What is an Ed.D. in Physical Education?
At the doctoral level, physical education is as rigorously scientific as any other branch of education theory. Someone with an Ed.D. in Physical Education hasn’t abandoned your high school gym teacher’s area of focus, but they’ve carried it forward in a way that most people don’t. By blending cutting-edge training in sports and fitness science with advanced educational theory, they’ve specialized in the mind-body connection in a way that few people, in any career track, have the opportunity to do.
What is an Ed.D. in Health Education?
Health education is a calling. Someone with an Ed.D. in Health Education specializes in how we can communicate everything we do to take care of ourselves – fitness, nutrition, hygiene, sex education, and mental health – in a reliably effective, supervised, well-administered curriculum. It’s an area of study that can’t afford to neglect subject matter expertise or the educational skill set necessary to transmit it.
Types of Physical Education and Health Education Doctoral Programs
The specific curriculum of physical education covers exercise, sports, and adaptive physical education and sports for people with disabilities, while the specific curriculum of health education covers physical education, nutrition, sex education, hygiene, and epidemiology. In the context of an Ed.D. program, these topics are generally covered within a broader curriculum of curriculum design theory, educational administration, and research methods.
We deal with these two types of programs together because it’s common to study both at the same time, as we see in programs like the University of Pittsburgh’s Ed.D. in Health and Physical Activity and the University of West Florida’s Ed.D. in Physical Education and Health, but they can also be studied separately. There are many more Ed.D. programs in health education than there are in physical education (and, as noted above, health education technically includes physical education), but neither is an especially common Ed.D. major.
Because there are relatively few programs in either field, grade-level specialization is relatively uncommon. That said, if you’re interested in teaching and creating curricula around health and physical education at the K-12 or P-12 level, the health and physical education subspecialty within Valdosta State’s Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction’s P-12 Education track might be right up your alley.
Earning an Ed.D. in Physical Education or Health Education
Health & PE Prerequisites
While most Ed.D. programs require educational experience in the chosen field, programs in physical education can take a more flexible perspective on what constitutes relevant experience. Ohio State University’s Ed.D. in Kinesiology and Physical Education, for instance, accepts “experience working with youth in a physical activity setting” in lieu of more formal physical education experience, if necessary.
Like most Ed.D. programs, Ed.D. programs in physical education and health education require a relevant master’s degree, typically with a minimum GPA of 3.0 (though there are exceptions), and sometimes with a GRE exam and/or an admissions essay.
Health & PE Coursework
Like most Ed.D. programs focusing on specific teaching subjects, the Ed.D. in Physical Education and the Ed.D. in Health Education balance subject-matter expertise with broader educational coursework. This can seem unwieldy at times, as one semester you might find yourself studying kinesiology and curriculum assessment or nutrition and educational administration, but the career track demands a certain amount of mental flexibility; the curricula reflect this.
Health & PE Dissertations
Like most Ed.D. programs, the Ed.D. in Physical Education and the Ed.D. in Health Education sometimes require a dissertation but usually do not. When a dissertation is not required, a capstone project – usually reflecting significant field work – is submitted in its place.
Health & PE Internships and Field Work
It’s uncommon, but not impossible, to get through an Ed.D. in either of these fields without being required to conduct, and report on, at least a semester’s worth of substantive field work. But this field work is often flexible.
A good example of the flexibility of the field work requirement comes in the second half of the University of Pittsburgh’s Ed.D. in Health and Physical Activity curriculum. Students may choose among a supervised “job-embedded” internship (for job responsibilities they can take on as a student), an “aspirant” internship (for job responsibilities they can observe and assist with as a student, but are not yet qualified to perform), or a “global studies” internship (a volunteer experience often, but not always, conducted overseas), each with a different set of requirements.
Health and Physical Education Careers
Ed.D. in Health & Physical Education Jobs
At the Ed.D. level, jobs in both of these fields are likely to center on developing and assessing subject-specific curricula rather than directly teaching. The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies this field as instructional coordination. It’s growing fast (with 11% projected growth for the 2016-2026 period), but coordinator positions in specific subjects, such as physical education and health education, are likely to be somewhat scarce and competitive.
When those jobs are not available, jobs teaching physical education and health education at most levels are plentiful and likely to be easily obtained by those who hold a doctorate in the relevant field.
Ed.D. in Health & Physical Education Salary
The vast majority of jobs listed online in these fields call for instructors, and the salaries for instructors tend to be significantly lower than the salaries for those who hold supervisory roles. Indeed.com lists average salaries for health educators ($40,851) and physical education teachers ($44,898) that fall well below the averages they give for instructional designers ($63,637), and well below the average the BLS gives for instructional coordinators ($63,750).
This suggests that breaking into a supervisory role in physical education or health education, even with an Ed.D., might be challenging at first.
Is an Ed.D. in Physical Education or Health Education Worth it?
If you’re comfortable with the idea of teaching physical education or health education for a while, yes.
Finding a specialized position in physical education or health education at a supervisory level might take a little while, but when such a position does become available, no degree is likely to better prepare you for it than an Ed.D. in the relevant field.
If you’re interested in working as an instructional coordinator but not exclusively in the field of physical education or health education, an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction might be more to your liking. Some program specializations, such as the physical education, health education, and coaching track within Boston University’s Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and the physical education track within Hofstra University’s Ed.D. in Learning and Teaching, even allow for advanced study in physical education and/or health education within the curriculum and instruction major.
Health and Physical Education Resources
- Alliance for a Healthier Generation: The Alliance specializes in educating kids about the importance of nutrition, exercise, and preventative care. It does this in many, many ways, one of them being that it advocates for physical and health education in U.S. public schools.
- American Kinesiology Association (AKA): The AKA focuses on professional development within the field of kinesiology, offering a job board and networking opportunities for those who wish to work in this field.
- Online Physical Education Network (OPEN): OPEN provides classroom resources, professional development opportunities, and extensive multimedia – including a podcast and a YouTube channel – dedicated to the field of physical education.
- Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE): SHAPE is the official national organization for physical educators and health educators, offering online professional development courses, free classroom resources, grants, and scholarships, and advocating for public policy that advances health and physical education.
- World Health Organization (WHO): The WHO is, among other things, the world’s leading organization advocating for universal health education.