Best Online Physical Education Programs

We've ranked the top online bachelor's in physical education programs. Compare schools by cost and convenience to find your path today.

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by Stefanie Grodman

Updated April 25, 2022

Edited by Colin Weickmann
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Most online bachelor's in physical education programs integrate elements of exercise science, human physiology, human development, and teaching theory. Although individuals with this degree can instruct people of all ages on fitness and wellness principles, coursework often details how this instruction applies to children and adolescents.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition at four-year public schools cost an average $9,400 annually in 2019-20. Private schools charged an annual average of $36,700 for tuition. Remote learners can save money by not needing to pay room and board expenses.

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Physical education degrees often take four years of full-time study to complete. Part-time or self-paced students generally take longer. Program length may also vary for students who enroll with transferable credits or for those pursuing state-issued teaching certification.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the number of jobs for elementary and high school teachers will grow by 7% and 8%, respectively, between 2020 and 2030. Meanwhile, jobs for community health educators are projected to grow by 17%, and fitness trainer and instructor jobs are projected to grow by 39%.

Many graduates earn above-average salaries. Payscale data from Feb. 2022 indicates that group fitness instructors earn $45,000 on average annually, while physical education teachers earn $47,680. Similarly, the BLS reports that community health educators earned a median salary of $48,140 in 2020.

What Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Physical Education Program?

Physical education is a suitable field for patient, empathetic individuals who hope to share their passion for fitness with learners of all age groups and skill levels.

Online bachelor'sin physical education programs usually consist of about 120 credits. Full-time students usually take about 15 credits per semester and complete their degree in four years. Part-time students can usually complete this degree in 3-4 years. Although, program length may vary, especially for learners who complete self-paced coursework.

Often, students learn about the relationship between exercise and the body through hard science courses. Some of these foundational courses, such as human anatomy, physiology of exercise, and kinesiology, may require labs.

Individuals pursuing a bachelor's in this discipline often aim to teach primary or secondary school physical education. Many programs offer teaching certification tracks within these programs. Aspiring educators who pair certification programs alongside coursework must also complete a set number of student teaching hours, which can sometimes extend program length.

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Popular Online Bachelor's in Physical Education Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Bachelor's in Physical Education Program?

Anatomy and Physiology

This course details the structures and functions of organs, tissues, and systems within the human body. A more physical education-oriented curriculum may detail the principles of injury prevention, movement, and healing.

Kinesiology

In this course, learners build a practical knowledge of the neurological, skeletal, and muscular systems and assess how these impact movement. Students learn about balance and mobility. They also study various injury prevention methods and treatments.

Exercise Physiology

Students learn how various types of training impact the body, specifically through the lenses of weight management and disease prevention. Learners explore how individuals can use proper technique and nutrition to optimize desired results.

Physical Education Teacher Education Methods

This course details how educators can apply wellness and child development principles to meet age appropriate fitness needs. Learners may build curriculum development and class management skills. This course may include a practicum or fieldwork component.

Methods of Teaching and Assessing Health

Aspiring educators learn how to design curricula to meet learning objectives and approach sensitive topics like substance misuse, mental health, nutrition, and human sexuality. They may also learn to conduct classes and evaluate learning outcomes.

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What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Bachelor's in Physical Education Program?

Generally speaking, application requirements are similar for online and in-person students. Often,online programshave a greater population of students returning to school after some time in the workforce. Admissions personnel may focus on applicants' resumes, professional certifications, and interview performance, as opposed to credentials that apply primarily to recent high school graduates.

Application

Applications provide colleges with a brief overview of students' basic information and background, such as their intended study path, awards, extracurricular activities, and employment history. Platforms likethe Common Application streamline this process by organizing application materials and allowing students to fill out one form for all potential schools.

Test Scores

Although an increasing number of colleges are test-optional, many institutions require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. Standardized tests showcase applicants' academic competencies and compliment a strong high school transcript.

Letters of Recommendation

Some colleges may request that applicants submit letters of recommendation. These can come from teachers, school administrators, supervisors, or mentors. Letters of recommendation can provide meaningful third-party accounts of applicants' capabilities and character.

Essays

Students may need to submit a personal statement. Some institutions require shorter, supplementary essays as well. These essays provide admissions personnel with an idea of applicants' personalities, goals, experiences, and perspectives, as well as their writing capabilities.

Official Transcripts

Nearly all colleges require applicants to submit transcripts from their most recent secondary or postsecondary institutions. Admissions personnel look at applicants' GPAs and which courses they have completed. People applying to physical education programs should ideally demonstrate success in science courses.

What Can I Do With an Online Bachelor's in Physical Education Degree?

Career Outlook

There are many in-demand careers in the fitness and wellness industry. Between 2020 and 2030, jobs for community health educators, for example, are projected to grow by 17%. Jobs for fitness trainers and instructors are projected to grow by 39%, accounting for 121,700 new jobs in the same period.

The BLS projects jobs for elementary school teachers to grow by 7%. The BLS also projects high school teacher jobs to grow by 8%, on par with the growth rate for all careers. Physical education teachers may find the job market competitive in school districts or regions with limited physical education budgets.

Graduates can work in public and private schools. They may also work in the commercial fitness industry or in gyms or fitness centers. Some community health workers work for government organizations or nonprofits. Feb. 2022 Payscale data reports that the average entry-level physical education teacher earns $41,210 per year. According to the BLS, group fitness instructors earned a median annual salary of $40,510 in May 2020. Health education specialists made a median wage of $56,500.

Career Paths

Physical Education Teachers

These educators help K-12 students integrate various types of physical activity, such as sports, strength training, and cardiovascular exercises, into their school day. They help students optimize their techniques and use injury prevention and safety protocols. Many of these teachers coach youth sports teams after school hours. These professionals usually hold a state-issued teaching certification.

Average Annual Salary: $47,680

Personal Trainer

These trainers help diverse clients meet their fitness objectives through exercise and nutrition. They may work with juveniles, athletes, people with disabilities, or elderly patients. They demonstrate proper techniques for various weight training and cardiovascular exercises and instruct people based on goals and skill level. They must typically hold an NCCA-accredited personal trainer certification.

Average Annual Salary: $39,860

Group Fitness Instructor

These individuals lead various exercise classes, applying a technical knowledge of physiology and kinesiology. These professionals must be both enthusiastic and empathetic to create a supportive environment for participants. Like personal trainers, these individuals must typically earn credentials from NCCA-accredited organizations. They can pursue credentials for specific types of training, such as pilates, boxing, or yoga.

Average Annual Salary: $48,610

Community Health Educator

Many individuals with a background in physical education work in public health-oriented positions. Community health educators inform target populations and communities about key health topics like nutrition, cancer screenings, and addiction. They may also collaborate with social services or healthcare providers to improve community health outcomes.

Median Annual Salary: $48,140

Sports Coach

Graduates who are knowledgeable about a specific sport may enjoy coaching. Although many coaches work part-time, some high schools or colleges employ full-time coaches for more high-profile sports. These individuals supervise practices, games, and other training activities to optimize players' technique. They may also attend budget meetings and promote the needs of their team.

Average Annual Salary: $44,240

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Continuing Education

Many professionals with a background in physical education supplement their degree with a state-issued teaching certification. This is a common prerequisite for physical education teaching positions in public schools.

Individuals who are more interested in personal or group fitness training can earn personal training certifications from an NCAA-accredited certifying organization. They may pursue training programs specific to a particular type of exercise, like boxing, yoga, spinning, or weightlifting.

Some graduates wish to pursue master's degrees, like a master's in health education, master's in public health, or master's in nutrition. Others who may be interested in entering the physical therapy field might earn a doctor of physical therapy degree.

How Do I Choose an Online Bachelor's in Physical Education Program?

Cost

As with most postsecondary degrees, earning an online bachelor's in physical education can be a significant investment. Often, public colleges are less expensive than private schools, especially for in-state learners. Some students can lower tuition expenses with need- or merit-based aid.

Generally, the costs of online programs are comparable to those of traditional in-person programs. However, remote learners can often save on expenses like room and board or transportation.

Program Format

Often, online learners can choose between synchronous and asynchronous learning options. Students enrolled in synchronous courses typically meet for virtual classes at set times and complete assignments on a timeline. Students enrolled in asynchronous courses may use pre-recorded lectures, forums, and class databases to complete assignments at their own pace. Although synchronous courses more closely mimic traditional classes, many students embrace the extra flexibility of self-paced coursework.

Typically, a bachelor's degree requires four years of full-time study to complete. However, this four-year timeline is not ideal for all learners. Students who wish to earn their degree faster can enroll in accelerated programs, which may take about 2-3 years to complete. Working students may prefer to earn their degree part-time, which can take five years or more.

Location

For some fully remote learners, a school's location may be irrelevant. In this way, online learning allows students to earn degrees from institutions that they would not have ordinarily been able to access.

However, some learners prefer to attend institutions in their home state, hoping to take advantage of more affordable in-state tuition. Choosing a college that is geographically accessible can present certain advantages for online learners. For example, they can take hybrid courses, meet with faculty, and access student support services.

Accreditation

Accreditation is an essential marker of high-quality education. Institutional or discipline-specific agencies accredit schools that meet academic excellence standards. Students should look for this credential to ensure that prospective schools provide an adequate education and to assert the legitimacy of their degree to future employers.

Student Support

Although online learning can make college courses more accessible, the anonymity of remote courses can cause students to feel disengaged. Student support infrastructures like tutoring services, writing centers, and academic advising can reinforce learners' engagement and facilitate a more supportive learning environment.

Prospective students should also research colleges' career supports. Online schools should provide infrastructures like job boards, internship opportunities, mentorship programs, and alumni networking platforms to help students navigate the transition into a career.

Best Accredited Online Bachelor's in Physical Education Programs

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Best Online Bachelor's in Photography Programs

  1. University of Louisiana at Lafayette
    Location

    Lafayette, LA

    Tuition

    $11190

    UL Lafayette's bachelor's in kinesiology features a concentration in health promotion and wellness. This program uses eight-week courses and an entirely online delivery method. The 120-credit curriculum emphasizes basic nutrition, wellness, and human behavior theories. During their final semester, students complete an internship.

    UL Lafayette's career services website uses Handshake to deliver many resources, including counseling appointments and job hunting guides. The university also publishes informational articles that cover leadership and professionalism best practices.

    All online learners pay the same tuition rate. The university offers unique scholarship opportunities for in-state, out-of-state, and international students. Graduates of this program qualify to sit for the certified health education specialist exam offered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing.

  2. University of South Dakota
    Location

    Vermillion, SD

    Tuition

    $17354

    Students looking to earn a bachelor's in physical education may be interested in USD's online bachelor's degree in health sciences. Students choose from six academic pathways, each of which prepares students for a different professional or educational outcome. Pathways include healthcare advancement, public health, and undergraduate research.

    About 80% of USD's health sciences alumni start a job or a graduate program within four months of graduation. Current students and alumni can research exclusive job postings through Coyote Careers. Additional resources include a resume guide and cover letter critiques.

    First-year admission requirements include a high school diploma or GED scores. Transfer applicants can determine credit equivalency on USD's website. Incoming students can apply for multiple scholarship opportunities by submitting one form.

  3. Eastern New Mexico University
    Location

    Portales, NM

    Tuition

    $10918

    Aspiring high school coaches and physical education teachers can earn an online bachelor's degree in physical education at ENMU. This program features an emphasis in sport and recreation management. Faculty deliver all of the program's coursework asynchronously through the Blackboard platform. The program also offers an optional teacher licensure track for learners who plan to work in a public school.

    ENMU's career advisors use the Ask-It Basket to address students' most pressing questions and needs. Available resources include Handshake software, career exploration guides, and virtual workshops.

    Admission requirements include high school transcripts and FAFSA results. ENMU does not charge an application fee. The university offers scholarships to in-state, out-of-state, and transfer students. ENMU awards the Foundation Scholarship to veterans and dependents who qualify.

  4. University of Wisconsin-Superior
    Location

    Superior, WI

    Tuition

    $12869

    UW-Superior's online bachelor's program in exercise science allows students to earn a BA or a BS. The university supplements classroom learning with internship experiences, and participants also have the option to earn a Wisconsin teacher license. Other potential career paths for graduates include sports nutritionists and wellness directors.

    The university's dedication to students results in a 91% graduate success rate. Learners can gain the knowledge and skills needed for professional success by taking advantage of UW-Superior's career guides, which cover topics like market trends and interviewing skills.

    Transfer applicants must have a minimum 2.0 GPA. All online learners pay the same tuition, no matter where they live. UW-Superior maintains a scholarship website where students can explore and apply for awards.

  5. William Carey University
    Location

    Hattiesburg, MS

    Tuition

    $17100

    William Carey University's online bachelor's in physical education program includes a 36-credit major curriculum. Students also complete a minor in coaching, making the degree an excellent choice for aspiring physical education teachers. The program delivers all coursework asynchronously.

    Online students can use Indigo Portal to access interviewing tips, a professionalism guide, and resume templates. Students can also review essential job hunting advice on the My Next Move website.

    William Carey University does not accept GED scores. First-year applicants must submit ACT or SAT results. The university also uses a minimum 2.0 undergraduate GPA cutoff for transfer credit. Endowed scholarships for incoming students consider an applicant's academic merit and commitment to Christian doctrine.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bachelor's in Physical Education Programs

Is a bachelor's in physical education worth it?

Individuals should consider whether earning an online bachelor's degree is worth the time commitment and financial investment.

A bachelor's in physical education, or similar field, is a requirement for most physical and health education professionals, especially in schools. Though a bachelor's is not a requirement for personal and group trainers, the credential can help these professionals gain credibility, compete with other trainers, and work in higher-end facilities.

What can I do with a bachelor's in physical education?

Many students pursuing an online bachelor's in physical education wish to become elementary, middle, and high school physical education teachers. Much of the coursework and fieldwork that students encounter in this discipline integrates childhood learning and development principles. They may also work in coaching positions in youth or college athletics.

Other graduates educate diverse audiences on fitness and wellness basics. They may facilitate wellness programs on college campuses, in corporate settings, and for community organizations.

Many physical education professionals work as fitness trainers, in both individual and group settings. They might complete specialized training to guide clients or teach classes in different types of exercise.

Are physical education majors in demand?

Many Americans are seeking out guided training and group fitness activities. According to BLS projections, demand for instructors is expected to grow accordingly. Between 2020 and 2030, jobs for fitness trainers and instructors are projected to grow much faster than the national average for all jobs.

Similarly, a growing number of wellness initiatives has created greater demand for community health educators. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow by 17% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than average.

Jobs for elementary school teachers are projected to grow by 111,500 additional jobs. Openings for elementary school teachers are projected to grow by 78,200 additional jobs.

How much money can I make with a bachelor's in physical education?

According to Payscale, physical education teachers earn an annual average salary of $47,680 per year. Although, BLS data indicates that teachers employed by public secondary schools earned a median annual salary of $63,400 in 2020.

According to the BLS, fitness trainers and instructors who work in fitness centers earned a median annual salary of $42,160 in May 2020. The top 10% of workers made over $76,000 in the same year.

The BLS indicates that community health educators earned a median annual salary of $56,500 in May 2020. However, health education specialists employed by hospitals earned a median of $65,530, while those employed by the government made $59,070 for the same year.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a bachelor's in physical education?

Educators at well-funded public schools can earn substantial salaries. In May 2020, the highest-earning 10% of elementary school teachers made over $100,480 per year, while the top 10% of high school teachers made over $102,130 per year. Often, physical education teachers supplement this income by coaching youth sports teams or leading sports camps during the summer.

Some individuals can find gainful employment in health education roles as well. According to the BLS, the highest-earning 10% of health education specialists made over $101,890 per year in May 2020.

Feature Image: SolStock, Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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