education degree. The program is built around facilitating the learning of degree seekers who already work in school settings but would like to pursue a teaching license. Your current school district will partner directly with WPU to establish your education plan and help you make the jump from employee to student to teacher.
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, WPU boasts a long history and an impressive campus in Oskaloosa, Iowa—though you’ll never have to set foot on campus during the program.
Full-time tuition for an online physical education degree at WPU is $28,750. Part-time tuition is $420/credit.
Western Governors University (WGU) is home to a comprehensive teachers’ college offering 30 bachelor’s and master’s programs. Degree seekers can pursue education degrees in a variety of specialized disciplines, including math, science, English, special education, and more. While it doesn’t offer a dedicated online physical education degree, the elementary education program provides adequate training for those seeking a position as a PE teacher at their local school.
Best of all, every program is online-only and designed to prepare students for their teaching license, no matter where in the U.S. they live. WGU is accredited through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, as well as specific accreditation for the education programs from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation.
Tuition for an online education degree at WGU is $3,825/six-month term. You can complete as many courses as you’d like during that term.
University of West Alabama Online (UWA) is a long-standing traditional university with an increasingly robust catalogue of online degree offerings. UWA doesn’t have a bachelor’s program specific to physical education, but it does have a program dedicated to elementary education that includes PE curriculum. (Check the state requirements of where you want to teach to verify if this is a sufficient degree in order to teach PE.)
Notably, UWA offers advanced education degrees (including two in physical education specifically) and includes licensure with most education programs. The university is accredited through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges and CAEP. The campus is located in Livingston, Alabama, though the online courses can be completed 100% remotely.
At 127 credits to completion, an online bachelor’s in education at UWA can be finished in four years at a cost of $325/credit.
Inside Coursework for Online Degrees in Physical Education
What material and classes you’ll be studying will vary somewhat depending on where you attend, which degree you’re earning, and where you intend to get your license. However certain classes are a must-have to prepare you to receive a physical education bachelor’s degree online. Plan on course requirements similar to those listed below.
Health classes serve as the foundation of much of the coursework for online physical education degrees. Because PE teachers are instructing students on topics and in settings with increased risk of injury, knowing first aid is to everyone’s benefit. PE teachers aren’t expected to replace school nurses, emergency personnel, or healthcare professionals, but knowing how to wrap a sprained ankle, identify signs of concussion, or keep a student calm yet alert until help can arrive are all valuable skills.
Biology and Exercise Physiology
For all of the stereotypes of PE teachers as grown-up jocks, a physical education bachelor’s degree online involves a significant amount of heavy-duty science education. The job involves teaching students how to get active safely, maintain healthy habits, and improve physical performance without hurting themselves, so extensive knowledge of cardiopulmonary function and musculoskeletal structure are expected. PE teachers may not have to teach kids about metabolic rates and where they can find their metacarpals, but it’s part of the coursework.
If you’re pursuing a bachelor’s in elementary education, teaching methodology may constitute the majority of the requirements. Even if your degree is specifically an online degree in physical education, you’re likely to have several class requirements related to teaching methods, assessment, and more.
Just as elementary and high school students are expected to graduate with a well-rounded education, the same is true for PE teachers. General education requirements vary from university to university, but they tend to cover some very similar topics: science, math, English, art, history, etc. Some schools may have requirements related to religion, citizenship, or the environment. Will the work of a PE teacher normally require 12-page essays on the themes of Hamlet? Not likely. But having a well-rounded education and a thorough understanding of the learning process will strengthen your teaching skills overall.
Inclusivity and Accessibility
Every student is unique, and while many will share common attributes some will fall outside the typical profile that most PE curriculum is designed around. For example, some students may have a different cultural background, language barriers, or be unfamiliar with activities that their classmates take for granted. Some may have exceptional athletic ability, while others may deal with challenges. Classes of this nature help future PE teachers handle the myriad situations they may face.
Cost of Earning Your Online Physical Education Degree
The cost of your physical education bachelor’s degree online will vary based on a number of factors. Many online programs are priced on a per-credit basis because many students will complete coursework at a pace that’s feasible for them rather than on a predetermined schedule. In other words, students who are able to extend their education over a longer time period can spread out the cost, making it a more manageable expense.
That said, some schools minimize tuition costs without slowing your progress through cost structures such as a flat rate for a set term length. This enables you to complete coursework in chunks and provides built-in motivation to stay focused on your classes.
On the whole, though, online courses tend to be less expensive than attending classes in person. With an average of roughly 130 credits required for an online physical education bachelor’s degree and an expected four-year completion time, students can expect to pay between $10,000 and $20,000 per year in tuition costs.
How to Pay for a Physical Education Bachelor’s Degree Online
Unless your last name happens to be Bezos, Musk, or Gates, tuition bills of $10,000 to $20,000 probably don’t feel like pocket change. Covering the costs of tuition for your online degree in physical education can be a major obstacle. The good news is, there are plenty of options for student financial aid that you may qualify for. To help you start your search, we’ve put together an overview of scholarships and other financial aid options that may provide the support you need to reach your goals.
Offered through completing the FAFSA, Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants are specific to those pursuing education degrees. They include added requirements, such as a service obligation, but offer up to $4,000 a year to those completing coursework preparing them to become a teacher.
Scholarships, like grants, offer financial aid without the need to repay the money. Unlike grants, however, scholarships tend to be based on merit rather than need. That may make it difficult to snag a scholarship if your previous academic record is less than stellar, but resources such as teacher.org can help you locate awards that may target very specific demographics, making it easier to find a scholarship (or even a grant) that’s a match for you.
State-Specific Grants for Education
With a college education as expensive as it is these days and teachers making less than, say, lawyers and doctors, it makes sense that educators are in short supply. That means that nearly every state is willing to subsidize the training of new teachers to help fill those gaps, provided you agree to work as a teacher in the state for specified amount of time. Programs including the Golden State Teacher Grant Program and the Teach Nevada Scholarship are prime examples.
Local and Community Foundations
Finally, local community groups, private organizations, nonprofit foundations, and other financial aid sources may be available specifically to residents of your hometown, those with a specific religious affiliation, those with family working for specific companies, etc. The monetary value of these grants and scholarships may be lower than what’s found in larger programs, but often they are easier to obtain because the pool of applicants is much smaller. And, after all, every little bit helps as you pursue your physical education bachelor’s degree online.
What Can You Do with an Online Degree in Physical Education?
The career path for someone with an online bachelor’s degree in physical education may seem linear, but a few options are available to graduates, depending on the specifics of their training and certification. Obviously, the objective is to be involved in the learning of students and future athletes in some capacity, but there’s room to “play the field,” so to speak. Student ages, class sizes, curriculum, and more are all areas where career paths for this degree diverge.
Elementary School Teacher
Most elementary education degrees are fairly generalized—a bachelor’s of elementary education, for example, ostensibly covers any and all subjects a K–6 student will study. This includes math, science, and language arts of course, but it also includes physical education. In other words, if you get the training needed to teach third graders, you can likely get a job as a third-grade teacher or as their PE teacher with that same degree.
The national average yearly salary for elementary school teachers is $49,908.
This is probably what you’re aiming for with an online physical education degree. PE teachers are responsible for instructing students about exercise, health, physical activity, sports, competition etiquette, and a lot more. They assess physical aptitude and performance, and coach students on how to improve gross motor skills, endurance, speed, strength, etc. Often they are responsible for the organizing, management, and coaching of one or more school sports teams.
The national average yearly salary for physical education teachers is $53,174.
Finally, some phys ed graduates don’t wind up pursuing teaching licenses at all. Some jobs require a degree in physical education, but not the certification, such as athletic coaches, talent scouts, and fitness trainers. Team coaches are probably the most common, especially in school-related settings. These professionals are responsible for organizing, recruiting, training, and managing youth sports teams. They stay abreast of changes and developments in their sport and help teams prepare for competition. In many cases, these coaches play a pivotal role as young athletes experience both their first major victories and defeats.
The national average yearly salary for an athletic coach is $50,939.
FAQs About Online Physical Education Degree Programs
Here are five of the most pressing questions according to our readers.
Are online bachelor’s degree programs in physical education fully online?
While nearly all of the coursework for a physical education bachelor’s degree online (or any education degree) can happen virtually, teaching certification cannot. For any education major looking to get a job as an elementary, middle, or high school teacher, an on-site student teaching practicum is required before they can be certified to teach. Keep in mind, both student teaching and certification are location-specific, meaning they don’t transfer from state to state without recertification.
What accreditation should I look for in an online bachelor’s in physical education program?
With jobs in education requiring licensing and certifications, regional accreditation is more likely to help graduates with online degrees in physical education prepare for jobs teaching in primary or secondary schools. Look for accreditation from organizations such as the Higher Learning Commission, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, and the New England Commission of Higher Education. For a complete list, visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
What does the admissions process look like for this degree?
For the most part, getting accepted into an online physical education degree program is comparable to most other degree programs. In the case of programs that don’t include licensure, the process can be nearly identical—apply to the university in question and begin taking classes. In a few cases, usually when licensing is involved, students start with general requirements first and must apply to the program specifically once certain prerequisites are completed. On the whole, however, in-person and online physical education degree programs tend to be less competitive (no pun intended) than other programs, and any additional hurdles are related to regulations specific to the field of education.
How long does it take to complete a bachelor’s degree in physical education online?
Most online bachelor’s degrees in physical education are built to mirror four-year degree programs offered to on-campus students. For those who would rather pursue their degree at a slower pace, many online programs can be completed one course at a time.
What academic and career support services are available to online students earning their bachelor’s degree in physical education?
This will depend on the school in question. Some programs are, as mentioned above, built around giving you hands-on experience where you already work, making them optimal choices for those who already work at or with school districts. Other physical education bachelor’s degrees online are more hands off, and the burden of getting real-world experience or pursuing licensure is on you. Most are somewhere in the middle, providing the training and preparation for future licensure and offering resources to navigate that process on your end, wherever you happen to live once you’re ready to get certified.
More Education Degrees to Explore
Are you still undecided which bachelor’s degree in education you are going to choose. Check out these other education degree options: