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How to Become a P.E. Teacher in Massachusetts

Physical education (P.E.) teachers in Massachusetts are tasked with providing high-quality instruction as part of the state’s requirements for K–12 public schools to provide physical education for students. The first step to joining this group of educators is getting your P.E. teaching degree.

What Does a Physical Education Teacher in Massachusetts Do?

A physical education teacher in Massachusetts is responsible for helping students understand the importance of physical activity and teamwork. These educators organize games, sports, and even yoga and meditation classes as part of their school’s implementation of health and physical education curriculum. And there’s plenty of research that strongly suggests the learning and cognitive abilities of students improve as their access to physical education and exercise increases.

All public-school students, from kindergarten to grade 12, are required to take physical education courses in Massachusetts. The state’s Department of Education (DOE) eliminated a requirement for the mandatory number of hours in 1996, so those hours are determined by individual districts and schools. The Department of Education is currently working on revising the state’s curriculum frameworks on physical and health education, as these guidelines are now more than twenty years old.

While some districts and schools require their physical education teachers to teach health classes, including sexual education courses in some cases, there is no state requirement for P.E. teachers to do so.

Steps to Becoming a P.E. Teacher in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Education outlines the different pathways to becoming a P.E. teacher in the state, and they all require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school. Accredited schools are those whose programs have been reviewed and are officially recognized by local, regional, or national accrediting organizations. Fortunately, Massachusetts has an abundance of bachelor’s programs in physical education at both public and private universities.

As with many teaching careers, there are both traditional routes and alternative routes to becoming a P.E. teacher in Massachusetts. In either case, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in education.

Traditional Path

The traditional path to become a P.E. teacher in Massachusetts is to first earn a bachelor’s degree at a school offering an approved educator preparation program in physical education. The Massachusetts DOE offers an easy-to-use search tool that helps you find a program near you. These programs prepare candidates for the Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure (MTEL) in communication and literacy skills and in physical education.

The bonus of these programs is that they prepare you for an initial license: a five-year, renewable teaching license which is a step above a provisional license. Those who hold an initial license have a Sheltered English Immersion Endorsement (SEI), while those with a provision license do not. Those with an initial license have a bachelor’s in a teacher preparation program, while those with a provisional license have a bachelor’s degree in another subject.

Some teachers may also take the optional step of earning a master’s in physical education in Massachusetts. Earning an advanced degree is one of the pathways for professional licensure as a P.E. teacher in the Commonwealth, making this an attractive option for some. Provisional, initial, and professional licenses are explained in further detail in the licensing section.

Alternative Paths

There are also alternative paths to becoming a P.E. educator in Massachusetts.

If you hold a bachelor’s degree in a field other than education, you can apply for a provisional license if you pass MTEL tests in both physical education, and communication and literacy skills.

Additionally, applicants who have work experience and courses completed, in the absence of an approved initial licensure program, can apply for the state’s Performance Review Program for Initial Licensure (PRPIL). The program costs $2,500.

P.E. Teacher Licensing Requirements in MA

There are four types of teaching licenses issued in Massachusetts, and each carry different requirements. The requirements are the same whether you are applying for a P.E. educator license at the pre-K to 8th grade level or grades 5 to 12 level.

  1. Temporary: A temporary license grants a one-year, non-renewable teaching license to an out-of-state educator who has both earned a bachelor’s and worked for three years while licensed elsewhere. Temporary license holders must also have not failed any of the MTEL tests, nor passed all of them.
  2. Provisional: Valid for five years, a provisional license is a non-renewable license for a teacher who holds a bachelor’s degree and has passed the MTEL exams.
  3. Initial: This five-year license is extendable once, for a total of ten years. It is awarded to graduates of approved P.E. educator preparation programs who have passed both MTEL exams.
  4. Professional: This license, renewable every five years, is for initial license holders who have three years of experience, have completed a one-year induction program plus 50 hours of mentored experience, and have completed a master’s or other graduate program with at least 12 graduate courses in physical education. In lieu of a master’s degree, the state also accepts programs leading to master teacher status such as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.

No matter which license you seek, you will need to pass both the Physical Education Subject Matter and the Communication and Literacy Skills MTEL exams.

Physical Education MTEL
This computer-based exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and two open-response essays. The test covers physical development and motor development, movement activities, principles of physical fitness, and the physical education program. The cost is $139. Sample questions and study guides are available for free from MTEL.

Communication and Literacy Skills
This four-hour computer-based test consists of both a writing and a reading subtest. The writing subtest consists of 35 multiple-choice questions, seven short-answer sentence correction items, and two open-response essays. The reading portion has 42 multiple-choice questions. The entire exam costs $112, and practice materials are available from MTEL.

Physical Education teachers in Massachusetts must continue with their professional development in order to renew their licenses. Specific requirements for these hours vary by the license sought to renew or extend.

Coursework and Topics in Massachusetts Physical Education Programs

There are several subjects and classes that you are likely to encounter in your school’s P.E. teacher preparation program. Your course offerings will of course vary by individual program, and the courses you take will vary by undergraduate and graduate programs in physical education.

Typical Courses in a Bachelor’s Degree in P.E. in Massachusetts

Students earning a Bachelor’s in Science or a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education will take courses such as:

  • Curriculum Development for Health and Movement: This course typically focuses on curriculum development designed to create behavioral changes in a variety of school student populations.
  • Anatomy and Physiology: P.E. students should learn about the structure and function of the body’s cells, tissue, and organ systems in this class. Students may also learn about the muscular, skeletal, and circulatory systems as they relate to human movement.
  • Physiology of Exercise: This course usually focuses on the study of exercise’s impact on human physiology. Students will examine acute and chronic exercise responses.
  • Developmental Kinesiology: This course typically introduces physical education students to fundamental motor patterns in a human being’s typical development.

Typical Coursework in a Master’s Degree in Physical Education in Massachusetts

There are a few different master’s degrees that a P.E. teacher might elect to earn, including a Master of Science in physical education, a Physical Education and Physical Activity Leadership Master of Arts in Teaching, or a Master of Education. Many programs also offer specialty concentrations in areas like adaptive physical education, applied kinesiology, and strength and conditioning.

Earning a master’s degree will eventually make you eligible to earn your professional licensure as P.E. teacher in Massachusetts and will translate to a higher salary in almost all districts.

While graduate programs will vary, master’s students may take courses similar to these:

  • Legal Issues in Physical Education and Athletics: This course should provide graduate students with knowledge and understanding of general legal concepts, federal and state legislation, and legal liabilities relevant to physical education and sports.
  • Research Methods in Physical Education: This course usually leads students through the identification of a research question, data collection, and analysis. Professional and ethical issues are also typically included in this course.
  • Organization and Administration of Physical Education: This course commonly includes instruction in the techniques and methods employed to organize and administer physical education in public schools.

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

The projected job growth for teachers in Massachusetts is very strong, with all levels of teaching (elementary, middle, and secondary) employment rates projected to grow by 11 percent as compared with 4 percent growth nationwide (U.S. Department of Labor, 2019). These rates apply to teachers of all disciplines and fields, including physical education teachers, with the exception of special education teachers.

Teachers in Massachusetts also earn salaries average that are considerably higher than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Note that these salaries apply to P.E. teachers as well as those of all other subjects except special education (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019).

Teaching Level Massachusetts Average Salary U.S. Average Salary
Elementary School $82,600 $62,200
Middle School $79,030 $62,030
High School $80,020 $64,340

Massachusetts salary information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2020).

Spotlight P.E. Education Programs in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has many options to choose from as you prepare to embark upon your new career. The following physical education teaching programs are noteworthy for different reasons, and they are each approved by the Massachusetts Department of Education as programs that will lead to licensure for qualifying graduates.

Springfield College

Springfield’s physical education teaching license program is offered at both the undergraduate and graduate level. The undergraduate program emphasizes a holistic educational philosophy, while the master’s program distinguishes itself by being one of the few in the country to offer a master’s degree and initial licensure.

Undergraduate tuition at this independent university is currently $38,770 a year, while graduate tuition costs $1,073 per credit. Master’s students must complete 40 semester hours.

Bridgewater State University

As one of the state universities in Massachusetts, Bridgewater is uniquely poised to offer a state-of-the-art physical educational facility equipped with exercise physiology and biomechanics labs to its physical education students for an affordable cost. In addition to its undergraduate major in physical education, the school offers a master’s in science with a number of different concentrations, as well as a new coaching education concentration offered completely online.

Undergraduate tuition at this state-supported institution is $10,732 for Massachusetts residents and $16,872 for out-of-state students. Graduate courses are $475 per credit hour, and students must complete a minimum of 30 credits.

Salem State University

Salem State University boasts one of the state’s largest universities, just 15 miles north of Boston.

Future P.E. teachers may wish to consider the school’s Sport and Movement Science Department, which offers an accelerated program. This dual-degree program allows students to earn both a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Movement Science and a Master of Education in Physical Education in just five years.

Tuition at the undergraduate level is $11,284.00 in-state, and $18,064.80 out-of-state. Graduate student rates are $8,460.00 in-state, and $10,080.00 out-of-state.

Organizations for Physical Education Teachers in Massachusetts

Students and professionals alike benefit from staying current in their field, networking with others, and attending conferences relevant to physical education teachers. The following organizations and sites are worth checking out as you embark upon your career:

  • Massachusetts Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance: MAPHERD is a professional organization of over 2,000 members that can serve you both as a student pursuing your career and as a professional P.E. teacher in the field.
  • SHAPE America: While this professional organization serves health and physical education teachers across the country, it offers information on educational standards as well as advocacy tips and legislative updates specific to Massachusetts and other states. In addition, the Society of Health and Physical Educators also offers an extensive Resources and Publications page, making it well worth your consideration.
  • PE Central: This extensive website is a clearinghouse for physical education teachers everywhere. Packed with professional development resources, relevant articles, and lesson plans, PE Central provides a comprehensive collection of quality content for P.E. educators. Of particular interest to teachers may be the section on classroom management, one of the challenges P.E. teachers often cite as they are tasked with organizing very large groups of students each day.