Complete Guide to an Online Physical Education Degree
Online degrees in physical education are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate levels. There are 54 accredited online schools offering physical education degrees from which to choose. In addition to a comprehensive list, we highlight the 23 top online colleges offering physical education degrees based on affordability and academic rigor.
Prospective physical education students should ensure that their programs of choice are regionally accredited. In addition to regional accreditation, students looking to go into teaching will want to make sure that their programs have programmatic accreditation from NCATE or CAEP to ensure the program meets high standards of academics and professional preparation. Aspiring physical education teachers will also have to check on the specific teacher licensing requirements for their state.
Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Physical Education Degrees (54)
2017 Top Online Colleges Offering Physical Education Degrees
This list of the 23 top online colleges offering physical education degrees highlights schools with strong academic offerings and affordable tuitions. Each school on this list has an annual tuition of less than $16,000 and an academic strength score of 59% or higher. Number one ranked North Dakota State University - Main Campus offers a Master's of Science in Health, Nutrition, and Exercise Science for only $4,641 per year.
View our methodology for more details.
|Rank||School||Annual Tuition||Academic Strength|
|#1 North Dakota State University - Main Campus||Annual Tuition $4,641||Academic Strength 68%|
|#2 University of North Georgia||Annual Tuition $4,755||Academic Strength 64%|
|#3 University of Arkansas||Annual Tuition $7,478||Academic Strength 70%|
|#4 Valdosta State University||Annual Tuition $5,222||Academic Strength 64%|
|#5 University of Northern Iowa||Annual Tuition $7,170||Academic Strength 64%|
|#6 Emporia State University||Annual Tuition $7,316||Academic Strength 62%|
|#7 University of Southern Mississippi||Annual Tuition $8,030||Academic Strength 63%|
|#8 Tennessee Tech University||Annual Tuition $10,350||Academic Strength 68%|
|#9 University of South Florida - Main Campus||Annual Tuition $12,336||Academic Strength 72%|
|#10 University of West Alabama||Annual Tuition $7,293||Academic Strength 59%|
|#11 Auburn University at Montgomery||Annual Tuition $7,395||Academic Strength 59%|
|#12 University of Nebraska at Kearney||Annual Tuition $7,920||Academic Strength 60%|
|#13 University of Wisconsin-Superior||Annual Tuition $9,270||Academic Strength 62%|
|#14 Canisius College||Annual Tuition $11,925||Academic Strength 68%|
|#15 University College||Annual Tuition $12,150||Academic Strength 68%|
|#16 Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus||Annual Tuition $9,151||Academic Strength 59%|
|#17 Western Michigan University||Annual Tuition $11,233||Academic Strength 64%|
|#18 University of Northern Colorado||Annual Tuition $11,000||Academic Strength 64%|
|#19 University of Mary||Annual Tuition $11,010||Academic Strength 63%|
|#20 Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville||Annual Tuition $12,187||Academic Strength 65%|
|#21 DePaul University||Annual Tuition $15,500||Academic Strength 72%|
|#22 Western Kentucky University||Annual Tuition $11,543||Academic Strength 62%|
|#23 University of Alabama at Birmingham||Annual Tuition $16,384||Academic Strength 73%|
Online Physical Education Degree Overview & Career Information
In our guide to a physical education degree we cover associate, bachelor's, master's, and certificate programs. An associate degree prepares students to transfer to a bachelor's program, or to find certain entry-level jobs in fitness-related careers such as coaching or fitness training. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement needed to become a licensed teacher. Master's degree programs are available for those who are already working as teachers and who want to add to their skill set, or for those looking to make a career switch to teaching. Lastly, certificate programs in physical education may be an appropriate option for those who already have a bachelor's degree and want to go into teaching, but who don't want to commit to a full master's program.
Associate degree programs in physical education are not typically offered in an online format. Usually this type of program is taught in face-to-face classes at community colleges. Students enrolled in these programs will often take classes that prepare them to transfer to a bachelor's degree, though graduates of an associate degree in physical education may also be able to find work in related areas such as fitness training. Coursework will include general education classes in the humanities and sciences, as well as program-specific courses such as Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries, Education and the Teaching Process, Body Structure and Function, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Essentials of Human Nutrition. An associate program will usually take two years to finish and consist of at least 60 credit hours of classes. Tuition at community colleges tend to be affordable, with many degrees being offered at less than $10,000 a year.
While there are many opportunities to earn a bachelor's degree in education fully online, degrees that focus specifically on physical education can be harder to come by. However, students who are determined to pursue a fully online physical education bachelor's program can find options. This type of program will take four or five years to complete, depending on if the student is enrolled in a program that includes teacher licensure, and the credit hours required may be as much as 154. The curriculum will be made up of general education courses as well as major-specific courses designed to teach students how to be effective educators. Example classes include Lifespan Motor Development, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Secondary School Physical Education Methods, Elementary School Physical Education Methods, Adapted Physical Education, and Educational Psychology. Student teaching will also be required. Students may have the option to choose a specialization or minor such as Health and Physical Education, Athletic Coaching, or Physical Activity and Sport Performance. Upon completing their degree graduates will be qualified to teach physical education classes to elementary, middle, and high school students. Tuition will vary depending on the program an individual is enrolled in, though students can expect to pay somewhere around $18,000 a year. Admission to this type of program will require a high school diploma or GED, SAT or ACT scores, and an application. Programs can be found at colleges and universities.
Online master's programs in physical education are available for both those who are currently working as a teacher and who want to advance their education, and for those who have no teaching background and are looking to begin a career in the field. Students will complete around 30-33 credits in two years of study. Classes that they might take include Motor Learning, Risk Management in Physical Education and Athletics, Sport Psychology, and Statistics in Education and Health Professions. Students will also likely be required to complete some type of final research project. Additionally, they will be required to work with students and observe in classrooms, so those who are not currently employed as teachers will have to make other arrangements in order to fulfill this requirement. Admission requirements will vary somewhat depending on the program; some programs require applicants to have a teaching background, while others do not. Other admission requirements include a bachelor's degree with a GPA or 3.0 or more, test scores for the GRE or other similar tests, and letters of recommendation. The bachelor's typically needs to be in physical education or a related field such as kinesiology, but not always. Upon completing a master's program graduates will be able to either begin teaching physical education in K-12 settings, or advance in their current career and become more effective educators. This type of program can be found at the university level, and tuition can range anywhere from under $10,000 a year to $13,000 a year or more.
In order to be admitted to a doctoral program in physical education, students must have completed a master's degree and have had at least three years of professional experience in a related field. One example of such a program is a Doctor of Education in Kinesiology, which also requires three letters of recommendation from previous professors. Doctoral programs take around four years to complete, and students should expect to take a minimum of 54 credits. Coursework often includes Statistical Methods in Kinesiology, Analysis of Teaching and Learning, Physical Activity and Health, and a Field Practicum in Kinesiology. Online doctoral degrees in physical education can help prepare graduates to teach in departments such as kinesiology, athletics, and health at colleges and universities.
Online certificate programs are available to prepare students for a career in teaching physical education classes. These certificates are typically at the graduate level, meaning that an individual must have an undergraduate degree in order to be admitted. Depending on the program prior teaching experience or teaching-related education may or may not be required. Classes that students might take during their studies include Care and Prevention of Athletic Injuries, Exercise Physiology for Health and Physical Education, Methods of Special and Health and Physical Education, and Educational Psychology. Individuals who are specifically interested in teaching physical education in a distance format, such as teaching in a K-12 online school, can earn a certificate addressing these skills as well. A certificate program can take less than one year to two years to complete, depending on the scope of the program. Tuition costs vary depending on the school attended, but programs can be found for around $10,000 a year or less. Online certificate programs in physical education are available at universities.
One thing that individuals should keep in mind when they are deciding on a school to attend is whether or not the school has been accredited. Accreditation means that an independent, outside organization has looked at the school or program and determined that it meets certain educational standards. Regional accreditation is when one of six regionally-based agencies evaluate a school as a whole to make sure it is living up to certain academic standards. Regional accreditation is offered to non-profit, degree-granting schools. It is important to attend a regionally accredited school for a variety of reasons, including the ease of transferring credits, access to federal financial aid, and increased assurance that the student's money is being spent on an education that will prepare them for their professional future.
Another type of accreditation is programmatic accreditation. Certain fields, such as teaching, have independent agencies dedicated to accrediting programs in that field to help students choose a one that will adequately prepare them for the workforce. Students who are interested in teaching at the elementary, middle, or high school level and who are looking at physical education degrees should look for programs that are accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), or the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP is a merger between NCATE and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council (TEAC), so more recently accredited programs will have CAEP accreditation, while programs that earned there accreditation more than a few years ago will have NCATE accreditation. Either way, accreditation by one of these agencies means that the program is academically strong and that students who graduate it from it will have the skills that need to be successful teachers.
Careers in Physical Education
The primary career path for those who earn a degree in physical education in that of an elementary, middle, or high school teacher. These professionals work with children and teens of various ages and ability levels to help them learn about exercising, team work, and healthy choices. Like any other teacher, they have to plan lessons and practice classroom management. Other job choices for someone with a physical education background include coaching, athletic training, and fitness training.
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- NCATE. Accessed November 4, 2016. http://www.ncate.org/.
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- Certification in Health and Physical Education (K-12). Eastern University. Accessed November 4, 2016. http://www.eastern.edu/3/academics/programs/loeb-school-education-0/certification-health-and-physical-education-k-12.
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- Physical Education. Iowa Central Community College. Accessed November 3, 2016. http://www.iowacentral.edu/liberal_arts/physical_education/index.asp.
- Physical Education Bachelor's Degree. Kent State University. Accessed November 4, 2016. http://www.kent.edu/ehhs/tlcs/pep/bachelors-degree.
- Physical Education Teaching & Coaching Associate in Arts. Miami Dade College. Accessed November 3, 2016. http://www.mdc.edu/physicaleducation/.
- Roadmap: Physical Education - Physical Education Licensure - Bachelor of Science. Kent State University. Accessed November 4, 2016. http://provostdata.kent.edu/roadmapweb/2015/EHBSPEPPEL.pdf.
- Teaching Health and PE Online. Slippery Rock University. Accessed November 4, 2016. http://www.sru.edu/academics/certificates/teaching-health-and-pe-online-certificate.
- Tuition. Slippery Rock University. Accessed November 4, 2016. http://www.sru.edu/Documents/admissions/tuition-and-fees/OLGOS-201609.pdf?1478294203713.
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