Exercise Science and Performance Nutrition (Ph.D.)

Degree Requirements

Doctor Of Philosophy In Exercise Science And Performance Nutrition

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Program in Exercise Science and Performance Nutrition provides trainees with a blend of formal coursework and the mastery of laboratory skills in order to design and implement high-quality research within the broad scope of exercise and nutritional sciences. The Ph.D. degree is awarded to students who demonstrate the ability to be independent researchers involving nutrition and/or exercise as they relate to human performance improvement and sport, exercise adaptations, and preventing disease.

Evaluation of candidates includes a comprehensive examination consisting of foundational knowledge of topics essential to success within the profession. Additionally, each candidate develops and completes a formal dissertation involving a research problem that contributes new knowledge to the field. The candidate serves as the principal investigator in an independent capacity with oversight from a research mentor and committee.

The Ph.D. program in Exercise Science and Performance Nutrition emphasizes experiential learning in laboratory and classroom settings to foster the development of well-rounded graduates capable of effective teaching, mentorship, and ethical research practices leading to preparation for a wide variety of positions, which may include academia, industry, and/or government entities.

Requirements For Admission

To apply to the Ph.D. in Exercise Science and Performance Nutrition degree program, please visit the University of South Alabama (USA) Graduate School website.

In addition to the general admission requirements of the USA Graduate School, admission requirements for the Exercise Science and Performance Nutrition Ph.D. program are:

1.     A master’s degree in a related field (i.e., exercise science, kinesiology, nutrition, physiology, or similar) from an accredited institution of higher education. Students with a degree outside of the discipline and/or deficiency in relevant coursework may be required to successfully complete additional prerequisite courses prior to admission.  

2.     GPA Requirement: A minimum overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.25 on a 4.0 scale on all graduate coursework.

3.     A brief personal statement (1 to 2 pages) describing the applicant’s research experience, related skills, and academic and career goals.

4.     One letter of recommendation (faculty advisor preferred) attesting to the applicant’s potential for developing into an independent researcher and contact information for three references (may include the letter writer).

5.     A writing sample (thesis/manuscript preferred) as evidence of the candidate’s capacity for scholarly written communication.

6.     Commitment from a program faculty member to serve as a mentor to supervise the applicant’s doctoral training and research.

7.     A GRE score is not required. Voluntary submission of GRE scores will be accepted and considered with the application materials. An overall GRE score of 310 or greater along with an Analytical Writing score of 4.0 or greater can be used to replace the writing sample requirement. 

8.     International Students: If the applicant does not have a master’s degree from a U.S.-accredited institution of higher education, a GRE score is required. Any additional admission requirements set forth by the USA Graduate School for international applicants must be met. 

9.     An interview with one or more program faculty member.

Admission is competitive and the decision is based on a review of all submitted admission materials.  

Program Requirements

To qualify for the Ph.D. in Exercise Science and Performance Nutrition, a minimum of 60 semester hours of approved graduate credit is required and the following program of study must be completed with a grade of “B” or better in all course work.

Core Courses15
Cardiovas Resps Adapt Excerc
Biomech Found Human Movement
Adv Measurement-Eval in HKS
Current Topics in Exercise Science and Performance Nutrition
Directed Study and Research
Support Courses12
Research Methods - HKS
Research Project
Quantitative Methods I
Stat in Research I
Quantitative Methods II
Stat in Research II
Electives (choose from the following)18
Exercise Physiology
Motor Learning
Biochem & Molec Exer & Nutr
Exer Mgt Chronic Disease/Disab
Neuromuscular & Biomechanical Principles in Exercise
Sport and Fitness Conditioning
Fitness Assessment-Exer Presc
Clinical Ex Test & Prescript
Special Topics-
Advisor-Approved Elective
Total Hours60
Academic Standards

Student must maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA in order to be in good standing. Failure to maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA will result in the student being placed on academic probation. The Director of Graduate Programs may recommend the dismissal of a student who does not maintain good academic standing or is not making sufficient progress.

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistantships are available on a competitive basis and are awarded on the recommendation of the Department of Health, Kinesiology, and Sport.

Comprehensive Examinations

Doctoral students must pass a comprehensive examination. The format of the examination will be determined by the comprehensive examination committee. Normally the examination is based on the required coursework. Failure to pass the comprehensive examination within three attempts will result in dismissal from the program.


A doctoral student is admitted to candidacy upon successful completion of a comprehensive examination. Candidacy indicates the student has completed the required coursework and is eligible to begin the dissertation research project.

Dissertation Hours And Defense

Doctoral candidacy is required to enroll in KIN 799 Dissertation. While only 15 hours of KIN 799 may be counted toward the degree, a student must continuously enroll in at least 1 credit hour of dissertation during the fall and spring semesters until the dissertation is successfully defended. Failure to enroll continuously without the written approval of the Graduate Program Director may lead to dismissal from the program.

A doctoral candidate must successfully defend a dissertation prospectus. The final oral defense of the dissertation is scheduled after the dissertation study has been completed and prepared in written form. Revisions to the written dissertation may be required for final approval by the dissertation committee and as a result of a review by the Graduate School.

Transfer Credit

A maximum of 18 semester hours of graduate credit earned at an approved graduate school may be counted toward the Ph.D. program. Transfer credit may be approved after the completion of nine (9) semester hours of credit at the University of South Alabama. Transfer credit must be approved by the Health, Kinesiology, and Sport Department Chair and Graduate Program Director with the recommendation of the student’s advisor.

Time Limit

All requirements for the PhD in Computing degree must be completed within seven (7) calendar years from the date of matriculation as an Exercise Science and Performance Nutrition Ph.D. student. This seven calendar year constraint also applies to all transfer credit.

After reaching candidacy, a student has a maximum of 3 years to complete the dissertation. A student may apply to the Graduate Program Director for an extension to complete the degree.