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Sports Medicine PhD Program Overviews

Learn about the education requirements and coursework for sports medicine PhD programs. Find information about salary and job outlook, as well as certifications that may aid your career growth.

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Essential Information

A Ph.D. program in sports medicine, or exercise science, is designed for students interested in clinical and research careers. Those enrolled in a Ph.D. program develop their own educational programs, working with faculty to design research projects and working with patients to improve their clinical skills. Sports medicine specialists see both professional and recreational athletes, and specialists use preventative methods, diagnostic tests and a variety of treatment options when working with clients and their injuries. A sports medicine Ph.D. program helps students to prepare for careers in biomechanics, athletic training, physical therapy and exercise physiology.

Education Prerequisites

Many colleges and universities offer a competitive sports medicine Ph.D. program. Candidates need an accredited undergraduate degree, and in most cases they should also have a master's degree. Some areas of study graduates should focus on during their undergraduate and master's studies include biomechanics, athletic training, physical therapy, exercise physiology or sports medicine. Those wishing to enroll in the doctoral program must take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and achieve specific scores, depending upon the school's requirements.

Program Coursework

Students enrolled in a sports medicine Ph.D. program learn through research and by assisting faculty with ongoing projects. Oftentimes the program is part of university's school of kinesiology, and the students may take courses that include:

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

The bulk of the sports management doctoral program involves a doctoral dissertation, which could take an entire year to complete. During that time, students attend research lab meetings, collect data and propose their dissertation.

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 (www.bls.gov), athletic trainer employment from 2012-2022 is expected to grow 21%. 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 2013 is $42,790.

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 2013 is $81,030 or $38.96 per hour.

Professional Certification

Currently 46 states require athletic trainers to be licensed or registered in order to practice. This means that 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 and was the first organization to do so; as of 2014 they have certified more than 25,000 people in 44 countries.

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    • Must be 21 years of age or older and have completed some college or 24 years of age or older and a high school graduate for a Bachelor's degree
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    • Alabama (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at The University of Alabama include:
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      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Medical and Health Professions
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    Areas of study you may find at University of Alabama include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
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    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
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      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
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    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
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    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
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