The mission of the Department of Kinesiology is to create, interpret, transmit, and apply knowledge related to movement, exercise, and human occupation with the ultimate goal of enhancing human health, productivity, and quality of life.
The M.S. and Ph.D. in kinesiology are available with research specialization (thesis or dissertation) in biomechanics, exercise physiology, exercise psychology, motor control and behavior, physical activity epidemiology, and occupational science.

The M.S. in kinesiology with the nonthesis option provides courses that cover the breadth of the kinesiology field and electives, and it may include a final project. This degree supports an interest in coaching/teaching (team or individual), personal training or fitness instruction, or it may supplement the practice of physical therapy, athletic training, or other allied health professions, or any individual purpose a student may have. No thesis is required.

An M.S. in occupational therapy (MS–OT) prepares students for entry into the occupational therapy profession. This is a professional degree open to students with a bachelor's degree in any field from an accredited college or university. No thesis is required.

Graduate training in kinesiology can be directed toward the degrees of M.S. and/or Ph.D. in kinesiology. Both of these degrees combine advanced courses with the option of an intensive research experience. Department research facilities are well equipped, and faculty and graduate students have access to other specialized research facilities across campus. Faculty and graduate student research is currently supported by funding from the state and federal government, research foundations, and private industry. Faculty are affiliated with the Institute on Aging; Cardiovascular Research Center; Center for Neuroscience/Neuroscience Training Program; departments of Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Medicine, Neurology, Population Health Science, and Psychology; McPherson Eye Research Institute; Harlow Center for Biological Psychology; interdepartmental graduate program in Nutritional Sciences; Trace Research and Development Center; VA Geriatric Research and Education Center; Waisman Center; and Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute.

Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress

To make progress toward a graduate degree, students must meet the Graduate School Minimum Degree Requirements and Satisfactory Progress in addition to the requirements of the program.

Master’s Degrees

M.S. with available occupational science track, thesis tracks in biomechanics, epidemiology, exercise psychology, exercise physiology, motor behavior, and non-thesis track

Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

M.S.–non-thesis track: 32 credits
M.S.–occupational science track: 31 credits
M.S.–all other thesis-based tracks: 30 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

16 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

At least half of the required degree coursework must be in graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.

Prior Coursework Requirements: Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to count toward the degree.

Prior Coursework Requirements: UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken in UW–Madison University Special student status. Coursework earned five or more years prior to admission to a master’s degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.

Credits per Term Allowed

15 credits

Program-Specific Courses Required

KINES 991 Research in Physical Activity- Theory and Design required for all non-OT tracks; wide variation in required courses among tracks, see Graduate Program Areas on the program website.

Overall Graduate GPA Requirement

3.00 GPA required.

Other Grade Requirements

Course numbered 300 and above with a grade of A, AB, B, or S count toward minimum credit requirement; grades of BC or C count only if equal credits of AB and A offset the lower grades to average B (3.00). See the Graduate School's Academic Polices and Procedures for more information.

The grading system is also described in the Graduate School's Academic Policies and Procedures.

Probation Policy

The status of a graduate student’s progress is either:

  1. Good standing (progressing according to standards; any funding guarantee remains in place); or
  2. Probation (not progressing according to standards but permitted to keep enrolling; funding guarantee may be lost; specific plan with dates and deadlines for removal of probation may be required; or
  3. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; not permitted to keep enrolling, dismissal, leave of absence or change of advisor or program likely required).

An overall GPA below 3.0 will place the student on academic probation. If a 3.0 GPA not regained in the subsequent semester the student may be dismissed from the program or allowed to continue provisionally for 1 semester based on advisor appeal to the Graduate School. The Graduate School's probation policy is described in the Graduate School's Academic Policies and Procedures.

Advisor / Committee

All students must have an assigned advisor to meet UW information management needs, and accordingly, and of its own volition, the department assigns an advisor to each student.

M.S.–non-thesis track: graduate studies Studies chair

M.S.–all other thesis-based tracks: research faculty

A thesis committee, for those tracks requiring a thesis, are gathered prior to the thesis proposal in consultation with the faculty advisor and consistent with Graduate School policy. Normally the proposal committee would continue as the thesis defense committee.

Assessments and Examinations

No formal examination specific to the M.S. is required. Curricular requirements vary among tracks within the program, and in all tracks all didactic courses must be passed, in conformity with GPA and grad requirements, above. For tracks requiring a thesis, the thesis defense committee has discretion to accept or reject the thesis at the student’s defense. Repeat defense, if required, is at the discretion of the advisor. Until the thesis proposal stage, satisfactory research performance is at the discretion of the faculty advisor in any thesis track.

Time Constraints

Master’s degree students who have been absent for five or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence. Individual programs may count the coursework students completed prior to their absence for meeting program requirements; that coursework may not count toward Graduate School credit requirements.

Within the Department, completion of required courses and proposal of the thesis, when applicable, within two years of matriculation is considered satisfactory progress. See the program handbook for more information.

Language Requirements

No language requirements.

Admission to the M.S. and Ph.D. graduate programs requires satisfactory completion of the department's general prerequisite courses, listed below, or their equivalent. A degree in occupational therapy fulfills the department's prerequisites for occupational science admission. Students lacking some prerequisite courses may be considered for admission with 'deficiencies.' The deficiencies must be made up during (or before) the student's graduate studies, but the student retains eligibility for departmental financial support. Generally, deficiencies may not exceed 12 credits, and if they do, normally the student would enroll as a nondegree Special student or make up the deficiencies in some other way before graduate admission. Graduate students in Kinesiology are given priority for assistantship support from department funds, and students from other departments are not supported by department funds unless there are no eligible students in the Kinesiology department. Individual specialization areas may have specific course requirements in addition to the following department prerequisite courses. Please contact the department or see the web site for detailed information.

Prerequisite courses and credits (or courses to be taken as deficiencies):
CHEM 103 General Chemistry I4
ANATOMY/​KINES  328 Human Anatomy3
ANATOMY/​KINES  329 Human Anatomy-Kinesiology2
PHYSIOL 335 Physiology5
Select two of the following courses, or equivalents:
KINES 314 Physiology of Exercise4
KINES 315 Assessment and Research in Physical Activity Pedagogy3
KINES 318 Biomechanics of Human Movement3
KINES 330 Research in Kinesiology2
KINES 350 Introduction to Exercise Psychology3
KINES 360 Lifespan Motor Development3
KINES 361 Motor Learning and Performance3

For admission, the Graduate School requires, as does the Kinesiology department, a minimum 3.0 GPA (on a 4.0=A scale) on the last 60 semester hours (or equivalent) of undergraduate coursework. An applicant must submit official Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, academic transcripts from each institution attended, a minimum of three letters of recommendation, and a statement of reasons for graduate study. The statement should name the applicant's intended area(s) of specialization and provide specific details on why the applicant names the area(s). Faculty in the intended research specialization(s) will decide whether the applicant is acceptable for the graduate program in the Department of Kinesiology. If a professor in the area of specialization agrees to serve as the prospective student's advisor, then the department's graduate office recommends the applicant for admission to the Graduate School. A committee reviews, and an individual advisor is not required for, nonthesis admissions. Please consult the kinesiology website for further details of these requirements and procedures.

All doctoral students in the Department of Kinesiology must satisfy the Ph.D. general field requirement by completing at least two graduate-level kinesiology courses of at least 2 credits each (4–6 credits total) at UW–Madison, in two different areas outside the student's area of specialization. These courses must be completed on the UW–Madison campus and must not have been used to fulfill an undergraduate deficiency or requirements for the master's degree. A Ph.D. minor is optional.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Students in thesis-based tracks will master fundamental knowledge in at least one of the broad areas of specialization represented in the Department of Kinesiology.
  • Students will demonstrate understanding of major current and past theories, research findings, methodologies, and techniques in their areas of specialization.
  • Students will identify sources and assemble evidence pertaining to questions or challenges in their area of specialization.
  • Students in thesis-based tracks will complete an original research project in one of the broad areas of specialization represented in the Department of Kinesiology.
  • Students will select and utilize appropriate methodologies to conduct research, analyze, and interpret resulting data.
  • Students will prepare a thesis or research report describing their research project.
  • Students will communicate clearly in ways appropriate to their area of specialization.
  • Students in the non-thesis track will demonstrate fundamental knowledge in the broad areas of specialization represented in the Department of Kinesiology.
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of the major current and past theories, research findings, methodologies and techniques in each of the broad areas of inquiry represented within the Department of Kinesiology.
  • Students will retrieve and examine scientific literature, evaluate evidence for and against hypotheses, and be able to discuss strengths and weaknesses in existing literature.

Professional Conduct

  • Students in the thesis-based tracks will recognize and apply principles of professional and ethical conduct.
  • Students will use scientific rigor when designing experiments, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting and reporting results.
  • Students in the non-thesis track will recognize and apply principles of professional and ethical conduct.


Faculty: Professors Edwards (chair), Cook, Diffee, Koltyn, Schrage; Associate Professors Benedict, Eldridge, Gruben, Larson, Mason, van Kan; Assistant Professors Ausderau, Barnes, Bell, Hornberger, Pickett, Travers

Occupational Therapy

Faculty: Professors Benedict (OT program coordinator), Edwards; Associate Professor Larson; Assistant Professors Ausderau, Pickett, Travers. Additional instructors are listed here.