Online Doctoral Programs in Physical Education: Degree Overviews

Apr 22, 2021

Essential Information

There are no online doctoral programs in physical education, although at least one school offers a fully online doctoral program in the field of sports management. Most Ph.D. programs in physical education have a residency requirement, such as one year of full-time study done on campus, as well as a thesis or dissertation requirement. There may be a teaching component as well.

Doctoral programs emphasize research and reporting the subsequent findings. Courses may include teaching and various aspects of sports, such as the behavior of athletes. A doctoral program in physical education requires full-time study. Students will need to have earned a bachelor's and master's degree in physical education in order to gain entry to these programs. Students may also need to attend in-person interviews.

Doctor of Physical Education

A Ph.D. in Physical Education has a course and a research component. It may be offered with a specialization, such as sport and exercise psychology or adapted physical activity, which focuses on individuals with disabilities. Other specializations include exercise physiology or curriculum and instruction. Students learn advanced skills and knowledge in the field. They also learn new ways to research, as well as how to develop and test hypotheses.

Program Information and Requirements

Applicants need to first complete a bachelor's and usually a master's degree -- generally in physical education -- in order to enroll in a doctoral program. Schools may require applicants to be certified teachers with teaching experience. They may also ask for GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores, transcript(s), curriculum vitae and an expository writing sample. Applicants may be required to attend personal interviews. Some schools may admit applicants to the program, but postpone their status as Ph.D. candidates pending successful completion of qualifying exams later in the program.

List of Common Physical Education Courses

Ph.D. candidates take courses in physical education and research methods, as well as teaching courses, science courses and electives. Candidates are expected to write a publishable article based on research with their advisor before they finish their dissertation. Some of the subjects studied include:

How Humans Behave in Sports Settings

This course looks at the manifestations of sports culturally and socially. This course might include a study of aggression in sports, leadership and motivation.

Sports and Society

Students investigate sociological research that examines various sports. They learn about a number of sociological theories, as well as how they apply to various sports.

Correct Research Methods and Presentation of Results

Students learn to identify and sketch out research problems. Literature searches and a survey of various research methods are also covered.

Statistical Applications

This course introduces students to advanced applications in statistics, such as multiple regression and discriminant analysis. The course also involves the use of statistical software.

Career Information

Graduates of a Ph.D. in Physical Education are ready to take academic positions in a college or university, generally in education, kinesiology, physical education or physiology departments. They may conduct research in the field, become sports pedagogy experts or educate aspiring teachers in physical education.

Individuals specializing in adapted physical activity may help disabled individuals participate in sport activities. They may also take advocacy or administration positions in national, state or local organizations.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that jobs for postsecondary teachers would grow by 9% from 2019-2029 ( The BLS also found that postsecondary teachers in education-related subjects made an average yearly salary of $75,010 in May of 2020.

Jobs for educational administrators were expected to increase by 4% from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS; earnings for postsecondary school administrators in May of 2020 reflected an average annual salary of $115,200.

No fully online programs exist for students interested in physical education, as most Ph.D. programs in the field require an on-campus residency of some sort. Over the course of these programs, students learn advanced skills and knowledge regarding physiology and sports psychology, among other things.

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