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Physical Education Degrees

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Physical education plays a significant role in the curriculum of schools in America. There is a nationwide effort to battle obesity and promote a healthy way of life. Phys Ed is among the most important classes. Due to the growing importance of PE to current and future generations, there is a need for qualified physical education teachers. A physical education degree may be the first step toward a lifelong, rewarding career for those with a passion for helping shape and teaching student lifestyles.

Physical education professionals include sports program administrators, fitness instructors, and school teachers. PE teachers have several degrees from which to choose. Choosing the right degree program depends on whether one wants to study online or on-campus. Typically these professionals require a minimum Bachelor's degree and a teaching license. Those with a Bachelor's degree may specialize in physical education teaching, outdoor recreation or coaching.

Find P.E. (Physical Education) Programs

Overview of Master’s Degree

To be admitted to a Master’s in Physical Education, the applicant must have a Bachelor’s degree. Some admission committees require the applicant to have a Bachelor’s degree in a specific related field, such as education, exercise science, or nutrition. Letters of recommendation, a personal statement and standardized test scores may be required. Most programs emphasize essential skills that include sports knowledge, nutrition, sportsmanship, how to structure classes based on student fitness levels, and how to develop a curriculum that uses physiology knowledge and contemporary exercise. They also incorporate training in physiology and anatomy, first aid, body mechanics, and exercise science.

Program specializations from which students may choose include coaching, sports studies, health education, and pedagogy. Top courses include:

Anatomy and Physiology – Students develop an in-depth knowledge of physiological and anatomical features of the human body. The nervous, special senses, urinary, reproductive, digestive, lymphatic, cardiopulmonary, and cardiovascular systems are typically covered. Coursework may include discussions of balance, development, fluid and electrolyte balance, and metabolism.

Sociological and Ethical Issues in Sports – The course is a study of sports evolution and its American culture role. Course topics include sports as an American cultural phenomenon and ethical issues in the context of sports, including fair play, moral obligation, and moral reasoning in sports. The topics assist students in reinforcing and evaluating their principles, values, and morals as they relate to their field in the profession.

Assessment, Technology, and Evaluation in Physical Education – This course gives exercise science and physical education practitioners practical and theoretical knowledge in evaluation techniques, technology, and assessment. The assessment tools that are introduced and practiced include validity/reliability theories, computer/technology applications, and basic statistical concepts. It allows students to master and apply the essential concepts needed to become competent evaluators in exercise science and physical education.

Advanced Principles of Physical Conditioning – The course is designed for fitness experts, athletic trainers, coaches, and physical educators to understand and apply the body weight, nutrition, flexibility, muscular strength, and cardiovascular exercise concepts as they relate to athletics and physical education.

Sport Psychology – This course permits students to examine psychological research and theories related to exercise and sports behavior. Students are introduced to an array of topics in the area with an opportunity for reflection, application, and writing.

Online Schools that Have Multiple Degrees in Physical Education

University of Southern Mississippi offers an online Master of Science in Kinesiology – Physical Education. It is a 33-credit program that includes courses in physical education teaching methods, kinesiology foundations, sports regulations, and motor skills development. Students are required to have a qualifying score on an entrance exam.

University of South Dakota offers an online Master of Arts in Kinesiology and Sports Management program. Students have the option of full- or part-time study. The program is completed in 12 to 24 months.

University of Nebraska at Kearney offers an online Master of Arts in Education – Physical Education Master Teacher program that has two 36-credit hour concentration options – special populations and pedagogy. Courses include physical education for disabled students, exercise physiology, school education, and physical education philosophy.

University of Alabama at Birmingham offers two physical education programs. The Master of Kinesiology focuses on exercise physiology. It is a 33- to 36-credit hour program. The program includes courses in statistics, exercise physiology, and research methods. The Educational Specialist in Kinesiology focuses on physical education teacher certification. The program is open to current teachers.

What Can You Do with a Physical Education Degree?

Positions vary based on the class of degree and experience. The available jobs fall under the categories

  • Teaching
  • Coaching
  • Training
  • Performance Analysis
  • Sports and Recreation Management
  • Research
  • Other Specialties

A physical education degree qualifies graduates to teach students from kindergarten to college. Instruction involves the gym, field time, and often, classroom instruction based on the specialty. Teachers who coach often receive supplemental pay for extra time, particularly at the college level. Physical education graduates may work as a recreation center, aerobic center, of private gym trainers. They teach others about movement study and performance analysis. Many professional and amateur athletes seek a trainer, mentor, or instructor to break down their performance into various components and analyze how to find more efficiency or increase speed in their movements.

With a leisure or recreation studies degree, graduates can coordinate a myriad of activities at a recreation or sports center as well as municipal recreation programs. At the doctoral level, health and physical education degree holders can launch a career in research. The occupation appears most often in the study of human movement or the field of kinesiology. Other specialties include rehabilitation specialist, corporate fitness instructor, spa/health club manager, occupational exercise specialist, nutrition specialist, camp director, and activities director.

Top Organizations to Know

Society of Health and Physical Educators is a national organization serving as the voice for more than 200,000 physical education and health professionals across the nation. The organization defines excellence in physical education. Across the country, well-designed physical education programs have a foundation based on the organization’s National Standards for K-12 Physical Education.

National Athletic Trainer Association is the professional membership association for those who support the athletic training profession, such as certified athletic trainers. There are over 45,000 members worldwide. The majority of certified trainers chose NATA for support in their profession and a broad array of benefits. The group as a whole can accomplish more for the profession of athletic trainers than individuals can.

North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity has the purpose of developing and advancing the study of Motor Behavior and Sport and Exercise Psychology. Membership is open to anyone interested in these goals and who pays their annual dues. There are approximately 400 members from the U.S. and Canada. About half of the membership consists of graduate students in the kinesiology field.