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PhD in Exercise Science: Online and Campus-Based Programs

Check the admission requirements for Ph.D. programs in exercise science, which are primarily offered in an on-campus format. Find out what you'd study as a doctoral-level exercise science student, and review your career options and salary potential in this field.

What Are the Prerequisites for an Exercise Science Ph.D. Program?

You'll need a master's degree in exercise science or a related field in order to apply to many Ph.D. in Exercise Science programs. Some schools recommend that you contact the particular professors that you're interested in working with before applying. You also might need to specify your intended area of focus, like exercise physiology, sports psychology or sports administration.

Prerequisites Master's degree in exercise science or a related field
Coursework Topics Biomechanics, chemistry, immunology, physiology, motor impairments
Online Availability Online programs are available, but rare
Mean Annual Wage (2018) $72,190 (for postsecondary recreation and fitness studies teachers)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 10% growth (for postsecondary recreation and fitness studies teachers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Study?

Exercise science Ph.D. programs are designed for students interested in conducting independent research. Most programs lead to a dissertation project, where you must research and report on a unique topic in the exercise science field. Completion of a teaching component may be required in order to graduate; you might assist a professor with an undergraduate class.

During your classes, you'll examine how factors like exercise and diet can affect certain illnesses or health conditions. You might study how to effectively promote healthy practices among adults or children. Coursework generally emphasizes topics like biology, chemistry, physiology and nutrition. Other topics you might explore include biomechanics, immunology and motor impairments.

Are There Online Alternatives?

Due to program lab requirements and the need for faculty supervision during the dissertation process, online Ph.D. programs in exercise science are extremely rare. If you haven't earned a master's degree, you might enroll in an online Master of Science (M.S.) in Exercise Science program. Many of these programs, however, place more emphasis on professional preparation rather than research and teaching.

In online programs, course content is delivered via streaming videos, recorded lectures and slide show presentations. You might communicate with classmates through discussion groups and live chat forums. To participate in an online program, you'll usually need a high-speed Internet connection, a sound card and headphones or speakers.

What Can I Do After I Graduate?

An exercise science Ph.D. program can prepare you for a career in research, postsecondary instruction or program administration. You might find work at a university, a research institute or a government health agency.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that the total number of postsecondary recreation and fitness studies teaching positions was predicted to increase by 10% from 2016-2026 (www.bls.gov). However, the BLS notes that the number of full-time professor positions could have decreased during this time period due to state budget cuts. Postsecondary recreation and fitness studies teachers made an average annual salary of approximately $72,190 in 2018.