A Ph.D. in kinesiology -- the study of human movement -- can lead to a rewarding career in the health sciences. With this degree, you can engage in teaching, research and leadership while helping others live healthy and active lifestyles. As health continues to be a major issue in society, a Ph.D. in kinesiology can give you myriad opportunities to assist people in maintaining personal health.

Areas of Focus

A multitude of nationally recognized universities offer the Doctor of Philosophy in Kinesiology degree. The University of Houston offers a Ph.D. in kinesiology in three areas of focus: motor control and learning, physiology and obesity studies. Michigan State offers the degree in four areas of focus: athletic training, exercise physiology, developmental motor control and psychosocial aspects of sports and physical activity. In general, schools allow students to select paths of study that meet the needs of patients in areas such as obesity, posture, nutrition, immunology and aging. While each area of focus offers expertise within the specific area, the overall programs are typically comparable and usually require four to five years to complete.

Credit Requirements

The University of Houston's Ph.D. in kinesiology requires a minimum of 66 semester credit hours. Core coursework takes up 33 hours, and an additional six hours are required for completion of the doctoral dissertation. The remaining 27 hours to be completed are electives related to the chosen area of focus. Electives include options such as Principles of Scientific Inquiry, Ethics in Science, Integrated System Physiology, Foundations of Pedagogy, and Applied Statistics. As another example, the University of Maryland's degree program requires completion of 60 credit hours, with 12 credits required for the dissertation process. In addition, a comprehensive exam is required to advance to doctoral candidacy. The comprehensive exam includes both written and oral portions and assesses mastery of coursework and research requirements within the program.

Course Requirements

While the specific requirements for core courses will vary depending on the program, the University of Michigan's program with a concentration in athletic training provides an example. Its core course list includes clinical evaluation, rehabilitation, physical activity, athletic training, human nutrition, pharmacology, human development, stress management and data analysis. In addition, programs typically require comprehensive courses such as organic chemistry, biochemistry, exercise and exercise physiology and endocrinology.


A master's degree, which typically requires around 30 credits, is required for consideration by the University of Maryland's PhD program. However, not all universities hold this requirement. All programs require a demonstrated potential for academic achievement, a GRE score within the 50th percentile or higher, and a graduate GPA of 3.5 or higher or an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher. In addition, prerequisite courses in chemistry, physiology, calculus and sociology are highly desirable.

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