Sport and Exercise Psychology | Graduate Programs | College of Public Health and Human Sciences

Graduate study in Sport and Exercise Psychology addresses how social and psychological factors influence participation and performance in physical activity, as well as how involvement in physical activity influences the psychological make-up of the individual.

We are interested in recruiting people who are passionate about research in Sport and Exercise Psychology into both our masters and doctoral programs. Topics discussed in sport and exercise psychology include, among others, motivation, self-perceptions, leadership behaviors, group dynamics, and exercise and physical activity behavior change.

Sport and Exercise Psychology at Oregon State University. 

Graduate study in sport and exercise psychology is offered through the Kinesiology Graduate Program. Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Kinesiology are available. A master’s degree generally requires two years of full-time study and a doctoral degree four years of full-time study (beyond the masters degree) to complete. Graduate study in sport and exercise psychology is research oriented with an emphasis in social psychology of physical activity.

Recent research projects have investigated stages of exercise behavior across different cultures, the application of the transtheoretical model of behavior change to individuals with disabilities, a team building intervention designed to enhance the self-conceptions of physical education students, and self-concept as a mediating variable to exercise behavior.

Master’s students completing a thesis and doctoral students are trained to conduct independent research, and doctoral students preparing for positions in higher education are exposed to additional experiences such as teaching lower and upper division courses, grant writing, presenting at conferences, and publishing research articles.  Graduate sport and exercise psychology courses adopt a theory-to-practice approach that enables current research and theory to be applied to practical situations.  Formal coursework is supplemented with small group or individual reading sessions designed to examine sport and exercise psychology topics in greater detail. In addition, each academic program of study is carefully tailored to meet the professional needs and interests of the student.


Sample Coursework – Sport and Exercise Psychology (Ph.D. Program)

Research Core (12 credit-hours in graduate level statistics/research design.)

EXSS 573       Measurement in Human Movement
EXSS 575       Research in Human Movement
HDFS 530       Research in HDFS
HDFS 531       Research in HDFS 2
HDFS 532       Research in HDFS 3

Area of Concentration (18 credit-hours of graduate level coursework, which may include coursework outside of EXSS)

EXSS 560       Motivation in Physical Activity
EXSS 561       Psychosocial Factors in Physical Activity
EXSS 562       Lifespan Sport and Exercise Psychology

Seminar (3 credit-hours, with the expectation that while in residence at OSU continued attendance will occur. Students must also deliver one presentation on their research during departmental seminar.)

EXSS 607       SEM/Interdisciplinary Colloquium

Thesis (a minimum of 36 credit-hours)

Minor and/or Elective Coursework (15-18 credit hours). While a doctoral minor is considered optional by the department, we ask our students to obtain a doctoral minor in a complimentary area of study. Previous students have minored in areas such as: Human Development and Family Sciences with a Quantitative Research Methods emphasis; Public Health; Sociology, Psychology; Women’s Studies; and Integrated minors in areas such as Gerontology, Physical Activity and Health, Physical Education Pedagogy, or Research Methods and Statistics.

*Possible coursework within this category; not an exhaustive list.

CSSA 681       Recreational Sports Administration in Higher Education
EXSS 512       Applied Motor Learning
EXSS 544       Adapted Physical Activity
EXSS 599       Special Topics: Pediatric Exercise Science
EXSS 599       Special Topics: Physical Activity Epidemiology
EXSS 601       Research
EXSS 605       Readings and Conferences
H 525            Principles and Practice of Epidemiology
H 526            Epidemiologic Methods
H 571            Principles of Health Behavior
H 591            ST/Biostatistics-Latent Growth Curve Modeling
H 591            ST/Multivariate Analysis
HDFS  630      Quantitative Methods in Family and Individual Development
HDFS 635       Qualitative Research Methods in Family and Individual Development
HDFS  648      Advanced Topics/Multi-Level Analysis
PHL 544         Biomedical Ethics
PHL 547         Research Ethics
PSY 537         Motivation
PSY 585         Behavior Modification
PSY 598         Health Psychology
SOC 553        Sociology of Sport
WR 548          Magazine Article Writing
WR 562          Science Writing

A minimum of 108 credit hours is required for the Ph.D. degree. Upon the approval of a student’s committee, the department chair, and the Graduate School, credit hours completed as part of an accredited masters degree program may be applied toward the credit hour requirement for the doctoral degree.


Recent Dissertation and Thesis Topics

  • Mindfulness, self-compassion and leadership in wildland firefighting
  • Transitional bodies: A qualitative investigation of postpartum body self-compassion
  • Physical activity among Chinese international students in American higher education: From quantitative and qualitative perspectives
  • Theoretical predictors of follow-up exercise behavior after a supervised exercise intervention in elderly women with breast cancer
  • Ethnic minorities’ leisure-time physical activity in the context of acculturation
  • Cross-cultural comparison of college students' physical activity behaviors in the US and ROC using transtheoretical model construct
  • Effectiveness of classroom vs. web-based lifetime fitness for health lab instruction on college students' behavioral and psychological physical activity orientation
  • The effect of a mail-mediated intervention on exercise behavior
  • Examination of adolescents' sources of subjective task value in sport
  • The exercise motivation scale: Its multifaceted structure and construct validity
  • Interactive vs. non-interactive electronically delivered motivational materials for physical activity initiation and enhancement among adults with physical disabilities
  • An investigation of possible selves across stages of exercise involvement with middle-aged women
  • Life course perspective: A journey of participation in physical activity
  • Objectified body consciousness: A theory-to-practice approach
  • The role exercise may play in how survivors of domestic violence feel and view themselves
  • Weight stigma consciousness and perceived physical appearance: Their key precursors and relationship to health behaviors
  • Can bullies become buddies?  Evaluation of and theoretical support for an experiential education bully prevention curriculum with seventh grade students


Sport and Exercise Psychology Laboratory

The lab is central to every phase of the sport and exercise psychology research projects conducted by faculty and students. Research teams meet in the lab to discuss ideas and establish protocols. The lab is used for assembling materials required for each data collection, storing completed data, as well as preparing posters and slides for presentations. The lab is equipped with IBM and Macintosh computers and printers for both data analysis and word-processing procedures. An interview room adjoins the lab that houses audio transcribers and video equipment.


Sport and Exercise Psychology Faculty

Dr. Bradley J. Cardinal and Dr. Vicki Ebbeck serve as the primary faculty members associated with this area of graduate study. Dr. Cardinal has investigated a variety of areas including exercise and physical activity behavior change. He has developed self-report measures and tested interventions in an effort to better understand the different stages of exercise involvement. Dr. Ebbeck’s research interests are broadly concerned with the exploration of motivated behavior from a lifespan and interdisciplinary perspective. In order to better understand motivation, a more specific line of research is the examination of self-concept. Research questions address the structure, antecedents and consequences of self-concept development.


Frequently Asked Questions

How many students are in the program?

Four doctoral and four masters.

Admission into the doctoral program is highly competitive. Only one doctoral student is admitted annually. Therefore, there are typically four doctoral students in the program at any one time, with one being at each successive year. That is a first year, second year, third year, and fourth year Ph.D. student. Doctoral admission typically is in conjunction with the awarding of a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) position, which comes with a tuition waiver, monthly stipend (9 months only), and some modest health benefits.

There are approximately four master’s degree students in the program at any given time. Approximately one half are in their first year and the other half are in their second year of the 2-year program. Most masters candidates are either self-funded or funded through sources outside of the department (e.g., Recreational Sports, Athletics, Student Health Services, etc.).

How many faculty are there?

There are two faculty in the Sport and Exercise Psychology program, with numerous other support faculty within the school, college and university.

When should I apply and are Graduate Assistantship positions available?

There is one graduate admission deadline, which is usually December 1 for Fall Quarter admission. All application materials should be submitted before the deadline date. Concurrent with the graduate application materials, all doctoral students apply for a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) position, including the completion of a Physical Activity Preferences Teaching form and/or a statement of willingness and interest in teaching or assisting in the Lifetime Fitness for Health curriculum. Interested master’s degree applicants can and should also apply for these positions also. However, the program funding priority is for doctoral applicants. Therefore, master’s degree applicants are strongly encouraged to seek assistantship positions in related departments and programs on campus such as Intramural and Recreational Sports, Student Health Services, Intercollegiate Athletics (e.g., Athletic Academic Advising, Athletic Training), Housing and Dining Services, Memorial Union Recreation Center, International Degree Programs, Women’s Center, etc.. Periodically research assistantships may be available through individual faculty; however, these are most often hourly wage paying jobs used to supplement a regular GTA position.

What are the admissions requirements?

The minimum admission criteria include a 3.00 grade point average, completion of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement of research interests and career aspirations. International degree program applicants are welcome and this will require additional admission criteria (e.g., specific TOEFL scores, a financial certificate, adherence to Visa requirements, etc.; contact the International Degree Program Office for further information).

Our doctoral program graduates typically have completed a master’s degree in a relevant area (e.g., Exercise and Sport Science, Health Promotion, Kinesiology, Physical Education, Psychology) with a grade point average above 3.5, written a masters thesis, have outstanding letters of recommendation, clearly articulated research interests that align with one of the program faculty, and exceptional GRE scores. Related work experience is also viewed favorably.

When feasible, doctoral applicants are strongly encouraged to visit the program in person and/or to have a phone conversation with one or both of the program faculty.

Upon completing a degree, what do most graduates do?

The vast majority of masters degree candidates seek professional employment opportunities, though some do seek admission into a doctoral program. Masters graduates of our program have been employed as:

    • teachers (those already in possession of a teaching license)
    • sport program administrators (primarily at the intramural, club, and recreational sports levels),
    • wellness and health promotion professionals,
    • community college faculty,
    • academic advisors,
    • athletic trainers (those with the ATC credential),
    • athletic and sports equipment sales representatives,
    • coaches,

Doctoral graduates are primarily employed as college and university faculty (with responsibilities in teaching, research, and service). Our graduates are employed in many different types of colleges and universities ranging from private, liberal arts institutions with a focus, primarily, on undergraduate instruction (i.e., bachelors only institutions); regional universities (i.e., bachelors and masters institutions); and research extensive universities (i.e., bachelors, masters, and doctoral institutions). Some of our graduates are working in extension faculty positions, which are aimed at translating research into practice. Furthermore, some have pursued post-doctoral research positions at research institutes, universities, or government agencies. While each student’s program of study is uniquely developed, all have a strong foundation in research and theory.


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