With increasing reports coming out about the importance of physical activity in promoting overall health, the need for well-trained and passionate health and physical education teachers may never have been greater. If you want to earn a living helping the next generation live healthier lives than the last, physical health education degree programs could be a great place to start.
Many study plans for physical education and health teachers are four-year bachelor's programs, although some institutions may provide an accelerated path that takes less time. If you've already got an associate degree or certificate, some of your credits may transfer into a bachelor's degree plan and reduce the length of the program.
What's more, if you're either already licensed to teach public school or plan to use your expertise in another arena, online physical health education degrees can help you earn your degree without taking time out of your regular work schedule. Online degrees for physical health education students tend to focus on private-sector work, health advocacy and community-based educational approaches.
Best Colleges for Physical Health Education Degree Programs 2018-19
There are around 300 U.S. schools training future health and P.E. teachers, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), so we gathered and analyzed data to find out which ones had the most to offer. Tap the methodology button below to see how we calculated the rankings, and read on for our list of the ten best colleges for physical health education degree programs.
The oldest collegiate education department in Montana can be found at our No. 1 best school for physical health education, as well as the lowest average tuition and fees cost of any school that made our top ten. Students at the University of Montana Western paid an average 2015-16 tuition bill that came in under $4,900 for the full year.
Prospective P.E. and health teachers can prepare for K-12 education with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in physical education and health, while students hoping to enter a more community-focused health education setting can earn a B.S. in health and human performance. A minor in physical education and health is also available, for students in other teaching disciplines who want to expand their skillset.
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke took the No. 2 spot in the affordability category, charging students an average of less than $5,600 for tuition and fees in 2015-16. It also may be a valuable destination for students seeking partially online physical health education programs, according to its 40 percent online enrollment and array of distance education programs in other fields.
The department of health and human performance at UNC Pembroke offers numerous undergraduate majors for aspiring health and P.E. teachers, including health promotion, recreation management, and a license-track K-12 physical education program. A separate K-12 program in health and physical education is also available through the department of health, physical education and recreation.
This Clarksville, Tennessee, institution offers a concentration within its B.S. program in health and human performance that's designed to prepare you for the K-12 teachers' state licensing exam. Subjects you'll study on the path to this B.S. degree include first aid CPR, youth and adolescent health, rhythmic movement, nutrition and the foundations of kinesiology.
Austin Peay State University reported more than 51 percent online enrollment and offers fully online degrees for physical health education graduate students, should you decide you want to continue your training beyond the bachelor's level. The online Master of Science (M.S.) in health and human performance aims to provide students with training in research, statistics, grant writing, community organizing and more.
The degree in human performance and sport sciences at Tennessee State University features separate concentrations in physical education and health education, with each allowing students to dig deeper into their chosen specialty than would a joint program that covers both disciplines. Both programs require 121-122 credit hours of study to complete and lead to B.S. degrees.
In addition to the classroom learning and hands-on lab instruction, the physical and health education degrees at TSU include a field experience residency section for seniors. Students must complete 90 or more clock hours of student teaching in a real-world scholastic environment and take part in a seminar course designed to help them catalog and process the lessons learned during their residency.
The flagship location of this four-campus public institution, located in the city of Indiana in the state of Pennsylvania, posted the highest graduation rate of any school in our top ten. This triumph of student success may be due in part to the school's financial emphasis on instructional and academic support expenses like student advising and course development -- around two thirds of IUP's annual budget is set aside for these essential services.
Students looking for a teacher certification track should look into the Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.Ed.) program in health and physical education, which provides real-world context for your classroom learning with a student teaching program. Six additional concentrations are available for those not planning to go into public school teaching.
The Stanislaus campus of California State University, also known as Stanislaus State, came in a close second in the graduation rate category and charged a lower average total cost of tuition and fees than all other schools on our list but three. Physical education majors here are encouraged to keep active with at least one fitness class and one activity skills class each semester.
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) programs for aspiring P.E. teachers and community health educators are both available at Stanislaus State, each with their own set of prerequisites and graduation requirements. Students on the teacher certification track must pass the appropriate subject exam and complete an approved California Commission on Teacher Credentialing subject matter preparation program in physical education.
Flexibility for campus-based students was one of the bright spots for Missouri Western State University, which offers placement services for alumni and entire degree programs that can be completed by attending only weekend and evening classes. Students interested in online instruction may have digital options, as well -- nearly one third of the student body took at least some classes online in 2015.
Two study plans are available for undergraduate P.E. students at Missouri Western. The Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) program aims to give students the knowledge and skills they need for certification through the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, while the program in personal and commercial fitness works to prepare you for advanced physical education certifications outside of the public school system.
Tennessee Technological University took the No. 1 spot among schools on our list in the distance education enrollment category, according to NCES numbers, so undergraduates seeking partially online physical health education degrees may find what they're looking for here. More than 60 percent of students enrolled at the Cookeville school took one or more courses in the virtual classroom in 2015.
What's more, active physical education and health teachers who want to take their careers to the next level can earn a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree fully online from Tennessee Tech. The online master's degree plan doesn't focus specifically on physical and health education, but its advanced theories and techniques can have wide-ranging applications.
The Martin campus of the University of Tennessee system ranked No. 4 in graduation rate among the schools that made our top ten, and just two other schools on our list reported a larger percentage of physical and health education students among its 2015 graduating class. Four degree paths are available, including one K-12 teacher licensure track.
Students who are hoping to use their physical education skills for community outreach or private sector work can choose among three degree plans: exercise science and wellness, public health or a general human performance degree. The teacher licensure track is one of just three that the State Board of Education of Tennessee has approved to award teaching endorsements in both P.E. and health education.
One of the smallest schools we surveyed comes in at No. 10, making the list thanks to strong showings in the affordability and graduation rate categories. The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma awarded a total of 171 degrees to graduating students in 2015, so don't overlook this tiny Midwestern liberal arts college if you like the feel of a small, close-knit campus.
Student-faculty ratio was another bright spot for this Chickasha, Oklahoma, school. National universities average about 16 students per faculty member, according to U.S. News and World Report, and USAO posted a ratio of 12:1 in 2015-16. Physical education students here can complete their program with or without teacher certification, depending on the steps they plan to take after graduation.
Physical Health Education Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
A large percentage of physical and health education jobs are available through public school systems around the U.S., so you'll likely need at least an bachelor's degree to be eligible to work in the field. Some private schools and other outside institutions may have different requirements. Here's some info on undergraduate degree plans in physical health education.
Career Outlook for Physical Health Education Majors
The thought of hitting the job market after graduation can be intimidating, but you can avoid some potentially unpleasant surprises if you keep on top of employment projections and know what to expect once you leave college. Here are some physical and health education job growth numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
|Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary||$122,320||199,480||25.9%|
|Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors||$44,580||308,470||9.8%|
|Recreation and Fitness Studies Teachers, Postsecondary||$72,190||16,490||9.6%|
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Physical Health Education
Outside of federal financial aid, physical and health education students can take advantage of private foundation programs like the Ruth Abernathy Presidential Scholarship for members of SHAPE America. Be sure to talk to your school's financial aid department for state and regional funding options, and check out this list of programs you might otherwise have overlooked.
Recipient must reapply annually.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2015-16, National Center for Education Statistics, accessed January 2018, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- School pages, accessed February 22-23, 2018: Physical and Health Education Concentration, Radford University, https://www.radford.edu/content/cehd/home/hhp/academics/majors/health-education.html; B.S. in Health and Physical Education, Syracuse University, http://soe.syr.edu/academic/exercise_science/undergraduate/health_physical_education/default.aspx; Online Education Degrees, Ashford University, https://www.ashford.edu/online-degrees/education; Careers in Education, Ashford University, https://www.ashford.edu/online-degrees/health-care/careers/health-education/; Education, the University of Montana Western, https://www.umwestern.edu/academics/education.html; Undergraduate Program, Department of Health and Human Performance, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, http://www.uncp.edu/departments/health-and-human-performance/undergraduate-program; Physical Education Major, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, http://www.uncp.edu/departments/health-and-human-performance/physical-education-major; Program: Health and Human Performance (B.S.), Austin Peay State University, http://catalog.apsu.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=22&poid=3651&returnto=897#k12teaching; Master of Science-MS, Public Health Education, Austin Peay State University, TN eCampus, Tennessee Board of Regents, https://www.tnecampus.org/programs/2587/overview?institution=Austin%20Peay%20State%20University&program=Master%20of%20Science-MS-Health%20and%20Human%20Performance; Degree Programs, Human Performance & Sport Sciences, Tennessee State University, http://www.tnstate.edu/hpss/degrees.aspx; Kinesiology, Health, and Sport Science, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, https://www.iup.edu/kines/; Department of Physical Education and Health, California State University, Stanislaus, https://catalog.csustan.edu/preview_entity.php?catoid=3&ent_oid=94; Health/Exercise Science and Personal and Commercial Fitness, Missouri Western State University, https://www.missouriwestern.edu/hper/degreescourses/healthexercise-science-and-personal-and-commercial-fitness/; Teacher Education (PETE), Missouri Western State University, https://www.missouriwestern.edu/hper/degreescourses/teacher-education-pete/; Bachelor of Science Degree Concentrations, Tennessee Tech University, https://www.tntech.edu/education/expw/undergraduate; Master of Education - MEd, Tennessee Tech University, TN eCampus, Tennessee Board of Regents, https://www.tnecampus.org/programs/1119/courses?institution=Tennessee%20Technological%20University%20&program=Master%20of%20Education%20-%20MEd-Advanced%20Studies%20in%20Teaching%20and%20Learning%20-%20MEd; Health and Human Performance, The University of Tennessee at Martin, https://utm.edu/departments/hhp/; K-12 Licensure, The University of Tennessee at Martin, https://utm.edu/departments/hhp/K-12Licensure.php; Physical Education, University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, https://usao.edu/academics/major/physical-education;
- 21 Liberal Arts Colleges With the Lowest Student-Faculty Ratios, U.S. News and World Report, Jordan Friedman, April 19, 2016, accessed February 23, 2018, https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/the-short-list-college/articles/2016-04-19/21-liberal-arts-colleges-with-the-lowest-student-faculty-ratios
- Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed February 22, 2018: High School Teachers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/high-school-teachers.htm; Middle School Teachers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/middle-school-teachers.htm;
- Health Educators, Occupational Information Network, accessed February 22, 2018, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/21-1091.00
- Professional organization pages, accessed February 22, 2018: How to Join the Association, National Education Association, https://ims.nea.org/JoinNea/; Membership at a Glance, Society for Public Health Education, https://my.sophe.org/Member-Communities/Membership-Join-and-Renew; Membership, SHAPE America, https://www.shapeamerica.org/MemberPortal/membership-page.aspx;
- Ruth Abernathy Presidential Scholarship, SHAPE America, accessed February 22, 2018, https://www.shapeamerica.org/scholarships/abernathyscholarship.aspx