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The Specialization in Exercise Physiology

The graduate specialization in Exercise Physiology is designed to introduce and train students to pursue research careers in exercise physiology related fields. With the knowledge gained in our program, our students could potentially pursue careers in the fitness/wellness industry, including commercial, corporate, and hospital fitness centers, as well as in clinical settings. The program provides students with advanced understanding of how the physiological constructs are applied to exercise in different populations and environments. During the program our students develop laboratory techniques and acquires laboratory skills that assist them with their overall preparation to conduct their research projects.

Our program also provides our students with the knowledge base to act as a liaison between the medical community and the layperson regarding the health implications of exercise. Students in our program not only meet the University requirements for graduation, but also obtain the knowledge and skill sets required to pass national clinical and fitness/ strength training related certification exams with a variety of professional organizations.

Many graduate students have presented their master and doctoral theses at the American College of Sports Medicine National and Regional Meetings, as well as other professional meetings.


Degree Requirements

  • Minimum of 30 hours of coursework. This includes 24 hours of required courses plus 6 hours of selectives.  This does not including any prerequisites deemed necessary by the admissions committee.
    • Entry prerequisites must be completed prior to the first Fall semester and may be taken at UNC or elsewhere.  It is strongly recommended prerquesites be completed by May.
  • Written Comprehensive Examination. Taken after the first year of completed course work, usually early Fall of the 2nd year.
  • Research-Driven Thesis. Master thesis topics are determined by the student’s interests, faculty expertise, and available resources.

Typical Program (*required Core Courses)

First Year/Fall Semester

*EXSS 700- Applied Statistics and Research Methods in Exercise and Sport Science (3)

*EXSS 780 – Physiology of Exercise (3)

*EXSS 783 – Assessment of Physiological Functions in Exercise (3)


And one of the following if desired

EXSS 410 – Exercise Testingx  (3) or

EXSS 476 – Strength Training Theorya (3)

Or Other Selective


First Year/Spring Semester

*EXSS 705 – Applied Statistics and Research Methods Laboratory (3)

*EXSS 789 – Practicum in Exercise Physiology (3)


And one of the following:

EXSS 781 – Clinical Exercise Prescription and Testingb,c (3) or

EXSS 782 – Nutritional Aspects of Exerciseb,c (3)

EXSS 786 – Advanced Laboratory Techniques (3)   PROPOSED

EXSS 476 – Strength Training Theorya or

EXSS 478 – Performance Enhancementa

EXSS 990 – Research in Exercise and Sport Science

Or Other Selective


Second Year/Fall Semester

*EXSS 785 – Seminar in Exercise Physiology (3)

EXSS 993- Masters Thesis (3)


And one of the following

EXSS 476 – Strength Training Theorya (3)

EXSS 990 – Research in Exercise and Sport Science

Or Other Selective


Second Year/Spring Semester

*EXSS 993- Masters Thesis (3)

  • a MA students may count one (1) four hundred level courses toward their degree
  • b MA students desiring a clinical exercise physiology course should take EXSS 781.
  • cEXSS 781 and EXSS 782 are offered alternating years.
  • d EXSS 410: only open to those with NO background in exercise science, first year only



* Required course for all exercise physiology grad specialization students.

** Note:  EXSS 781 and EXSS 782 have variable credit hours (2 or 3 credits) depending on your year;  first year grad students MUST take the course for 3 credits but 2nd year grad students can ONLY take it for 2 credits. These two courses are offered alternating spring semesters (that is, they are not both offered during the same year).