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What Are the Different Types of Physical Education Degree Programs?

By Florence J. Tipton
Updated Feb 11, 2024
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Generally, physical education degree programs have varying educational levels and concentration areas. Most degree programs are offered in two-year, four-year, and graduate courses of study. Students might enroll in a general physical education degree program or one with a concentration area in outdoor education, coaching, or teaching. In addition to the various degree levels, some degree programs are usually offered on campus and online.

Physical education degree programs can prepare most students to work in coaching and teaching fields. Completing these degree programs could prepare students to coach and teach children or adults. Most programs of study cover areas such as sports, fitness, and exercise techniques related to coaching and teaching.

Typically, academic institutions offer physical education degree programs in various levels. The two-year physical education degree is generally for entry-level coaching and teaching positions. With a four-year physical education degree, students might pursue careers as head coaches or recreational department heads. Completing a graduate degree or certificate program often leads to executive level positions such as a program director.

Along with various academic levels, students might choose a concentration area to narrow the focus of studies. Some academic institutions might offer an outdoor education concentration area in physical education degrees. Essentially, outdoor education teaches safety and survival skills related to outdoor activities.

Coaching is another area of interest for some students. In this course of study, students can prepare for amateur coaching opportunities with local recreational centers. Professional coaching is another opportunity for this concentration area. Generally, students hone skills in preventing injuries, team sports, and sports ethics.

Teaching physical education is another concentration area offered at some academic institutions. Usually, students who enroll in this type of degree program plan to work in a secondary or postsecondary educational facility. Many of these programs also require passing certifications to qualify for teaching positions.

Completing a physical education degree program, regardless of the academic level or concentration area, is typically pursued on campus or online. Most degrees are only on campus due to physical activity program requirements, which can inhibit learning in an online environment. Programs offered on campus might engage students with physical activities in various sports along with classroom instruction.

There is an exception with some physical education online degree programs. Typically, online degrees are for working professionals who do not need to complete physical activity requirements. Rather, these online degree programs might enhance coaching and teaching expertise through instruction and quality program development.

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Discussion Comments
By Mor — On Jul 05, 2013

I think more people should be going for this kind of degree, just because it seems like students aren't getting enough exercise.

I know that it might not appear on the surface to be a useful subject in an increasingly competitive world, but I've read several studies that show that kids who are active will actually learn better. Even getting them to stand up and sit down again increases blood flow to the brain, let alone getting them into a proper physical education program.

And, even if you don't want to be a teacher, it's not a bad degree to have for a personal trainer, or a coach. A couple of my friends did this degree and they didn't have any trouble finding jobs afterwards, although, of course, that's going to vary from place to place, so do your own research.

By Ana1234 — On Jul 05, 2013

@bythewell - To me, the thing that needs to be addressed is the fact that it seems like if you aren't a great sportsperson, they basically don't pay much attention to you. So, even if your school does have physical education classes, most of the time we just did things like taking turns to swing a tennis racket. Not particularly fun or good for you.

I was never really good at sports, but now that I'm an adult I've discovered I quite like running and swimming. Not competitively, just as something to clear my head and keep my fitness levels up. If I'd had a chance to learn all the right stretches and calisthenic exercises to keep in shape when I was at school, that would have been one of the more useful classes I had.

By bythewell — On Jul 04, 2013

It is a great pity that physical education is not held in higher regard in high schools. It seems like, if it's not related to sports, then they don't think it's got a point.

When you read about the increasing obesity epidemic and you see the kids who sit around all day at home over the weekend, playing video games, you wonder where and when they are supposed to learn how to be fit and take good physical care of their bodies. It's not something that comes naturally to everyone, but it is something that should be taught to everyone.

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