Physical and health education takes place both inside and outside the classroom. Whether you want to work on fitness goals with a client at a gym or teach health education to students at a school, you'll find there are a number of ways you can help motivate others. Making this easier is that preparation for careers in this field can begin online through the array of online physical and health education programs offered at colleges and universities across the United States.
While it may seem strange to think that you could find online physical and health education programs, there are actually a number of such programs available. They focus on a range of topics, including health club operations, nutrition science, personal fitness and sports management. Students who are interested may also want to seek out a teaching credential, an important component for being able to teach health and nutrition in schools.
Researching colleges can be both confusing and time-consuming, which is why we have compiled this list of 10 colleges offering online degree programs in physical health education. Starting with data from the National Center for Education Statistics' Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and using our personal methodology to pare down the list, we have selected 10 schools to feature here.
Visit our methodologies page to learn more about how we use official data to evaluate schools.
From working in sports medicine to teaching children how to take care of their bodies, careers in health education can change lives — even save them. Here's a quick glimpse at the kinds of courses students can expect to encounter in an online program for physical and health education, as well as the skillsets these students may want to concentrate on building during those courses.
Physical and health education involves everything that goes into caring for the body, including physical activity, nutrition, proper and beneficial movement and more. The basics of these important concepts are the focal point at the certificate and associate degree level, where students spend up to two years studying for their credential. As a general rule, a certificate program takes less time to complete and focuses mostly on preparing students for a career position, while an associate program has a broader scope and can serve as a springboard to the completion of a bachelor's degree afterwards. Students in one of these online undergraduate programs might encounter topics such as:
In contrast to the quicker certificate and associate programs, an online bachelor's degree program usually takes between four and six years to complete. That time investment can seem steep, but these programs can often be accelerated by transferring previous college credits — especially from an associate degree in physical education — or credits for life experience into the program. Furthermore, a bachelor's degree rewards its earner with access to more and higher-paying careers than a certificate or associate degree. Common courses for online bachelor's programs in physical education include:
At this degree level, an internship might be required; this might sound like a problem for students enrolled in distance education, but don't worry. Those who are far away from their college's campus can often make an arrangement with their college so they can complete their internship at a school local to them, allowing them to complete the hands-on component of the program even from a distance.
Those who want to move into higher levels of teaching or research will likely want to pursue a graduate program in physical and health education. The usual avenue is a master's degree, which takes the basics established in an undergraduate program and builds upon them further. These programs are usually very focused on a particular concentration; a few popular concentrations to select include adapted physical education; advanced-level coaching; and athletic administration.
Students who set their sights on a doctoral degree in physical and health education, where students pursue the highest level of learning in their field, should prepare themselves to dive deep into their favorite aspects of the field by performing heavy research and analytics. Like the master's degree level, concentrations are usually a key part of a doctoral program — potential concentrations include exercise physiology; sport and exercise psychology; teaching and administration; and more.
It takes a diverse skillset to find success in a physical and health education career. Students who are attending (or planning to attend) an online degree program in the field will want to take advantage of the opportunity to work on their skills that these programs provide. However, how are you to know which skills to focus on? That is what this section is for.
First and foremost, a strong understanding of physical and health issues is important, as it will allow a physical education professional to focus on what each of their clients or students needs in order to improve their overall health. These professionals will also need to have a high level of fitness themselves, so they can easily help others reach their physical and health-related goals.
The ability to listen matters, as does the ability to explain topics and exercises clearly. Whether as a teacher standing in front of a classroom or a fitness trainer standing next to a client, these communication skills will help you obtain and share necessary information quickly and appropriately. Motivational skills are also essential, to encourage both your clients and you yourself! Exercise can be difficult, as can proper nutrition; sometimes a person needs that extra 'nudge' to do the right things for their body, and that's where motivation plays a crucial role.
Finally, patience is certainly a requirement for those in physical & health education. Exercise and nutrition programs require a strong commitment, and results are often slow in coming. Having patience with those who struggle with the requirements for overall health is essential to ensure that they get back on track, sometimes numerous times, and keep the end goal of better health in mind.
Between the prevalent love of sports entertainment, a growing emphasis on personal fitness, and medical advancements that have promoted all kinds of miraculous, preventative or just plain improved treatments for physical injury, the realm of physical health education is filled with exciting career potential. For a glance at some of the more popular careers in this wide-ranging field, look no further than our list below.
Educators who want to combine their teaching experience with a love of exercise may want to pursue fitness studies teacher careers. These professionals, who are generally required to earn a doctoral or master's degree to work in the field, teach courses related to exercise physiology, recreation, fitness studies and facilities management, cultivating beneficial habits in their students to help them live longer, healthier lives.
Like other educators, fitness studies teachers prepare course syllabi, grade classwork and homework, keep records of students' grades and attendance, and select textbooks and/or other supplies. People in this job should have strong communication, problem solving and technical skills, as well as the patience to handle the challenges that can arise in the classroom.
Coach and scout careers are ideal for those who are interested in nurturing the next generation of talented athletes. Coaches help to sharpen the skills of amateur and professional athletes by organizing and monitoring practice sessions; analyzing the abilities of each player; comparing their team's skills and performance to the players in opposing teams; and teaching players game strategies and techniques.
Scouts choose the athletes that will play for college, amateur and professional teams. Their job duties include keeping abreast of sports news in order to find potential players; viewing live and taped games to evaluate athletes' performance; and interviewing athletes under consideration, as well as the coaches they work with.
When patients need to recover from chronic diseases, people in exercise physiologist careers are there to help them get their bodies back into shape by creating fitness programs designed to improve flexibility and cardiovascular function. Specific job duties include reviewing patients' medical history to make appropriate decisions about exercise regimens; monitoring blood pressure, heart beat and oxygen intake of patients; and administering fitness and stress tests.
In order to pursue an exercise physiologist job, students need to earn at least a bachelor's degree in a health-related field. During their studies, they should take courses in areas such as anatomy, biology, nutrition and kinesiology. It is also helpful to enroll in a program that offers hands-on clinical training.
Athletic trainers are responsible for helping athletes prevent injuries, as well as assisting them when they do have one. Their ministrations can shape the effectiveness of an athlete in their chosen sport, or even enable the triumphant return of an injured athlete who may have otherwise been forced to retire. Daily job duties include putting protective devices on athletes, identifying injuries and providing first aid when needed, and creating rehabilitative plans for those who are injured.
Those in athletic trainer careers can work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, fitness centers, schools and professional sports teams. In order to land a job in the field, prospective workers should earn at least a bachelor's degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education. Also, many states require athletic trainers to obtain a state certification or license.