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Elementary Physical Education Job Descriptions, Duties and Requirements

Physical education instructors in elementary schools are responsible for teaching students how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and explaining why it is important to engage in physical fitness. Most instructors are expected to have a bachelor's degree and state-issued teaching certification.

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Elementary Physical Education Instructor Job Description

Physical education instructors in an elementary school teach children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Their primary responsibility is to engage the children in sport competitions or other physical activity, but the job of an elementary physical education instructor goes well beyond playing games. Physical educators must stress the importance of maintaining a healthy way of life, through both exercise and positive lifestyle choices.

Employment Outlook

Because the amount of teachers needed rarely grows, the majority of job opportunities that present themselves to elementary education instructors are a result of teachers retiring or leaving to pursue another career. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 12% increase in elementary school teachers from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). However, the BLS has identified elementary physical education instructors as an over-saturated group, which may lead to difficulties when looking for jobs.

Salary Information

The BLS doesn't maintain data specifically for physical education teachers. However, it reported that kindergarten and elementary school teachers in general earned an average salary of $53,400 in 2012. Additionally, PayScale.com reports that physical education instructors in K-12 schools made between $25,237 and $61,123 annually as of February 2014.

Elementary Physical Education Instructor Job Duties

Elementary-aged students differ in their physical ability. It is the job of the physical education teacher to involve students equally and to plan activities that benefit all students. The teacher is to be a coach, referee, teammate and motivator. A physical education instructor must engage the class in both team sports and individual activities, while explaining the safe and correct way to engage in physical fitness. In addition to teaching physical fitness skills, the physical education instructor teaches social interaction skills

Most U.S. states require a specific amount of physical education per week in elementary schools. Physical education instructors meet with students throughout the school day and teach them proper exercise and healthy living techniques. Physical education instructors are expected to construct age-appropriate lesson plans, while adhering to state mandates.

Educational Requirements

A bachelor's degree in elementary education or a comparable major is a compulsory requirement for elementary physical education instructors at a public school. Popular majors for physical education teachers are sports management, nutrition and physical therapy. However, at some private schools, a bachelor's degree is not a prerequisite for teaching physical education.

Some schools also require a wellness program in conjunction with physical education. In such programs, the physical education instructor is required to teach courses about healthy living. To prepare for this, it is recommended that students studying to become physical education instructors also take health courses or attain a health license. Additionally, many physical education instructors major in two subjects in college. This increases their chances of being hired at a school, because they can teach gym class as well as an academic course.

Licensing and Certification

All public school teachers must be tested and licensed to teach physical education. Most states offer alternative licensure programs to attract teachers who may not have majored in elementary education. In these cases, potential teachers need not return to school for another degree.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics