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Health & Physical Education Major

61,747 yearly degrees
#17 in popularity
$49,000 median salary

Health and physical education is a major that typically falls into the Parks, Recreation, Leisure & Fitness category.

There are 470 programs available throughout the country that offer an associate’s degree in phys ed, 1,368 that offer a bachelor’s degree, and 424 that offer a master’s degree. There are also at least 62 schools in the nation where you can get your doctorate degree in the field.

Who Is Getting a Phys Ed Degree?

Health and physical education is the 9th most popular college major in the country. In 2017, roughly 47,600 students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in the field. According to recent stats this major attracts about equal numbers of men and women. Roughly 48.1% of the graduates are women, and 51.9% are men.

Racial Distribution

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

  • Asian: 5.3%
  • Black or African American: 11.7%
  • Hispanic or Latino: 13.6%
  • White: 60.4%
  • Non-Resident Alien: 2.1%
  • Other Races: 7%
Health & Physical Education Majors Ethnic Diversity Statistics

Americans aren’t the only ones with an interest in phys ed. About 2.1% of those graduating in 2017 were international students. The most popular countries sending phys ed majors to the U.S. are Canada, United Kingdom and China.

What Will You Learn as a Health & Physical Education Major?

An O*NET survey asked people with careers related to phys ed to rate how important certain subject areas were to their job. The following are some of the results of that survey. Importance was rated on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being most important.

Knowledge Areas for Phys Ed Majors

This major prepares you for careers in which these knowledge areas are important:

Important Knowledge Areas for Health & Physical Education Majors

Skills for Phys Ed Majors

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

Important Skills for Health & Physical Education Majors

Abilities for Phys Ed Majors

A major in phys ed will prepare for your careers in which the following abilities are important:

Important Abilities for phys ed Majors

What Can You Do With a Phys Ed Major?

Below is a list of occupations associated with phys ed:

Careers Related to Health & Physical Education
Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary

Coaches and Scouts



Exercise Physiologists



Athletic Trainers



Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors



Athletes and Sports Competitors



Recreation and Fitness Studies Professors



Health & Physical Education Major Salary

Average salaries range from $45,000 to $72,000 for careers related to phys ed. 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, the typical high school graduate makes between $29,000 and $57,000 a year. The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $44,000 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,000 and $120,000.

Average Salary for a Phys Ed Major  ( 45000 to 72000 )
Average Salary for High School Graduate  ( 29000 to 57000 )
Average Salary with Bachelor's Degree  ( 44000 to 99000 )
Average Salary with Advanced Degree  ( 55000 to 120000 )

Your salary will be largely dependent on the career path you follow and what area of the country (or world) you work. Getting a graduate degree may open up more options with higher salary potential.

Amount of Education Required for Health & Physical Education Major Jobs

Some careers associated with phys ed require an advanced degree while some may not even require a bachelor’s. 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 education 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 Levels for Careers Associated With Health & Physical Education
Level of Education Percentage of Workers

Less Than a High School Diploma


High School Diploma or Equivalent


Post-Secondary Certificate


Some College Courses


Associate's Degree or Equivalent


Bachelor's Degree


Post-Baccalaureate Certificate


Master's Degree


Post-Master's Certificate


First Professional Degree


Doctoral Degree


Post-Doctoral Training


Online Health & Physical Education Programs

There are 1,368 colleges that offer a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education, with 57 of them offering at least some courses online.

Online learners must listen or watch video lectures, participate in group chats or forums, submit papers and assignments electronically, take tests, and meet deadlines.

Getting your degree online is not easy and includes watching and listening to hours of lectures, participating in group charts, submitting papers by the appropriate deadline and taking tests. Some online programs will also feature internships or in-person clinical hours.

Is a Health & Physical Education Major Worth It?

The median salary for a phys ed grad is $49,000 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 27% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $207,600 after 20 years!

health and physical education salary compared to typical high school and college graduates over a 20 year period


Bureau of Labor Statistics
National Center for Education Statistics
O*NET Online
Image Credit: Staff Sgt. Michael Ellis via License

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