PhD in Kinesiology: Online and Campus-Based Programs

A Ph.D. in Kinesiology prepares students for research and teaching positions in the field of human movement. Learn about the application process, online options, potential coursework and what you can do with your degree. Schools offering Exercise Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

How Do I Apply to a Kinesiology Ph.D. Program?

To apply to a Ph.D. in Kinesiology program, you usually must hold a master's degree, although some schools will accept you with a bachelor's degree in cases of exceptional academic performance. Additionally, most schools typically don't require you to have majored in kinesiology, but a background in physics or calculus is preferred. Letters of recommendation and scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) are usually required when applying for admission.

Some schools might require you to contact the professors that you want to study with before you officially apply to the program. Since many Ph.D. programs limit their class sizes, you'll want to make sure that the school contains faculty members whose studies correlate with your own research ambitions. You might also need to complete an in-person or telephone interview with a campus representative after you send in your application.

PrerequisitesMaster's degree, physics or calculus background, standardized test scores, interview
Online AvailabilityNo doctoral programs available, but master's programs in kinesiology are offered fully online
Common CoursesBiomechanics, sports management, research methods, ethics, physiology
Other RequirementsPass comprehensive exam series, complete a dissertation
Career OptionsPostsecondary teacher and researcher, athletic director, athletic trainer
Average Yearly Salary (2014)$86,200* (for biological sciences postsecondary teachers), $45,730* (for athletic trainers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Online Options Are Available?

Online kinesiology Ph.D. programs aren't currently available due to the program's on-campus research requirement and the need to regularly meet with faculty mentors for dissertation guidance. If you wish to earn a graduate degree in kinesiology online, you can enroll in an online Master of Science (M.S.) in Kinesiology program. You can complete all courses online, and some schools give you the option of mixing online and onsite classes.

Online master's degree programs may end with a thesis that involves testing a kinesiology-related research problem. Other master's degree programs culminate in a final project that might include drafting a wellness plan for a patient. During the program, you'll communicate with your class online through chat features and e-mail. You'll also usually work in small groups with other students on projects. Some online programs recommend that you already hold a job in the kinesiology field before applying.

What Will I Study?

Kinesiology is a multidisciplinary field that focuses on all the physiological and psychological factors behind human movement. During the program, you'll gain knowledge about injury treatment, sports management and human anatomy. You usually can choose a concentration related to kinesiology such as exercise physiology, athletic training, motor movement or sports psychology.

You might look specifically at athletes, the elderly or children and propose effective ways to improve their motor abilities, fitness and health. Common kinesiology subjects that you'll study include:

  • Biomechanics
  • Fitness education
  • Sports management
  • Neurological effect of athletic injuries
  • Ethics in fitness and health
  • Sports psychology
  • Physiology laboratory
  • Kinesiology research methods

You'll usually need to pass a comprehensive written and oral exam during the second year of the Ph.D. program. You then can begin work on your dissertation. You'll receive guidance from a faculty adviser on the topic and its completion. Research topics for the dissertation can range from preventing joint injuries to treating patients with specific muscular diseases.

What Can I Do with My Degree?

A Ph.D. in Kinesiology typically prepares you for postsecondary teaching and research. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that postsecondary biological science teachers made an average salary of $86,200 in 2014 (www.bls.gov).

If you earn your M.S. in Kinesiology online, you can find work as an athletic trainer for a university or professional team. According to the BLS, many states require athletic trainers to be licensed, which is available through the Board of Certification, Inc. The certification process involves passing an exam and taking continuing education courses. The BLS reported that athletic trainers earned an average annual wage of $45,730 in 2014.

With a master's or doctoral degree in kinesiology, you can also assume a leadership role as a sports administrator or an athletic director. PayScale.com reported that athletic directors had an average yearly salary range of $32,575 to $97,416, as of January 2016.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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