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.

Prospective students should see the program website for funding information.

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.

Doctoral Degrees

Ph.D., with available track in occupational therapy

Minimum Graduate Degree Credit Requirement

51 credits

Minimum Graduate Residence Credit Requirement

32 credits

Minimum Graduate Coursework (50%) Requirement

50% of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) 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 ten years or more prior to admission to a doctoral 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 ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral 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.

A 10-credit PhD. minor and a minimum 4-credit, two-course general field requirement pertain to the Ph.D., with courses descriptively but not specifically prescribed. See Kinesiology Graduate Program Policies & Procedures Manual (section 6).

Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements

Doctoral students must complete a minor, currently minimum 10 credits, either "distributed" (several departments) or in a single outside department. Students must consult their advisors on minor requirements.

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

Ph.D. students work with two (or three) committees during their studies.

  1. Preliminary exams Committee (three graduate faculty members)
  2. Dissertation committee (five members)
    1. Proposal committee
    2. Defense committee

Ordinarily the proposal and defense committees have the same membership, absent death or other incapacity of a committee member between the time of proposal and defense. Committee members selected by the student in consultation with the faculty advisor to be consistent with Graduate School policy.

Assessments and Examinations

Ph.D. students must:

  1. pass all didactic courses in conformity with GPA and grad requirements;
  2. pass preliminary exams (sometimes called "comprehensives") administered by a three-member faculty committee; and
  3. successfully propose and defend a dissertation before a five-member committee constituted as above in this chart.

Time Constraints

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten 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.

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may be required to take and pass another preliminary examination to be readmitted to candidacy.

Within the department, completion of required courses and passing preliminary exams within three years of starting the Ph.D. program 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

  • Demonstrate academic mastery in at least one of the broad areas of specialization represented in the Department of Kinesiology.
  • Students will demonstrate a broad understanding of major current and past theories, research findings, methodologies, and techniques in their area of specialization both orally and in writing.
  • Students will retrieve and examine scientific literature, evaluate evidence for and against hypotheses, identify knowledge gaps, strengths and weaknesses in existing literature, synthesize knowledge, and develop conclusions.
  • Students will formulate ideas, concepts, designs and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge with their area of specialization.
  • Students will demonstrate a broad knowledge of the field of kinesiology extending beyond their area of specialization.
  • Students will develop and complete original research that makes a substantive contribution in advancing their area of specialization.
  • Students will develop testable hypotheses and predictions for their own realistic and feasible research projects.
  • Students will conduct independent research and analyze and interpret resulting data.
  • Students will clearly communicate their ideas in both oral and written form through the preparation and defense of a dissertation.

Professional Conduct

  • Students will foster ethical and professional conduct.
  • Students will use scientific rigor when designing experiments, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting and reporting results.


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.