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“I initially pursued a graduate degree in exercise physiology mostly to fulfill a requirement for obtaining a full-time strength and conditioning position. I left the program with so much more than I ever expected.

Every professor in the department is willing to do whatever it takes to help each student succeed and to help them make the program into something that best fits their career goals. There was never a moment that I didn’t feel like I could turn to a staff member for help or advice.”

Brenna MacDonald, CSCS

Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Olympic Sports

University of Kentucky

The Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion offers two graduate programs with a specialization in Exercise Physiology (M.S. and Ph.D.) that prepare students for a variety of careers following graduation. The Exercise Physiology Program challenges students to improve their analytical and critical thinking skills so that they become critical consumers of information. Many courses are laboratory based so that students get hands-on experience in skills needed to compete for jobs in the exercise science field, in addition to the content-based theory offered in coursework.


Application Requirements

Applicants for the M.S. Program in Exercise Physiology are required to contact a Program Faculty member prior to application to the Program. It is important to identify a faculty member for which the student has similar research/scholarly interests. Program Faculty members and their scholarly interests can be found in the links under Faculty. The student should indicate a primary and secondary Program Faculty member in the Personal Statement.



Mark Abel, Ph.D.

Haley Bergstrom, Ph.D.

Stuart Best, Ph.D.

Lance Bollinger, Ph.D.

Jody Clasey Ph.D.

Faculty members from the Exercise Physiology program have past and present collaborations with the Colleges of Medicine, Dentistry, Health Sciences, Nursing, Pharmacy, Agriculture, and Public Health; and University of Kentucky Centers including the Graduate Center of Nutritional Sciences, the Barnstable Brown Diabetes and Obesity Research Center, the Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Center and Spectroscopy Research Center, and the Clinical Research Development and Operations Center. Students working in Exercise Physiology have access to the Adult Exercise Physiology, the Body Composition Core, and the Pediatric Exercise Physiology Laboratories. These laboratories have state of the art equipment and resources to assist students in addressing critical problems in the field of Exercise Science and other related disciplines. Students are encouraged to undertake individual and collaborative research projects, participate in grant writing experiences, present research findings at national and international conferences, and prepare manuscripts for publication.



Exercise Physiology Curriculum (PDF)

All students entering the program are required to take four “core” classes in exercise physiology (Lab Methods in Exercise Science, Exercise Testing and Prescription, Advanced Exercise Physiology and Muscle Physiology) in addition to the two classes required by the KHP Department (Statistics and Research Methods). Additional coursework is chosen with the guidance of a faculty advisor to help prepare students for their area of specialization. Students choosing the M.S. as a terminal degree are encouraged to take 6 hours of internship in order to get real-world experience before graduation. Oral and written presentations are required in many classes in order to develop these essential skills in our students.

Our program offers thesis and non-thesis options. Students interested in advanced degrees are encouraged to complete a thesis in order to prepare them for a career involving research. The non-thesis track is most often chosen by students not planning to continue their education beyond the M.S. degree. Click here for the Non-Thesis Written and Oral Examination Format (PDF). Students choosing the thesis work one-on-one with the advisor of their choice while developing the project, collecting and analyzing the data and defending the thesis.

A degree in exercise physiology offers the student a number of career paths depending upon the degree finished and the area of specialization. Graduates from the M.S. program in exercise physiology have gone on to medical school, physician-assistants programs, physical therapy and advanced degrees in nutrition as well as Ph.D. programs in exercise physiology. Many students also choose the M.S. as a terminal degree and have found employment in cardiac rehabilitation programs, corporate wellness centers, and other fitness facilities. In addition, many students are choosing to enter a growing field of employment as a strength and conditioning specialist, at the professional, collegiate and high school levels. To prepare our students for these careers we offer coursework leading to certification offered by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist; CSCS) and the American College of Sports Medicine (Health Fitness Specialist & Clinical Exercise Specialist). We have had many graduates successfully complete these certifications. In addition, students interested primarily in teaching can also complete the “certification in teaching” offered by the University of Kentucky.