Physical education programs at the doctoral level integrate theoretical coursework with academic research and practice. Students are trained in the concepts of athletic training, psychology of physical education, and instructional behavior. There may also be opportunities for students to specialize in areas such as physical education pedagogy, motor behavior, and athletic education. Programs are research-intensive and usually require students to publish or present their work at a national conference prior to graduation. Afterward, graduates typically pursue careers as exercise science researchers, professors, or preventive or rehabilitative program directors. In order to apply for one of these programs, students usually need a bachelor's and a master's degree in exercise science or a related area.
Doctoral Degree in Physical Education
The coursework in Ph.D. programs in physical education builds on prerequisites such as cadaver anatomy and physiology, exercise, nutrition, and motor learning. Common graduate-level classes include:
- Athletic training education
- Mechanisms of motor skill acquisition
- Psychology of physical education
- Analysis of instructional behavior
- Development of skilled sport performance
- Perspectives on teaching and instruction
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Most graduates of Ph.D. programs in physical education find careers as teachers in high schools, colleges, or universities. They may also work as educators in non-profit organizations or the health care industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for health educators was $54,220 in May 2018. Postsecondary health specialties teachers earned a median of $97,370 per year in 2018.
Continuing Education Information
A Ph.D. in physical education is the terminal degree in the field, but graduates have the option of advancing their education through online classes, workshops, and professional development conferences.
Overall, students who want to pursue academic study of physical education at the highest level can pursue a Ph.D. in physical education.