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Health & Physical Education Major

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Health & Physical Education

48,279 Bachelor's Degrees Annually
8,423 Master's Degrees Annually
#9 in Popularity
$49,280 Median Salary

Types of Degrees Health & Physical Education Majors Are Getting

The following table lists how many health and physical education graduations there were in 2017-2018 for each degree level.

Education Level Number of Grads
Bachelor’s Degree 48,328
Master’s Degree 8,449
Associate’s Degree 4,715
Basic Certificate 1,455
Undergraduate Certificate 522
Doctor’s Degree 255
Graduate Certificate 169

What Health & Physical Education Majors Need to Know

In an O*NET survey, phys ed majors were asked to rate what knowledge areas, skills, and abilities were important in their occupations. These answers were weighted on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the most important.

Knowledge Areas for Phys Ed Majors

Phys Ed majors often go into careers in which the following knowledge areas are important:

  • Education and Training - Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
  • Customer and Personal Service - Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Psychology - Knowledge of human behavior and performance; individual differences in ability, personality, and interests; learning and motivation; psychological research methods; and the assessment and treatment of behavioral and affective disorders.
  • Administration and Management - Knowledge of business and management principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and resources.

Skills for Phys Ed Majors

A major in phys ed prepares you for careers in which the following skill-sets are crucial:

  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Instructing - Teaching others how to do something.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Monitoring - Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

Abilities for Phys Ed Majors

Some of the most crucial abilities to master while a phys ed student include the following:

  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Speech Clarity - The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Deductive Reasoning - The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Problem Sensitivity - The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing there is a problem.

What Can You Do With a Health & Physical Education Major?

Below is a list of occupations associated with phys ed:

Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary
Athletes and Sports Competitors 7.6% $50,650
Athletic Trainers 22.7% $47,510
Coaches and Scouts 12.9% $33,780
Exercise Physiologists 13.2% $49,270
Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors 10.0% $39,820
Recreation and Fitness Studies Professors 9.7% $62,620

Who Is Getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Health & Physical Education?

48,328 Bachelor's Degrees Annually
48% Percent Women
35% Percent Racial-Ethnic Minorities
This is one of the most frequently chosen undergraduate majors. It is the 9th most popular in the country with 48,279 students graduating with a bachelor’s in phys ed in 2018. According to recent stats this major attracts about equal numbers of men and women. Roughly 48% of the graduates are women, and 52% are men.

Racial-Ethnic Diversity

At the countrywide level, the racial-ethnic distribution of phys ed majors is as follows:

Racial-Ethnic Diversity of Phys Ed Students with Bachelor's Degrees
Race/Ethnicity Number of Grads
Asian 2,559
Black or African American 5,647
Hispanic or Latino 6,568
White 29,178
International Students 1,012
Other Races/Ethnicities 3,364

Geographic Diversity

Americans aren’t the only ones with an interest in Phys Ed. About 2.1% of those with this major are international students. The most popular countries for students from outside the country are:

  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • China
  • South Korea
  • India

How Much Do Health & Physical Education Majors Make?

Bachelor’s Degree Starting Salary

Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that health and physical education students who graduated in 2015-2017 with a bachelor’s degree made a median starting salary of $28,000 per year. During this timeframe, most salaries fell between $25,150 (25th percentile) and $30,800 (75th percentile).


One thing to note here is that not all of these people may be working in careers related to phys ed.

Salaries According to BLS

Phys Ed majors often go into careers where salaries can range from $44,580 to $72,190 (25th to 75th percentile). This range includes all degree levels, so the salary for a person with just a bachelor’s degree may be a little less and the one for a person with an advanced degree may be a little more.

To put that into context, according to BLS data from the first quarter of 2020, the typical high school graduate makes between $30,000 and $57,900 a year (25th through 75th percentile). The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $45,600 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,600 and $125,400.

Median Salary for a Health & Physical Education Major  ( 44580 to 72190 )
Median Salary for a High School Graduate  ( 30000 to 57900 )
Median Salary for a Bachelor's Degree Holder  ( 45600 to 99000 )
Median Salary for an Advanced Degree Holder  ( 55600 to 125400 )

Some degrees associated with phys ed may require an advanced degree, while others may not even require a bachelor’s in the field. In general, the more advanced your degree the more career options will open up to you. However, there is significant time and money that needs to be invested into your education so weigh the pros and cons.

How much schooling do you really need to compete in today’s job market? People currently working in careers related to phys ed have obtained the following education levels.

Education Level Percentage of Workers
Less than a High School Diploma 5.9%
High School Diploma - or the equivalent (for example, GED) 5.9%
Post-Secondary Certificate - awarded for training completed after high school (for example, in agriculture or natural resources, computer services, personal or culinary services, engineering technologies, healthcare, construction trades, mechanic and repair technologies, or precision production) 6.4%
Some College Courses 2.3%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 7.9%
Bachelor’s Degree 27.4%
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Baccalaureate degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees carrying the title of Master. 1.9%
Master’s Degree 30.5%
First Professional Degree - awarded for completion of a program that: requires at least 2 years of college work before entrance into the program, includes a total of at least 6 academic years of work to complete, and provides all remaining academic requirements to begin practice in a profession. 1.3%
Doctoral Degree 10.4%

Online Health & Physical Education Programs

In 2017-2018, 1,331 schools offered a phys ed program of some type. The following table lists the number of programs by degree level, along with how many schools offered online courses in the field.

Degree Level Colleges Offering Programs Colleges Offering Online Classes
Certificate (Less Than 1 Year) 198 5
Certificate (1-2 years) 116 6
Certificate (2-4 Years) 4 0
Associate’s Degree 470 36
Bachelor’s Degree 43 13
Post-Baccalaureate 198 5
Master’s Degree 424 116
Post-Master’s 5 0
Doctor’s Degree (Research) 61 5
Doctor’s Degree (Professional Practice) 0 0
Doctor’s Degree (Other) 1 1

Is a Degree in Health & Physical Education Worth It?

The median salary for a phys ed grad is $49,280 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 24% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $187,600 after 20 years!


You may also be interested in one of the following majors related to phys ed.

Major Number of Grads
Recreation Administration 4,172
Parks, Recreation & Leisure Studies 3,541
Other Parks, Recreation & Leisure Studies 275
Outdoor Education 235


More about our data sources and methodologies.

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