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Best Online Master’s Degree Programs: Physical Education

The best online graduate programs in physical education help teachers improve their teaching strategies around movement and wellness. Browse top schools and expected curriculum and become a practitioner beyond just the gym.

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A group of young children is sitting on a wooden floor in a gymnasium, engaging in stretching exercises. An instructor kneels beside them, assisting a girl in reaching her toes. The children are focused and dressed in casual athletic wear.

Do you prioritize health and wellness? Do you have a passion for teaching? An online master’s degree in physical education could provide you with the education you need to combine your two passions. The field is experiencing a rapid growth rate, so now is the time to invest in your education. Not only does it offer the opportunity to establish or deepen your expertise in subjects such as instructional design, sports psychology, administration of athletics, and kinesiology, but it can also open doors to higher-paying positions and more opportunities.

This degree serves a variety of career goals, whether you’re interested in being a PE teacher, coaching, or even running an athletic or recreation program. Salaries vary greatly in these fields, from a median annual salary of $44,890 for coaches and scouts to $72,650 for postsecondary recreation and fitness studies teachers.

Getting a master’s in physical education online offers the flexibility you need to balance your existing career, family responsibilities, and education. An online program enables you to earn your degree from wherever you choose to study and whenever your schedule allows. You’ll even find that some online programs offer more affordable tuition costs than you might expect.

To help you decide which university has the best option for your needs, we’ve put together a guide on the top degree programs and tell you what to expect from a master’s in physical education online program.

School Spotlight: Three Top Online Master’s in PE Programs

If you’re ready to pursue an elevated career in physical education, you need the proper education to get you where you want to be. The right training can help you provide healthy activities to your future students in a productive and meaningful way.

Master’s degrees in physical education online are offered at some of the top education programs in the country. Each degree program highlighted below offers an affordable and accredited pathway to your master’s in physical education.

Utah State University

Utah State University offers an MEd in Physical and Sport Education designed for busy professionals. Teachers, coaches, and other fitness professionals can advance their careers through an MEd.

Students take classes entirely online and learn the psychological, biological, and administrative aspects of being a physical education teacher or coach. The degree is comprehensive and relatively affordable. Each credit costs $488, and it takes 33 credits to complete the degree.

The MEd in physical and sport education provides graduates with safe practices for movement and exercise they can teach their students to help keep them healthy. Because the degree includes a sports management component, graduates can also pursue coaching careers for a variety of sports at every level.

As a large university, Utah State offers a full-service financial aid office. There’s also a student money management center that can help you budget and plan your finances while pursuing your degree. Scholarships and payment plans are available for students to enroll in.

University of Southern Florida

The University of Southern Florida offers an online master’s degree in physical education. The program is a 30-credit, two-year program that students can complete entirely online. In-state students get a slightly better deal on tuition. Both out-of-state and in-state students pay $347 per credit, but out-of-state students also must pay an additional fee of $425.

Getting accepted into the program requires proficiency in English, a personal statement, and two letters of recommendation. To officially complete the degree, students must complete a comprehensive exam during their final semester.

The University of Southern Florida is a regionally accredited university, which assures that it’s a reliable, rigorous, and well-structured. In addition, the education program is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP).

Plymouth State University

Logo of Plymouth State University featuring the university name in green capital letters. A green wave-like design flows above the text.

New Hampshire is home to Plymouth State University, which has a strong physical education degree program. This program is designed for students looking to further their careers and teach physical education, coach, or direct athletic programs.

New Hampshire residents pay $631 per credit to get their online master’s degree in physical education at Plymouth State, while out-of-state students pay $831 per credit. The program is a 34-credit program, and students must choose between two different concentrations, adventure education or athletic administration.

The adventure education concentration is provided through partnerships with Project Adventure and High 5 Adventure Learning Center. These professional training providers offer hands-on training along with the online coursework students must complete. There are multi-day workshops students attend to learn about adventure education.

The athletic administration concentration is designed for students who want careers specifically in the collegiate sports industry. Job paths through this concentration include sports facility management, managerial positions at sporting goods companies, management of resorts, and jobs at sports marketing organizations.

Advantages of Earning Your Master’s in Physical Education Online

Getting your master’s in physical education online offers intriguing career opportunities within the education field and beyond. Some of the biggest advantages include:

Greater Networking Potential

Even online universities offer the chance to engage with peers and instructors on a regular basis. Online options allow you to interact with students and faculty members from more diverse backgrounds, helping you foster valuable professional connections you can use in the future.

Flexible Program Options

Online programs allow students to balance their coursework with their other work and life commitments, making it ideal for working professionals looking to advance their careers. Many classes are taught asynchronously, meaning you can watch lectures and complete coursework according to your own schedule. Since you can study from anywhere with an internet connection, you can attend reputable universities across the country without needing to relocate.

Nontraditional Teaching Career Opportunities

If you’re a teacher who has earned your bachelor’s degree in teaching or another subject and are searching for your next job move, getting an online master’s in physical education can help you make the switch to a more niche career. Graduates can become physical education teachers, but they can also manage sports teams at public schools or universities, run gyms, host camps, and much more.

Potential Salary Increase

Many students get master’s degrees to advance their careers and get higher-paying jobs. Master’s degrees in physical education are often necessary to work with professional sports teams or to work in colleges and universities, where salaries may be higher.

What You’ll Learn in an Online PE Graduate Program

Online PE graduate programs offer a more flexible structure than traditional in-person degrees offer, while still resulting in a master’s in education. This doesn’t mean there are fewer courses, or you won’t receive the same rigorous instruction, just that you can access classwork from anywhere and listen to lectures when it fits your schedule. Typically, the degree is a year and a half to two years to complete and requires 30-36 credits to graduate. Utah State’s program, for example, requires 33 credits to complete the degree.

Students who prefer part-time study may require an extra year to complete their degree, and there are also accelerated options for students who want to complete their degree in about 15 months.

Popular Courses

Not every online master’s in physical education program will look the same, but some of the courses do overlap. Since the point of the degree is to learn the skills necessary to become physical education teachers or join school administrations, it’s understandable that colleges would have some similar courses.

Sport Psychology

In a sports psychology class, students learn how psychological factors affect athletes and their performance. The course focuses on topics like stress management, confidence building, and mental skills training. The University of Southern Florida offers a sports psychology course that also focuses on building skills for coaches. It has an emphasis on psychological concerns that coaches, educators, and athletes all face.

Through the help of case studies, discussions, and practical exercises, students learn how to apply psychological principles to their careers working with athletes.

Foundations of Educational Research

In a foundations of educational research course, like the one offered by the University of Southern Florida, students learn the fundamental principles of conducting research in the field of education. USF’s course covers the major types of educational research designs through the help of case studies.

Students also study ethical considerations in educational research and how to evaluate existing research literature. This course is typically required for any education degree.

Administration of Athletics

For students who want to enter the administrative side of physical education, an administration of athletics course is a must. Utah State University offers this exact course.

The course is designed to prepare students to organize intercollegiate sports at secondary schools and universities. It focuses on the administration side of athletics rather than the physical coaching or teaching. Students learn a set of standards that can be applied to programs of all kinds.

Curriculum in Physical Education

Designing a curriculum is a major part of being an instructor of any kind. Physical education takes a specific kind of curriculum since students are learning how to stay healthy and get exercise rather than learning from a book.

Utah State University offers a curriculum course that shows students how to develop a PE curriculum at the K-12 and collegiate level. It focuses on current practices and trends that physical education master’s students should be aware of.

Specialization Options

Students can often specialize in certain areas within their physical education degree. These specializations focus on administration, coaching, adaptive physical education, leading recreation programs, and more. Students may choose to specialize upon enrollment or sometime within their first year once they decide which path is right for their career goals.

Adapted Physical Education

A master’s in physical education with a concentration in adapted physical education focuses on teaching techniques specifically for individuals with disabilities. Students learn to design curricula around differently abled students and create inclusive physical education programs. This concentration promotes equitable access to physical activity for all students in schools and universities.

Adventure Education

Adventure education is a specific concentration offered by Plymouth State University. Through partnerships with adventure companies, students learn how to make adventure sports part of school curriculums. The 19-credit concentration helps students run adventure gyms or lead extracurricular activities around sports like rock climbing or kayaking. Graduates can also run camps focused on adventure sports.

Administration

Not every student who gets a master’s in physical education wants to be a teacher. Some students prefer to work in an administrative leadership role creating policies for their schools or universities. If that’s the case for you, an administration concentration may be the right option.

Plymouth State University offers an administration concentration meant for students who want to run arenas, manage professional sports teams, or work in sports marketing.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in PE Programs

When a college or university is regionally accredited, it means the school has been rigorously reviewed and has met or exceeded the accrediting agency’s standards. Any university you choose to attend should have regional accreditation.

Physical education programs are often accredited by programmatic accreditation agencies. Some of those agencies include the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), the National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education (NCACE), and the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation (COSMA). Programmatic accreditation offers the same stamp of approval as regional accreditation, ensuring the program you choose meets the standards that ensure students are receiving the comprehensive education they need to do their jobs effectively.

Tuition and Financial Aid for PE Teachers

Getting a master’s degree isn’t just a big-time commitment, it comes with a price tag as well. You’ll need to plan for tuition and other fees charged by the school you choose. Having a plan to pay for school is essential so you can finish your program without breaking the bank.

All universities offer various types of financial aid for students in need or who have a record of high achievement, so check with the financial aid office at the university (or universities) you’re interested in and get in contact with a financial aid officer to get the specifics. Also, consider choosing a more affordable education program. Students often get discounted rates for attending universities in the state they reside in.

You can also likely find fellowships and work-study opportunities on campus to balance out the cost of attendance. Some universities also offer scholarships, both merit-based and financial-based.

What Your Online Masters Could Cost

School No. of Credits Resident Cost/Credit Est. Tuition

45

$689.92
(part-time)

$31,046

36

$18,242

36

$22,500

Potential Careers for an MEd in Physical Education Grad

While an MEd in physical education equips graduates with the advanced teaching skills and knowledge necessary to be a physical education instructor, it also opens doors to diverse career paths. Graduates can pursue opportunities in sports administration, coaching at collegiate and professional levels, the fitness industry, and other leadership roles.

Coach or Scout

Have you ever imagined becoming a coach of a high school or professional-level sports team? A master’s in physical education prepares you for that path. This degree offers a strong foundation and hands-on experience (in some cases) to help students gain knowledge of physical education principles, sports psychology, and athlete development. The degree also provides students with strong leadership skills to get them into the highest positions within the industry.

Adapted Physical Education Specialist

For students who want to dedicate their time to helping students with disabilities, an online master’s in physical education can provide the tools necessary to do so. Through specialized coursework, students learn to design inclusive physical education programs tailored to the diverse needs of their students.

Graduates will graduate with an understanding of how to address accessibility barriers and be able to advocate for equitable opportunities in the health and wellness space.

Elementary or Secondary Education Administrator

For those looking to create coursework and activities for younger students, a master’s degree in physical education provides the skills you need to work in an administrative role in an elementary setting. Through your education courses, you’ll learn how to develop curriculum and instruct other teachers. Administrators also deal with the budgeting side of academia as well as the mental well-being of students.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does an online master’s degree in physical education prepare you for initial teaching certification?

Since some physical education programs are master’s in education, they do prepare graduates for teaching certifications. During their coursework, students take basic teaching courses that offer a broader range of skills outside of just physical education, which help prepare them for teaching exams and licensing exams.

Not every program is designed like this, however. Some programs have specialties that are only related to physical education. Students should look at the courses the program of their choosing requires to ensure they’re getting the education they’re looking for.

What are the admissions requirements for an online master’s in physical education?

Admission requirements for online master’s in physical education vary from university to university but generally require students to have a bachelor’s degree at the bare minimum. Additionally, students must meet these other requirements:

  • A certain minimum GPA, often ranging from 2.5 to 3.0.
  • Relevant work experience in the physical education field.
  • Letters of recommendation from employers or previous professors.
  • A statement of purpose with your application that outlines why you want to pursue the degree.
  • GRE scores are required for some schools.

How long will it take to finish my master’s in physical education online?

To complete a master’s in physical education, students should expect to spend one and a half to three years in school. How long the degree takes depends on factors such as the program structure and your specific course load. Part-time enrollment may extend the timeline, while some accelerated options or full-time study allow students to get their degrees much quicker.

Can I earn a PE master’s degree 100% online, or do I need to visit campus?

There are 100% online PE master’s degrees. Certain colleges require a hands-on component if you specialize in certain concentrations, but most allow you to complete coursework entirely online. Concentrations like Plymouth State’s adventure education require students to work directly with outside organizations to better understand what they’ll be teaching.