“Kinesiology is an academic discipline which involves the study of physical activity and its impact on health, society, and quality of life.” — American Kinesiology Association

With a focus on the interrelationships between movement and health, the foundation of the Ph.D. in Kinesiology curriculum provides students with both the classroom and experiential training that is critical to becoming a successful scholar. The Kinesiology doctoral program includes balanced and comprehensive doctoral-level training in Kinesiology theory, research methodology, and statistics that culminates in an innovative and publishable dissertation reflecting an integration of scientific discovery and application. The program focuses on developing scholars in areas of emphasis that align with faculty expertise.

The Kinesiology doctoral program provides students with excellent research training for academic and professional careers that require theory-driven basic and/or applied research skills, such as faculty and/or administrative positions within colleges and universities; careers in nonprofit service and research organizations; policy-making positions in government agencies and institutions; and careers in for-profit businesses.

Admission Requirements 

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary by program, please review the application deadline chart for specific programs. Other important dates and deadlines can be found by using the One Stop calendars.


In addition to meeting the UWM Graduate School’s criteria for admission, applicants to the PhD program in Kinesiology must also:

  1. Possess, or be in the process of completing, a MS degree in Kinesiology or closely related field. In exceptional cases, applicants with a BS degree in Kinesiology or closely related field who demonstrate significant involvement in research and exceptional academic achievement may be considered for admission.
  2. Submit a curriculum vitae that includes all academic institutions attended, degrees achieved, and academic and professional accomplishments (e.g., publications, presentations).
  3. Submit verbal, quantitative, and analytical writing scores from the GRE General Test taken within five years of the application date.
  4. Demonstrate, through submission of official transcripts from all institutions attended, a minimum grade point average of 3.0 for the highest degree program in which the student enrolled and/or completed. Particular attention will be paid to grades in classes that are relevant to the selected area of emphasis for the PhD Kinesiology program. Applicants currently enrolled in a baccalaureate program must demonstrate a minimum undergraduate grade point average of 3.0.
  5. Solicit two confidential letters of recommendation from previous university instructors and/or faculty advisors. These letters should be sent directly from the letter writer to the program director.
  6. Submit a writing sample from a research project in which the applicant was involved. Acceptable writing samples include, but are not limited to, submitted/published manuscripts, submitted/published abstracts, review of literature, report of a completed research project, research proposal, etc.
  7. Submit a letter of intent that addresses the applicant’s research interests (including intended area of emphasis and advisor at UWM) conducted research, ongoing research and career goals.

The final admission decision is contingent upon the availability of a faculty member to serve as primary advisor for the student.

Credits and Courses

The program requires students to complete a minimum of 58 graduate credits beyond the master’s degree, or a minimum of 79 credits beyond the bachelor’s degree. The curriculum is comprised of five main components:

  1. Core curriculum
  2. Area of emphasis curriculum
  3. Cognate
  4. Electives
  5. Dissertation

All coursework will be decided upon and approved by the student and their PhD  committee.

Credit distribution will be as follows:

Students entering with a MS:

Core Curriculum16
Area of Emphasis Curriculum15
Total Credits58

Students entering with a BS:

Core Curriculum22
Area of Emphasis Curriculum21
Total Credits79

All credits listed are minimum required credits for the program.

Core Curriculum

The core curriculum focuses on developing the knowledge and skills necessary for students to conduct sound and innovative research, and to develop as a scholar. Coursework included in the core curriculum focuses on research methodology and design, statistical analysis, ethical conduct of research, professional development, and teaching and learning coursework.

Take the following for 1 credit repeated 4 times:4
Advanced Seminar in Health Sciences
Teaching and Learning
KIN 909Guided Teaching Experience in Health Sciences3
Research Methodology and Design
KIN 703Research Methods in Kinesiology (Or comparable course)3
Select a minimum of 6 credits from possible eligible courses which include, but are not limited to the following:6
Statistical Analysis in the Health Sciences
Introduction to Statistical Methods
Applied Multiple Regression Analysis
Measurement Methods and Related Multivariate Statistics
Advanced Statistical Methods
Total Credits16

Additional Requirements

Major Professor as Advisor

The Graduate School requires that each doctoral student have a major professor to advise, supervise and approve the program of study before registering for courses. The major professor also serves as a research mentor, the chair of the dissertation committee, and chair of the committee hearing the dissertation defense. Each student will be assigned an advisor upon admission based on area of research interest. The major professor must have graduate faculty status.

Area of Emphasis Curriculum

Students will propose an area of emphasis in consultation with their advisor and take an array of courses, offered within and outside the Department of Kinesiology, that explore the main dimensions of that area. The academic area of specialization within Kinesiology will be identified prior to the student’s entry into the program. The student’s doctoral committee will be charged with reviewing their program of study to ensure that sufficient doctoral level coursework will be/has been completed.


The cognate area, within or outside Kinesiology, will complement the student’s area of concentration (e.g., Area of emphasis: Exercise Physiology; Cognate: Nutrition), and will be identified by the end of the first year of coursework. Coursework in the cognate may include classes offered within and/or outside the Department of Kinesiology. As with the area of emphasis curriculum, the student’s doctoral committee will be charged with reviewing the program of study to ensure that sufficient doctoral level coursework will be/has been completed.


Students will have the opportunity to broaden their knowledge by taking supplemental courses in teaching and learning, grantsmanship, manuscript preparation, professional development, and other areas that complement their program of study.


The completion of a dissertation, consisting of original research, will be the final step in earning a Ph.D. in Kinesiology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

In addition to formal coursework, students are required to successfully complete a preliminary examination, a dissertation proposal, and a dissertation defense. It is expected that this degree will take an average of four to five years for a full-time student to successfully complete.

Preliminary Exam

After students successfully complete the required credits of didactic coursework in the Core, Area of Emphasis, and Cognate areas, the student will sit for the preliminary examination. The preliminary examination will assess the level of knowledge and understanding related to coursework taken in the area of emphasis, cognate area, as well as research methodology and statistics. Specifically, the purpose of the preliminary exam is to provide the student with an opportunity to demonstrate their current knowledge, and ability to apply and integrate knowledge gained in classes with the current body of literature and in their own research. The preliminary examination process must be successfully completed before a student can formally become a dissertator, and must be completed within five years of initial doctoral program enrollment.

The preliminary exam format includes the following:

Area of Emphasis Examination

One written exam where the student will not have access to notes or other materials. The exam will require students to demonstrate their understanding of fundamental ideas, theories, and/or concepts within their area of emphasis.

Cognate Examination

One written exam where the student will not have access to notes or other materials. The exam will require students to demonstrate their understanding of fundamental ideas, theories, and/or concepts within their area of emphasis.

Integrative Examination

The student will prepare a grant proposal (format approved by the doctoral committee) and orally defend their grant proposal to their doctoral committee. This written and oral exam will focus on a topic related to their area of emphasis, but not the student’s primary dissertation research question. The topic must be agreed upon by the student and their committee. The Integrative examination will provide the student with an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to analyze, evaluate, and hypothesize on research and theory pertaining to a selected area of Kinesiology.

This format gives the student three options: (1) Area of Emphasis examination and ​Cognate examination; (2) Integrative examination; and (3) Area of Emphasis examination, Cognate Examination and Integrative examination. After consulting with the student, the faculty advisor will decide which of the three options the student will complete for her/his preliminary examination. 

Appeals Process

Any appeal (grades, preliminary exam decision, dissertation proposal decision, etc.) initiated by the student must follow the appropriate steps for appeals as outlined by the Graduate School.

The Dissertation Process

Dissertation Proposal and Proposal Hearing

Upon successful completion of the preliminary examinations, the student submits a written dissertation proposal to the doctoral committee and conducts a public oral presentation of the proposed research. Notification of the oral presentation will be publicly posted ten business days (two calendar weeks) prior to the presentation. The committee then votes on whether to allow the student to move forward with the plan presented. Committee approval of the dissertation proposal establishes agreement on the plan and confirms that the student has adequate preparation to complete the research.

Per UWM Graduate School guidelines, “Any significant changes to the dissertation as presented in the proposal hearing must be approved. A new proposal and proposal hearing are required.”


The dissertation is a major piece of original research representing a substantial contribution to the existing body of knowledge. The student’s major professor and doctoral committee provide guidance in completing the dissertation. The final written document may follow a traditional or manuscript format.

  • For dissertations following the traditional dissertation format, the formatting of the dissertation document will follow guidelines published by the UWM Graduate School and consist of an introduction, review of literature, method, results and discussion sections.
  • For dissertations following the manuscript format, the dissertation document will follow guidelines published by the UWM Graduate School and consist of an in introduction to the content area and line of research, two to four manuscripts, a summary of the impact of the current work on the existing body of literature, and an overall conclusion.

Dissertation Defense

The student must present and defend the dissertation in a public forum. Successful completion of the dissertation defense will require approval by a majority of doctoral committee members.

Time Limit

In accordance with Graduate School policy, all degree requirements must be completed within ten years from the date of initial enrollment in the doctoral program.