Sports Medicine PhD Program Overviews

A Ph.D. program in sports medicine is designed for students interested in clinical and research careers. Students develop their own educational programs working with faculty to design research projects and working with patients to improve their clinical skills.

Essential Information

Sports medicine specialists see professional and recreational athletes. They use prevention methods, diagnostic tests and a variety of treatment options when working with clients and injuries. A sports medicine Ph.D. program helps students prepare for careers in biomechanics, athletic training, physical therapy and exercise physiology. Many colleges and universities offer a competitive sports medicine Ph.D. program.

Applicants should have an accredited undergraduate degree, and in most case they should hold a master's degree. Often undergraduate and master's studies focus on biomechanics, athletic training, physical therapy, exercise physiology or sports medicine. Candidates wishing to enroll in the doctoral program must take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and achieve specific scores that satisfy school requirements.

  • Program Levels in Sports Medicine: Bachelor's Degree, Master's Degree, Doctorates
  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degree, Master's Degree, Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
  • Program Specializations: Biomechanics, Physiology, Physical Therapy and other options

Ph.D. Programs in Sports Medicine

Students enrolled in a sports medicine Ph.D. program learn through research and assisting faculty with ongoing projects. Often the program is a part of the university's school of kinesiology. The bulk of certain doctoral programs may include a doctoral dissertation, which can take one year to complete. During this time, students attend research lab meetings, collect data and propose their dissertation. A student in a sports medicine Ph.D. program may take courses that include:

  • Grant writing
  • Biostatistics
  • Exercise physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Epidemiology
  • Anatomy

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Those who complete a Ph.D. program in sports medicine can pursue careers as athletic trainers or physical therapists. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, athletic trainer employment from 2012-2022 is expected to grow 19%. This percentage is higher than the national average, due in part to job growth in the health care industry and fitness centers. As reported by the bureau, the median annual salary for athletic trainers as of May 2014 is $43,370.

For physical therapists, also according to the BLS, employment from 2012-2022 is expected to increase 36%. This above-average number is due to an increase in the elderly population and a rise in new techniques and treatments in physical therapy practices. According to the bureau, the median annual salary for physical therapists as of May 2014 is $82,390 or $39.61 per hour.

Professional Certification

Currently 46 states require athletic trainers to be licensed or registered in order to practice, and they must be certified from the Board of Certification, Inc (BOC). The American College of Sports Medicine is a professional organization that can offer certification, which is recognized by the BOC to those with a doctoral degree in sports medicine. The ACSM can certify personal trainers and health fitness specialists. As of 2014, they have certified more than 25,000 people in 44 countries.

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