Physical education lends itself to a range of careers in sports and fitness as well as other industries that you may not have considered before. For example, did you know that many nutritionists, physical therapists and chiropractors have a degree in PE?

Some careers that you could consider doing with PE include:

  • Sports science
  • PE teacher
  • Physiotherapist
  • Professional sportsperson
  • Sports coach/consultant
  • Sports policy at local and national level
  • Diet and fitness instructor
  • Personal trainer

The physical fitness and good teamwork which come from an interest in physical education and playing sports can be useful in many different careers including leisure, sport and tourism, construction, education and training, armed forces, security and uniformed services, management, as well as animals, agriculture, plants and land.

PERSONAL TRAINER - What does a personal trainer do?

Personal trainers talk to clients to find out about their fitness level and health history. They would then:

  • set realistic short-term and long-term goals and plan programmes for reaching them
  • educate, motivate and coach clients to help them follow their programmes safely and effectively
  • give clients advice on health, nutrition and lifestyle changes
  • help clients with their workouts
  • check and record clients' progress, using methods such as measuring heart rate and body-fat levels

In some cases you might work full-time as a gym instructor and do personal training outside your normal hours of work.


What do I need to do to become a personal trainer?

To become a personal trainer you would normally be an experienced fitness instructor with a recognised qualification, such as:

  • Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing – Gym
  • Level 2 Diploma in Health, Fitness, and Exercise Instruction
  • Level 2 Diploma in Instructing Exercise and Fitness

You can take further qualifications specific to this career, which include:

  • Level 3 Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training
  • Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training

Fitness instructor and personal trainer courses are widely available through colleges and private training providers.

Membership of a professional organisation, such as the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) or National Register of Personal Trainers (NRPT) is also a good way to demonstrate your competence and skills and can help to improve your career prospects.

If you are already a qualified fitness instructor, you could take the Level 3 Award in Conversion of Advanced Fitness Instructor to Personal Trainer Status. This allows you to change your membership status on the REPs to Personal Trainer.

To work as a personal trainer you must also have public liability insurance and a first aid award. This must include a cardio-pulmonary resuscitation certificate (CPR). Professional bodies can advise on this as well as tax, insurance and self-employment issues.

Vocational route

Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing – Gym

Level 2 Diploma in Health, Fitness, and Exercise Instruction

Level 2 Diploma in Instructing Exercise and Fitness

Level 3 Diploma in Fitness Instructing and Personal Training

Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training


PHYSICAL EDUCATION TEACHER – What does a teacher do?

Secondary school teachers teach children from the ages of 11 to 18. You will plan lessons and assess work based on standards set out in the curriculum (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland all have their own specific curriculum requirements). Communication skills and excellent literacy and numeracy skills are essential for this role.


What do I need to do to become a secondary school teacher?

To teach in a UK state school, you will need to a have a degree, and a recognised teaching qualification. There are a number of routes you can take to become a secondary school teacher.

You could follow an undergraduate Initial Teacher Education or Training (ITET) programme, such as a Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree. This is generally a popular route for prospective primary school teachers, but some universities do offer secondary-level BEd programmes for some specialisms.

Alternatively, you could do a degree – this could be in a subject you wish to specialise in like maths, science, or English – then take a postgraduate teacher training programme, such as a PGCE or PGDE. You must have a degree in the subject you have chosen to teach (or a closely related one).

To get into university, you will need to have completed courses like GCSEs, Nationals, A levels, Highers, the International Baccalaureate, or Cambridge Pre-Us. You will also need to pass a police criminal records, or Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

Essential qualifications
  • Undergraduate education degree
  • OR undergraduate degree AND a PGCE/PGDE
  • DBS or police records check


SPORTS COACH – What is a sports coach?

Sports coaches train and coach amateur and professional athletes. You could be working one-on-one with an individual in sports like tennis, gymnastics or boxing, or you could be working with a group of people like a football, netball or rugby team.

As a sports coach, you’ll ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of the athletes you work with. You’ll make sure they can perform to the best of their abilities in competitions. You’ll need to be physically fit and understand all the rules of your chosen sport. 


What do I need to do to become a sports coach?

To become a sports coach, you will need to have a coaching qualification that is recognised by the governing body for your sport.

If you're interested in taking a higher education qualification in sports science it would be helpful to take a science-related subject at A level. Check entry requirements with universities.

Relevant level 3 vocational courses (eg BTEC National Diploma science or sports and exercise science) are acceptable for some sports science degrees. Check with universities.

Essential qualifications
  • Coaching qualification (see the website for the governing body of your sport for details)
Desirable qualifications
  • Sports science degree


Other careers and info:

Salary: £20,000 to £35,000 +


Job role

As a nutritionist, you'll generate, assess and deliver scientific evidence-based nutritional advice in a variety of settings to improve health and wellbeing and to promote a healthy diet and lifestyle.


Qualification & development requirement:

GCSE’s/BTEC’s a grade 4 in Maths, English, Science’s and Sport

A-level/BTEC Sport science and biology preferably

Undergraduate degree in BSc Sport & Exercise Science or Sports Nutrition based degree

Registration to the associate nutritionist or The British Dietetic Association.

Further development is via a master degree or PHD in nutrition.

Salary: £23,720 to £35,008 +

Physical education teacher’s help children develop physical abilities and healthy habits that can last for the rest of their lives.


Qualification & development requirement:

GCSE’s/BTEC’s: Grade 4 in English, Maths, Science & Sport.

A-level/BTEC: Sport & preferably biology.

Undergraduate degree: BSc Physical education, Sport & exercise science or any other sport science related degree.

Postgraduate degree: PGCE Secondary physical education via university, schools direct or a scitt program.

Other qualifications and experiences: Coaching level 1 & 2 badges and multiple sports is advantageous. In addition having work experience within a school setting. 

Salary: £20,000 to £30,000 +

Sports science focuses on improving athletic performances through the applications of psychology, physiology and biomechanics principles and techniques. Sports scientists observe and monitor athletes to design performance-improving exercise and training programs.


Qualification & development requirements:

GCSE’s/BTEC’s: Grade 4 Maths, English, Science & Sport

A-level/BTEC: Sport science and preferably biology

Undergraduate degree: BSc Sport & exercise science

Experience: Preferably experience working with a sports clubs has a volunteer video analysis

Salary: £23,023 to £35,000 +

As an exercise physiologist you'll investigate how people respond and adapt to muscular activity and will use your skills and knowledge to improve their performance and fitness levels or to help prevent or treat illness.


Qualification & development requirements:

GCSE’s/BTEC’s: Grade 4 Maths, English, Science & Sport

A-level/BTEC: Sport science or preferably biology

Undergraduate degree: Sport & exercise science or other sport science based degree

Postgraduate degree: MSc Clinical Exercise Physiology

Experience: Preferably working within the laboratory setting voluntary or NHS.

Salary: £23,023 to £36,644 +

Helps to restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability. It can also help to reduce your risk of injury or illness in the future. It takes a holistic approach that involves the patient directly in their own care.


Qualification & development requirements:

GCSE’s/BTEC’s: Grade 4 Maths, English, Science & Sport

A-level/BTEC: Sport Science

Undergraduate degree: BSc Physiotherapy

Postgraduate degree: A master’s degree is optional but must be approved by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). This will make you eligible for a membership of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP)

Salary: £27,000 to £37,000 +

Helping athletes and other sports people to use psychological principles to achieve optimal mental health and to improve performance on the field.


Qualification & development requirements:

GCSE’s/BTEC’s: Grade 4 Maths, English, Science & Sport

A-level/BTEC: Sport Science

Undergraduate degree: BSc Psychology or Sport Psychology based degree

Postgraduate degree: Conversion courses on to Psychology are available. In addition all undergraduate and master degree must meet the standard of the British Psychological Society.

Experience: Preferably volunteering with a sport psychologist of consultancy, school setting or internships.

Salary: £15,000 to £35,000 +

Sports coaches assist athletes in developing to their full potential. They are responsible for training athletes in a sport by analysing their performances, instructing in relevant skills and by providing encouragement. But you are also responsible for the guidance of the athlete in life and their chosen sport.


Qualification & development requirements:

GCSE’s/BTEC’s: GCSE’s/BTEC’s: Grade 4 Maths, English, Science & Sport.

A-level/BTEC: Sport

Undergraduate: BSc Sport science and coaching (optional)

Experience: Local clubs & schools. In addition Level 1 & 2 coaching certificates of chosen sport are necessary.

Salary: £16,000 to £30,000 +

A personal trainer creates one-on-one fitness programmes for their clients, motivating and guiding them to achieve their goals. Clients may wish to lose weight or gain muscle, and as a personal trainer you'll teach and help them to exercise properly using workouts and specific plans. You'll instruct and advise your clients, using a range of fitness machines, classes or weights.


Qualification & development requirements:

GCSE’s/BTEC’s: Grade 4 English, Maths, Science & Sport

A-level/BTEC: Level 3 personal training qualification, ideally one accredited by a reputable organisation such as the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPS) or the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA).

Undergraduate degree: It's not necessary to have a degree to be a personal trainer. However, if you do wish to undertake a higher education qualification you should choose BSc Sport science and personal training.

Salary: £17,100 to £38,000 +

Strength and conditioning coaches usually provide exercise counselling to athletes so they may improve their strength, speed, and endurance.


Qualification & development requirements:

GCSE’s/BTEC’s: Grade 4 Maths, English, Science & Sport

A-level/BTEC: Sport Science

Undergraduate degree: Preferably BSc Strength and conditioning or other sport science based degrees.

Postgraduate degree: MSc Strength and conditioning. In addition must be UKSCA Accredited.

Experience: Voluntary experience working with locals teams, clubs and individual athletes

Salary: £25,000 to £40,000 onwards

Diagnose, treat, and help prevent injuries that occur during sporting events, athletic training, and physical activities.


Qualification & development requirements:

GCSE’s/BTEC’s: Grade 4 Maths, English, Science, Sport & Biology

A-level/BTEC: Sport (preferably Science or Biology)

Undergraduate degree: BSc Sport & Exercise Science or Sports Medicine

Postgraduate degree: MSc Sports Medicine

Salary: £24,876 to £34,537 +

Sports Agents handle all aspects of an athlete’s career, helping to secure and negotiate contracts, and look after their client’s personal and professional interests.


Qualification & development requirements:

GCSE’s/BTEC’s: Grade 4 Maths, English, Science & preferable Sport and Business

A-level/BTEC: Business Studies and Sport Science

Undergraduate degree: BA Sports management or any other sport business/ marketing related degree.

Salary: £24,250 to £40,000 +

Writing that reports on sporting topics and competitions. Sports journalism is the essential element of many news media organizations.


Qualification & development requirements:

GCSE’s/BTEC’s: Grade 4 English, Maths & Science Preferably Media, Journalism and Sport

A-level/BTEC: English, Sport & media (Apprenticeships are available via the BBC)

Undergraduate degree: BSc Sports journalism or any journalism based degree

Experience: Working or volunteering for local new papers, radio stations or independent journalism.

Follow this link to see some real-life sports careers options and testimonials from students studying sport at university: