If you have a passion for sport and want to help children and young adults to improve their fitness and wellbeing, you might enjoy working as a physical education (PE) teacher. Find out how to enter this career with our comprehensive guide.

What does a PE teacher do?

PE teachers are responsible for planning and teaching lessons in physical education. As a PE teacher, you’ll be tasked with helping students to enjoy exercise, stay healthy and learn vital physical, mental and social skills. 

PE teachers most commonly work in secondary schools but there are opportunities within primary schools and college settings too.

If you’re looking for a varied and rewarding career, working as a PE teacher could be just what you’re after. Each day you work, you’ll be helping children and young people to look after their physical health.   

The day-to-day tasks of a PE teacher typically include:

  • Preparing and leading practical and theoretical PE lessons
  • Organising and running school sports events 
  • Managing the behaviour of the class
  • Setting assignments and marking work
  • Speaking with parents and carers about their child’s progress

What skills are needed to become a PE teacher?

To be a successful PE teacher, there are a few key skills and qualities that you’ll need to have. These include:

  • Excellent knowledge of different sports, fitness and the human body 
  • A passion for teaching 
  • An enthusiastic and motivating personality 
  • Excellent leadership skills
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • An ability to show empathy and patience
  • Excellent problem-solving skills
  • An ability to adapt to changing situations

What qualifications are needed to become a PE teacher?

To become a PE teacher in the UK you’ll usually need a GCSE between grades 9 to 4 in Maths and English.

Plus, you’ll need to complete Initial Teacher Training (ITT)(1) before obtaining Qualified Teacher Status (QTS)(2). To gain these qualifications, you can complete a sport or physical education degree with QTS at university, or if you already have an undergraduate degree, you can complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE)(3).

Since you’ll be working with children or young adults, you’ll also need to undergo enhanced background checks before becoming a teacher. 

“Physical education nowadays is a lot different. We care about movement, focusing on not just skill development, but increasing cardiovascular endurance”

Matt Butler(4)

Steps to become a PE teacher

There are a few steps you’ll need to take before starting your career as a PE teacher in the UK. 

Step one: Decide if this is the career for you

Working as a PE teacher can be really rewarding, but you’ll need to have a true passion for both sport and teaching. The best PE teachers are those who inspire and motivate their students, so it’s crucial that you have a real enthusiasm for the subject you’re teaching. 

Step two: Complete your ITT and gain QTS

As previously mentioned, there are a few different ways to gain the relevant qualifications needed to become a PE teacher. 

You could study an undergraduate degree in a related subject at university and then complete a PGCE after, which can be specifically focused on physical education. To study at university, you’ll often need two to three A-levels, although this depends on the specific course.

Alternatively, school-led courses are another great option for gaining your QTS whilst getting a hands-on approach. Whilst you may not receive a salary, this route allows you to gain valuable experience and build up your skills.

Step three: Apply for a job

You can look for PE teacher vacancies within primary schools, secondary schools or colleges. You could work in a permanent position or choose to work in temporary supply teaching jobs, giving you the opportunity to work in different schools.

How much does a PE teacher earn in the UK?

The average starting salary for a PE teacher is around £25,000, rising to around £40,000 with experience(5). However, salaries are heavily dependent on the location and your own experience. 

Related occupations

Occupations related to the role of a PE teacher include: