The Department of Kinesiology's mission 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 Ph.D. in Kinesiology is available with research specialization in biomechanics, exercise physiology, exercise psychology, motor control and behavior, physical activity epidemiology, and occupational science.

The Ph.D. in Kinesiology combines 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.

Fall Deadline February 15
Spring Deadline December 1
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

The application deadline is February 15, applications may be considered after this date.

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).  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.  Please consult the kinesiology website for further details of these requirements and procedures.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and processes related to funding.

Program Resources

Prospective students should see the program website for funding information.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.
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).
Assessments and Examinations Ph.D. students must:

1. pass all didactic courses in conformity with GPA and grad requirements;
2. pass preliminary exams ( 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.
Language Requirements No language requirements.
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.

Required COURSES

Biomechanics Track1

Required Courses
STAT/​F&W ECOL/​HORT  572 Statistical Methods for Bioscience II4
KINES 900 Seminar in Kinesiology 21
KINES 951 Seminar-Biomechanics2
KINES 990 Research or Thesis2-12
KINES 991 Research in Physical Activity- Theory and Design3
Note: KINES 991 is required for PhD candidates who did not complete this or an equivalent course as part of their MS program.
General Field Requirement
At least 2 graduate level courses of at least 2 credits each in Kinesiology, at UW-Madison, outside of Biomechanics area4-6
Chosen in consultation with advisorRemaining Credits

Exercise Physiology Track1

Required Courses
ANAT&PHY 435 Fundamentals of Human Physiology5
KINES 773 Cardiorespiratory Adaptions to Environment and Exercise3
KINES 774 Metabolic Responses to Exercise and Environmental Stress2
KINES 991 Research in Physical Activity- Theory and Design3
Note: the above courses are only required if not taken as part of an M.S. program
KINES 900 Seminar in Kinesiology 31
KINES 953 Human Biodynamics Seminar1
KINES 999 Independent Reading1-4
General Field Requirement
At least 2 graduate-level courses of at least 2 credits each in Kinesiology, at UW–Madison, outside of Exercise Physiology area4-6
Electives (sufficient to meet graduation requirements; chosen in consultation with advisor)
KINES 900 Seminar in Kinesiologyminimum of 8

Exercise Psychology Track1

Required Courses
KINES 991 Research in Physical Activity- Theory and Design 23
KINES 900 Seminar in Kinesiology 31
General Field Requirement
At least 2 graduate-level courses of at least 2 credits each in Kinesiology, at UW-Madison, outside of the Exercise Psychology area.4-6
With the exception of the requirements above, no specific courses are required of candidates for the Ph.D. in Kinesiology with specialization in Exercise Psychology. For the Ph.D., candidates must complete a minimum of 51 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree in accordance with Graduate School policy, but most students in the exercise psychology program elect to take additional credits beyond this minimum. Emphasis is placed on the demonstration of competence in general psychology, exercise psychology, exercise science, statistics and research design, rather than on completion of specific courses. Each candidate’s program of formal coursework and independent study is tailored in a personalized manner to accommodate the individual’s research and career goals.

Motor Control and Behavior Track1

Required Courses
KINES 991 Research in Physical Activity- Theory and Design 23
KINES 990 Research or Thesis2-12
KINES 900 Seminar in Kinesiology 31
Statistics courses (chosen in consultation with advisor) 44-6
General Field Requirements
At least 2 graduate level courses of at least 2 credits each in Kinesiology, at UW-Madison, outside of the Motor Control & Behavior area.4-6
Suggested Elective Courses (chosen in consultation with advisor) 5
KINES 721 Neural Basis for Movement3
KINES 861 Principles of Motor Control and Learning3
KINES 951 Seminar-Biomechanics2
KINES 961 Seminar in Motor Control and Learning2
KINES 713 Neural Basis of Normal and Pathological Movement3

Occupational Science Track1

Required Courses
Courses in Research Methods, Design, Proposal Development, and Research Ethics 26
KINES 991 Research in Physical Activity- Theory and Design3
KINES 900 Seminar in Kinesiology 31
KINES 785 Human Occupation and Health2-3
KINES 885 Seminar in Occupation and Health1
General Field Requirements
Two Kinesiology classes of at least 2 credits each outside your focus area (Occupational Science Track specific courses would not qualify for this requirement).4
Elective courses are taken in a “concentration area” specific to the area of research. (Examples: ICTR Clinical Trials, Global Health, Prevention Science, Aging, Lifespan Development). Selected in consultation with Faculty Advisor.
KINES 990 Research or Thesis1-12

Physical Activity Epidemiology Track1

Required Courses
KINES/​POP HLTH  791 Physical Activity Epidemiology3
KINES/​POP HLTH  955 Seminar - Physical Activity Epidemiology1
KINES 991 Research in Physical Activity- Theory and Design3
KINES 990 Research or Thesis2-12
KINES 900 Seminar in Kinesiology 21
Electives (chosen from list below or others in consultation with advisor)
ANAT&PHY 435 Fundamentals of Human Physiology5
KINES 521 Physical Activity and Health3
KINES 600 Advanced Exercise Psychology3
KINES 614 Biological Factors Influencing Exercise Performance3
KINES 700 Psychological Effects of Exercise3
KINES 773 Cardiorespiratory Adaptions to Environment and Exercise3
KINES 774 Metabolic Responses to Exercise and Environmental Stress2
KINES 779 Human Muscle Function in Health and Disease2
CHEM 341 Elementary Organic Chemistry3
BMOLCHEM 503 Human Biochemistry3
STAT/​B M I  541 Introduction to Biostatistics3
STAT/​B M I  642 Statistical Methods for Epidemiology3
POP HLTH/​NUTR SCI  621 Introduction to Nutritional Epidemiology1
POP HLTH 750 Cancer Epidemiology2-3
POP HLTH/​SOC  797 Introduction to Epidemiology3
POP HLTH 798 Epidemiologic Methods3
POP HLTH 802 Advanced Epidemiology: Etiology and Prevention3
Students will take advanced course work in various areas as described in the program area synopsis. In accordance with Graduate School policy, a minimum of 30 credits is required for the M.S. degree, and a minimum of 51 credits for the Ph.D. The curriculum is intended to provide the student with a sound basis in the adaptations to physical activity and exercise as well as the statistical and methodological tools needed to evaluate relationships between physical activity and health outcomes at the population level. There are three required courses in addition to the thesis or dissertation requirement, and the remaining credits can be chosen in consultation with the graduate advisor to meet the degree objectives.
General Field Requirement
At least 2 graduate level courses of at least 2 credits each in Kinesiology at UW-Madison outside of Physical Activity Epidemiology area.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Graduate Program Handbook

The Graduate Program Handbook is the repository for all of the program's policies and requirements.

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 18 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.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

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

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.


The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.

  1. Good standing (progressing according to standards; any funding guarantee remains in place).
  2. Probation (not progressing according to standards but permitted to enroll; loss of funding guarantee; specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of probationary status).
  3. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; not permitted to enroll, dismissal, leave of absence or change of advisor or program).

An overall GPA below 3.0 will place the student on academic probation. If a 3.0 GPA is 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.


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.   Committee members are selected by the student in consultation with the faculty advisor to be consistent with Graduate School policy.


15 credits

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.


Students pursuing research degree generally supported with tuition remission throughout study career. Students pursuing classroom-based (Non-thesis) M.S. occasionally supported, generally without tuition remission (unless they personally locate same via separate department, e.g., Athletics).

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

  1. Demonstrate academic mastery in at least one of the broad areas of specialization represented in the Department of Kinesiology.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Formulate ideas, concepts, designs and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge with their area of specialization.
  5. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of the field of kinesiology extending beyond their area of specialization.
  6. Develop and complete original research that makes a substantive contribution in advancing their area of specialization.
  7. Develop testable hypotheses and predictions for their own realistic and feasible research projects.
  8. Conduct independent research and analyze and interpret resulting data.
  9. Clearly communicate their ideas in both oral and written form through the preparation and defense of a dissertation.
  10. Foster ethical and professional conduct.
  11. Use scientific rigor when designing experiments, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting and reporting results.