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Do You Have To Be a Former Athlete to Teach Physical Education?

Playing competitive sports is an amazing way to maintain fitness and vitality, but individuals who haven’t played sports might wonder whether they can teach physical education. Former athletes can indeed become physical education teachers, but playing on a sports team is not a requirement for becoming a PE teacher. The process of becoming a physical education instructor is much like the process for any other type of primary school instructor.

Athletes Still Need Education, Licensing, & Certification to Teach

One might assume that time spent in competitive sports would be all that’s needed to become a PE teacher, but teaching in a school is quite different than coaching a neighborhood soccer team. Schools and their teachers are under much more government regulation than community sports teams and independent sports entities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is an organization within the United States Department of Labor, suggests that elementary, middle school and high school teachers require a bachelor’s degree to work in schools as teachers. The BLS also suggests licensing, registration, and certification may also be required in certain states, but full requirements usually vary from one state to another.

Future physical education instructors should consider that licensing and certification requirements are sometimes less stringent for work in private schools versus public schools, which means it might be easier to find work as a PE teacher at a private school. However, a bachelor’s degree is an item that all physical education teachers should have, even if they once played sports professionally or while in school.

Private Lessons are Popular for Former Athletes

An alternative to traditional teaching for former athletes who don’t possess a bachelor’s degree is teaching private sports lessons. Many former athletes who have become famous in the Olympics have settled down after competition to teach others. For example, according to a story shared by CNN Entertainment, former Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte was seen offering lessons to Grammy winner John Legend.

However, a former athlete doesn’t need to have participated in the Olympics to teach physical education or private lessons to students. Athletes of any sport can become physical education teachers, and previous experience in competitive play is likely something that would help rather than hinder. On the other hand, individuals who don’t have experience as athletes aren’t at a disadvantage because they haven’t played in professional or school sports.

Becoming a PE Teacher as Someone With Any Educational Background

The steps for becoming a PE teacher are identical for most people, whether they’ve participated in sports or haven’t ever played on a team. Future teachers should enter a bachelor’s degree program and pursue a degree in physical education or a closely related subject like sports management or health. Future PE teachers will then participate in a teaching internship, which will likely occur in a PE class.

Related Resource: 20 Affordable Master’s in Physical Education

The final steps include taking tests that the state requires for official teaching endorsements and applying for a teaching license. It may be helpful for future PE teachers to read the official requirements for teaching that are published by his or her state of residence.

Teaching is a rewarding job that can offer personal fulfillment and satisfaction from helping young people become strong, smart, and successful adults. Those with an eye on becoming physical education teachers may find it helpful to participate in sports while in school, but being a former athlete isn’t required for anyone who wants to become a PE teacher.