If you are looking to take your study of exercise science to the next level, you may be considering a doctorate in kinesiology. The highest qualification you can have, a doctorate identifies you as an expert in your field.

 But once you have decided to pursue further study, you need to choose which type of doctorate is right for you. While a PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy, is perhaps the better-known option, for many people working in health and fitness, an EdD, or Doctor of Education, will be the more appropriate choice.

It all depends on your focus and your career goals. Are you more interested in an academic career or do you want your deepening knowledge to have a practical application?

Understanding how these two paths to a doctorate in kinesiology differ will help you to choose the right route.

What is the difference between an EdD and a PhD?

Whether you choose a PhD or an EdD as the next step in your study of kinesiology, it is a terminal degree, representing the pinnacle of academic achievement.

You will have to have completed a master’s degree before entering either program. You’ll also need to demonstrate that you can write at a graduate level by submitting writing samples from prior graduate programs, research papers or journal articles.

Both types of doctorate are highly respected and will give you a good grounding in carrying out in-depth research. But there are some key differences when it comes to how that research is applied.

Research vs Practical Application

The EdD

Studying for an EdD in kinesiology allows you to apply your research to real-world situations. A PhD is more academically focused and concentrates on theory over practical application.

The practical focus of an EdD makes it a good fit for those working in health and fitness. You’ll look at a particular problem and carry out research to find a solution. The research you carry out is therefore relevant to real-life issues, giving you additional experience of applying your knowledge in a practical way.


The PhD

As the name suggests, becoming a Doctor of Philosophy requires more of a theoretical focus. It is a better option for those who want to carry out pure research, instead of applying that research practically.

Career Paths

The PhD

Students who choose a PhD are usually looking for a career in academia or research. They might go on to work at a university or in a lab.

While their research may sometimes have a practical application, those with a PhD are usually a step removed from working with actual clients or patients. Instead, they will share their work by publishing papers, lecturing, and collaborating with other researchers.

The EdD

Concordia University Kinesiology Doctorate Approved by Higher Learning CommissionIn contrast, students who choose an EdD gain industry-related experience that prepares them to further their career in the health and fitness sector. Their expertise in using exercise science in a practical way means they are ideally suited for leadership roles in corporate wellness, higher education, and professional sports organizations. 

An EdD can help you progress as a coach, an exercise physiologist, an athletic trainer, a nutritionist, and more. It is also an excellent option for anyone interested in teaching at a postsecondary level in health, fitness, or biological sciences.

So an EdD is the best choice for those who want their future career to involve working directly with clients or teaching the next generation of sports and health professionals.

Program Structure

As well as considering your preferred career path, it is vital to understand how the different doctoral programs are structured.

The PhD

While it is possible to work while doing a PhD, most programs are full-time. Students will take between 4 and 6 years to complete their PhD on average, although it can take longer if you are working at the same time.

The EdD

In contrast,many EdD programs are designed to be completed within four to five years. There is usually the option to take longer if you need to. EdD programs are structured in a way that allows you to work while you study.

In both cases, you’ll complete a series of classes and a dissertation, which is a piece of independent research. As we’ve already seen, the focus of that research will vary depending on the type of doctorate you choose.

Studying for a kinesiology doctorate online is the preferred option for many working professionals, giving you the flexibility to balance study with work and family life. Both PhD and EdD programs can be taken online.

The Benefits of Choosing an EdD in Kinesiology

Most people who choose to specialize in sport or exercise science do so because they love using their knowledge to help people. And that means an EdD has many benefits for anyone working in the health and fitness industry.

Choosing to study for an EdD in kinesiology gives you many advantages:

1. Apply your knowledge practically

While it is entirely possible to pursue a PhD and continue working with clients, an EdD program is specifically designed to meet the needs of people who will go on to work within the health and fitness sector. Classes will give you a thorough grounding in current trends and you’ll gain experience in applying research findings to real-world problems.

2. Prepare you for leadership roles

Many of those who qualify as an EdD will then take up leadership positions within the industry. The practical nature of this type of doctorate gives you the perfect blend of theoretical knowledge, research skills, and evidence-based practice to make you an expert in your field.

3. Put yourself ahead of the competition

As our understanding of the benefits of exercise and nutrition grows, more people are seeking a career in the sports and fitness sector. And the importance of academic qualifications is increasing as employers need to be able to differentiate between applicants. Having an EdD showcases your expertise and demonstrates that you have advanced knowledge and skills.

4. Attract a higher salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pursuing a doctoral degree is an investment worth making. Those with doctorates earn more and are less likely to be unemployed than any other group. A postsecondary level teacher, for example, has a median wage of $68,970.

Final thoughts

If you are seeking to become a true expert in the field of kinesiology and exercise science, a doctorate will set you apart from the rest.

For many health and fitness professionals, becoming a Doctor of Education will be a more appropriate choice than a PhD. Its practical nature and focus on real-world problems make it a qualification relevant to a wide range of careers within this sector.

That is why we have become one of the first universities to offer an online EdD in kinesiology. This action-orientated program is ideal for anyone wanting to become an expert in the study of human movement and physical activity.



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