PhD Program in Biokinesiology

Our PhD in biokinesiology — ranked 12th in the nation by the National Academy of Kinesiology — prepares you with the advanced skills needed to become a productive research scientist in biokinesiology in an academic or corporate setting. USC’s biokinesiology PhD graduates conduct collaborative, interdisciplinary research and become leading scholars and innovators in the field.

Our curriculum provides a breadth of knowledge from core courses, a deep dive into your area of concentration through electives and a dissertation project conducted with mentorship from a biokinesiology faculty member.

Areas of concentration include motor control and learning, muscle physiology, biomechanics, motor development and exercise physiology.

Curriculum and Training

Completing the PhD requires 60 course units.

Core Courses

  • BKN 550 Neurobehavioral Basis of Movement (4 units)
  • BKN 551 Musculoskeletal and Biomechanical Basis of Movement (4 units)
  • BKN 552 Physiological Basis of Voluntary Movement (4 units)
  • BKN 553 Experimental Methods for the Analysis of Human Movement (4 units)

Other Courses

  • BKN 790 Research (1-12 units)
  • BKN 794 Doctoral Dissertation (2 units/semester; up to 8 units)
  • 2 semesters of graduate-level statistics
  • 1 ethics course

PhD students complete the four core courses, then participate in a screening procedure, offered twice each year, to assess your progress and determine whether you may continue in the program. Once you successfully pass the screening, you and your advisor select a guidance committee made up of five faculty members who recommend coursework, independent study direction and essential reading.

Course substitutions may be allowed with approval from the biokinesiology committee prior to the beginning of the semester. Other requirements vary according to the specific needs of each student. Coursework other than divisional offerings is encouraged and may be required by the student’s guidance committee.

Students are required to attend USC full time to complete the PhD program, and typically complete the PhD degree in four to five years.

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Qualifying Exam and Dissertation Defense

The PhD qualifying exam, offered during the fall or spring semester, focuses on your ability to demonstrate knowledge in your major academic area and its relation to other areas of study offered in the division. The qualifying exam includes written and oral components.

Once you pass the qualifying exam, you will be required to complete a dissertation based on original research. It must demonstrate technical mastery of a specialized field, capacity for independent research and scholarly ability. The dissertation, and your oral defense of its merits, must receive unanimous approval from your dissertation committee and must be completed within three years of the approved date of your dissertation proposal.


Application Deadline: November 1

Admission will be considered for the fall semester only. Once completed, your application will enter the review process. You will be notified of our admission decision by the end of February.

To apply for the PhD in Biokinesiology:

1. Complete the online USC Graduate Application. The application requires you to submit:

  • Résumé or CV
  • Three letters of recommendation from individuals able to comment on your academic and research capabilities and potential
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores Note: For the 2021-2022 admission cycle, the GRE requirement will be waived.
  • Statement of purpose, in an uploadable document, double-spaced

To assist in preparing your statement of purpose, consider the following questions:

  • Why have you chosen to apply for admission to the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy?
  • What is the area of your current research or clinical interest?
  • Which USC faculty member do you hope to conduct research with?
  • Why are you interested in the PhD in Biokinesiology?
  • What are your professional goals or objectives?
  • How do you plan to accomplish these goals?
  • How will this program facilitate the accomplishment of your professional goals?
  • How do you feel you will contribute to the field of physical therapy and/or science of movement?

2. Mail your official transcripts from all schools attended to:

USC Office of Graduate Admission
3601 South Flower Street, Room 112
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0915

Student Handbook

Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Biokinesiology Student Handbook 2020-2021

Contact Us

For more information, please contact Virginia Orcasitas:

(323) 442-2890