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Physical Education Degrees in California

If you are a fitness and health advocate with an interest in working with young people, becoming a physical education teacher in California may be the career for you. California schools require P.E. courses at every grade level, with 200 minutes required every 10 school days in elementary school and 400 minutes every 10 days for grades 7 through 12. Considering California students spend so much time with their gym teachers, it is essential that their teachers are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their field.


Research shows that physical activity not only benefits general fitness levels, but also boosts brainpower and performance too. It also helps to increase self-esteem and self-confidence as it decreases stress, anxiety, and the development of chronic disease.

If the thought of engaging kids in fun, effective physical activities and teaching them about the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle sounds fulfilling, becoming a P.E. teacher in California may be the ideal career for you.

Becoming a Physical Education Teacher in California

Physical education is an instructional priority for California schools. Here’s an overview of how to pursue this career path.

Steps to Becoming a P.E. Teacher in California

To become a physical education teacher in California, you’ll need to follow these steps:

  1. Complete a bachelor’s degree and approved teacher preparation program. There are three teacher preparation paths you can take, depending on your specific situation:
  • Non-degree holders: If you do not yet have a bachelor’s degree, you can choose an accredited program that includes required education classes and teaching experience.
  • Post-baccalaureate: If you already hold a bachelor’s degree, you can complete a post-baccalaureate program. This generally includes two or three semesters of approved classes, plus student teaching. A post-baccalaureate program does not necessarily result in a master’s degree, so you may instead choose to enter a master’s in physical education program to achieve your certification.
  • Internships: If you hold a bachelor’s degree and have met basic skills requirements, you may be eligible to enroll in an internship program approved by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC). This allows participants to complete coursework required for a preliminary credential while working in a supervised but paid teaching position.
  1. Demonstrate competency. If your bachelor’s degree didn’t include an approved subject matter program, you’ll need to demonstrate competency by passing the California Subject Examination for Teachers (CSET) for physical education. The exam has three subtests that collectively cover topics in growth, motor development, motor learning, the science of human movement, the sociology and psychology of human movement, movement concepts and forms, principles of assessment and evaluation, professional foundations, and the integration of concepts.
  2. Obtain a California single-subject teaching credential. As this is an in-depth process, see the detailed information below.

How to Earn Your California Teaching Credential

All California teaching credentials are earned through a two-level process:

Level 1 is a preliminary credential that’s valid for five years. To obtain it, you must complete a bachelor’s degree, plus the requirements for a single-subject credential in physical education.

Level 2 is a clear credential. It demonstrates that you’ve passed your five-year preliminary period and earned the opportunity to remain working as a teacher in California schools. The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC) provides details on its website and issues credentials in four categories:

  1. General education (includes multiple-subject and single-subject teaching credentials)
  2. Special education
  3. Designated subjects
  4. Other

All credentials require you to be fingerprinted and cleared by the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

General Education Teaching Credentials

To teach physical education, you will need to follow the steps for a single-subject teaching credential:

  • Complete a bachelor’s degree program or higher from an accredited educational institution. Meet the Basic Skills Requirement by earning a satisfactory score on one of the acceptable tests of basic skills: ACT or SAT, a college placement exam, an Advanced Placement test, or the California Basic Educational Skills Test.
  • Verify subject-matter competency by completing approved subject-matter coursework or passing a relevant California Subject Matters Examination for Teachers (CSET).
  • Complete a course about the U.S. Constitution or pass an exam administered by a regionally accredited college or university.
  • Complete an approved teacher-preparation program for your desired credential (multiple-subject or single-subject).
  • Obtain a formal recommendation for the credential by the program sponsor.

As mentioned earlier, if you already have a bachelor’s degree but not a teaching credential, California offers an alternative pathway that could allow you to complete your teacher training at the same time as working in a paid teaching position.

Courses to Take for a Physical Education Degree

Becoming a licensed teacher takes time and effort, so it’s essential to choose an accredited teaching program that will prepare you for licensure in the state of California. A bachelor’s degree in physical education requires a minimum of 120 credits and student teaching. It typically takes four years of full-time study and will include general core requirements, instructional methods classes, and coursework.

As a physical education major, you’ll study such subjects as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Kinesiology and the physiology of exercise
  • Physical education teaching methods
  • Sports psychology
  • Nutrition
  • Theories of physical education
  • Physical education skills in elementary and secondary schools
  • Activity classes such as golf, tennis, basketball, and team/individual sports

Physical Education Teacher Training Programs in California

Learning how to be a P.E. teacher in California takes time and effort, but the special role they play makes it all worthwhile. Gym teachers help kids understand how physical activity, academics, and nutrition work together to promote a healthier, happier life. Here are just a few programs focused on developing the skills P.E. teachers need to demonstrate:

California State University, Northridge: CSUN’s credential program in physical education authorizes you to teach P.E. at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. The program prepares teachers to deliver a diverse curriculum that promotes self-directed, responsible, physically active lifestyles in school-aged children and youth in multicultural settings.

Tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 academic year are estimated to be $22,108 for California residents or $34,780 for non-California residents. Costs are typically divided over five installment payments.

Fresno Pacific University: Fresno Pacific University’s unique program offers a kinesiology degree with an emphasis in physical education instruction. Small class sizes allow for a more personalized education experience and increased mentoring opportunities.

Traditional undergraduate program tuition and fees for the 2019-2020 academic year are $32,458, and costs are the same for all students.

Asuza Pacific University: The master’s degree in physical education program at APU combines the curricula of the credential and master’s degree in a unique, comprehensive program. Upon completion, the credential candidate will have earned both a preliminary single subject teaching credential and a Master of Arts in physical education. Students may also choose to take coursework in adapted physical education, which focuses on working with students who have additional needs. The master’s degree is earned after completing all requirements for the preliminary credential and can be completed online or at the Azusa campus.

Tuition is $747 per unit for the graduate program and $727 per unit for the adapted P.E. authorization.

What does a Physical Education Teacher Do?

Physical education teachers do more than “just teach P.E.” They may also teach nutrition, serve as a homeroom teacher or advisor, and perform various other duties. They often coach and help shape a P.E. curriculum that meets the needs of all students and build relationships with them, other teachers, school administrators, and the public. As instructors, they are ambassadors for an active, healthy lifestyle, promoting the importance of P.E. to improve motor development and cognitive function and assisting with social skills (such as cooperation and personal responsibility) for kids of all ages.

Salary and Career Outlook for P.E. Teachers in California

California ranks among the top states for teachers’ salaries, in part because of the state’s high cost of living. Salaries can vary substantially, dependent on different education and experience levels. Teachers may also receive additional compensation for added job duties, such as coaching or sponsoring extracurricular clubs.

In 2018, the California Department of Education reported that the average pay for new teachers was $45,252 in small school districts (average daily attendance less than 1,000 students). Mid-range wages for those in schools with medium-average daily attendance (1,000 to 4,999) were $77,190, and those earning the highest annual salary of $102,065 were in districts with an average daily attendance of more than 5,000.

Career Outlook

Employment opportunities for physical education teachers in California are expected to increase at an average pace of 2%-4% through 2028. Job opportunities vary by location due to student enrollments and may be impacted by the state’s budget.

Resources for California P.E. Teachers

California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CAPHERD)

CAHPERD is a non-profit, voluntary membership organization formed to support and promote school, community, and statewide programs of health, physical education, recreation and dance for all populations.

P.E. Central

P.E. Central provides K-12 physical educators with information and resources to help deliver developmentally- and academically-appropriate physical education. The site includes assessments, health and physical education lesson ideas, wellness tips and activities, and job announcements.


ThePhysicalEducator.com is an online professional development resource “to help you become the best physical education teacher you can be.” The site provides resources for teaching, a place to connect and share with other teachers, and opportunities for professional development.

The P.E. Specialist

The P.E. Specialist is a website started by Ben Landers, a Clinical Model Teacher for the University of South Carolina. It’s a resource to help teachers plan an effective curriculum. There are lesson ideas and unit overviews, teaching tips, classroom management strategies and tools, games, conference notes, and podcasts.

California Department of Education – Physical Education FAQs

The California Department of Education provides questions and answers regarding physical education, teacher credentialing, physical education courses, physical fitness tests, and more.