ESS: Physical Education Teaching - Adapted Physical Education Emphasis - Master of Science

Program Coordinator: Brock McMullen
158 Mitchell Hall; 608.785.8167

Persons seeking graduate level adapted physical education (APE) professional development can pursue the Master of Science degree in physical education teaching with an emphasis in teaching APE. This is a practitioner oriented program for teachers seeking additional expertise, evidence-based content knowledge, technology skills, and clinical experiences in physical education for PK-12 students with disabilities in general and/or specially designed physical education classes.

Candidates may elect to certify their program and receive UWL endorsement for a WI K-12 APE teaching license. Graduates of the program are primarily hired by school districts as adapted and/or general physical education teachers. These teachers are often employed as itinerant (traveling) APE specialists within a district and may teach students from grades PK-12 in several schools. Graduates are hired throughout the United States to serve as APE instructional leaders for school districts.

Roles commonly performed in school districts by these APE professionals include:

  • Teaching at early childhood, elementary, middle, and secondary levels
  • Serving as itinerant or traveling APE teachers at several schools within a school district
  • Collaborating with special education and related service personnel
  • Teaching students with disabilities in one-on-one, small group, or large group classes
  • Preparing paraprofessionals/teaching assistants for supervised APE instruction
  • Consulting with general physical education teachers and special education staff
  • Team teaching in inclusive settings while assisting general physical education teachers
  • Assessing physical and motor development for IEP planning and implementation
  • Designing and monitoring measurable IEP goals and objectives
  • Using evidence-based teaching strategies, including instructional technologies
  • Transitioning students from school-based to community-based instruction leading to healthy and active lifestyles
  • Coaching school and community-based sport programs for students with and without disabilities

The APE graduate program can be completed while students are enrolled either full-time or on a part-time basis.

Center on Disability Health and Adapted Physical Activity

The Center on Disability Health and Adapted Physical Activity (Center) is a focal point of the APE teacher preparation program. One of only five centers at UW-La Crosse, the Center implements many on-campus and community-based physical activity programs for individuals with disabilities of all ages. A primary mission of the Center is to conduct a variety of physical activity/education programs serving children, youth, and adults with disabilities. Opportunities to enhance teaching competencies and gain advanced leadership skills are afforded to future APE professionals. The Center serves as a resource for parents, school districts, human service agencies, and local and state agencies, as well as national organizations focusing on physical activity and health for individuals with disabilities. Examples of programs include: Children’s Motor Development Program; Physical Activity Mentoring Program; Adult Fitness Program; Adapted Aquatic Program; and Adapted Sport Programs.

Financial assistance

Financial assistance is generally available each year for qualified students who pursue their graduate degree on a full-time basis. Assistance is usually in the form of graduate assistantships and/or fellowships that may include a stipend, tuition assistance for resident and nonresident students, fringe benefits, an office on campus, school-based teaching with an APE teacher mentor, and opportunities to work alongside faculty in teaching, research, service, and professional development. 


Candidates for the Physical Education Teaching - Adapted Physical Education Emphasis Program must meet the following minimum admission requirements:

  • Meet all UWL graduate admission requirements
  • Have completed or be enrolled in a physical education teacher preparation program1
  • Complete a successful criminal background check (initiated by UWL - see below)

The Physical Education Teaching - Adapted Physical Education Emphasis Program does not lead to endorsement for a Physical Education teaching license. Candidates accepted to the program must provide evidence to the program director that they have completed their physical education teacher preparation program and have applied for a Physical Education teaching license prior to the end of the fall term (second term of coursework). Candidates who are not able to do so may appeal for continuation in the program. Candidates whose appeal is not granted and are dismissed from the program are not eligible for tuition reimbursement. 

Criminal background check

The WI Department of Public Instruction (DPI) requires that candidates for admission to a teacher education, administration, or pupil services program successfully pass a criminal background check (CBC) as one criterion for admission (PI 34.018(2)). By applying for admission to one of these programs, candidates agree to provide the necessary personal information to UWL in order to initiate their CBC and to complete their portion of the process prior to the deadline specified in their admission letter. Teacher candidates are responsible for all costs associated with their criminal background check(s).

Certification option

Candidates in the Physical Education Teaching - Adapted Physical Education Emphasis Program may elect to certify their program and receive UWL endorsement for a Wisconsin K-12 Adapted Physical Education teaching license (#1860). In order to certify the program, candidates must:

  1. Indicate their choice to certify their program by the end of the fall semester (second term of coursework). 
  2. Complete all Physical Education Teaching - Adapted Physical Education Emphasis Program requirements.
  3. Hold a Wisconsin Physical Education (PE) teaching license. Candidates holding a PE license from another state must apply for a WI PE license through the Department of Public Instruction (a fee may apply). Interested candidates should contact the SOE Teacher Certification Officer.

Candidates who complete the Physical Education Teaching - Adapted Physical Education Emphasis Program without meeting all certification requirements will not be eligible for UWL endorsement for a WI Adapted Physical Education teaching license.2


Candidates who complete the program without certification may request endorsement for a WI Adapted Physical Education teaching license at a later time, provided they have completed all current certification requirements. Endorsement after program completion is contingent on meeting all current program and WI DPI licensing requirements at the time of the request.


36-39 credits

Category A - research

  • Thesis option  

ESS 730Research Methods for Exercise and Sport Science3
ESS 735Statistics for Exercise and Sport Science3
ESS 799Research: Master's Thesis6
Total Credits12
  • Non-thesis option 

ESS 730Research Methods for Exercise and Sport Science3
ESS 736Critical Analysis Project: Adapted Physical Education3
Total Credits6

Category B - core requirements

ESS 725Diversity in the Physical Activity Setting2
ESS 727Planning for Effective Instruction in Physical Education2
ESS 737Curriculum Design in Physical Education2
ESS 759Analysis and Supervision of Physical Education3
ESS 765Adventure Education for Physical Educators3
ESS 771Current Issues in Physical Education2-3
Total Credits14

Category C - adapted physical education teaching requirements

Thesis option: 13 credits
Non-thesis option: 16 credits
ESS 530Disability and Physical Activity Implications3
ESS 535Sport for Persons with Disabilities1
ESS 536Assessment in Adapted Physical Education3
ESS 537Teaching and Service Delivery Models in Adapted Physical Education3
ESS 787Clinical Internship in Adapted Physical Education3
Elective (required for non-thesis option only) 33

Consult with program director for appropriate coursework.

University graduate degree requirements

After being admitted to the program of one's choice, candidates for a graduate degree must:

  1. Complete any preliminary course work and deficiencies.
  2. Complete all courses and other program requirements, including residence requirements prescribed for the degree desired in the respective school or college within a seven-year period from the date of initial enrollment, with the exception of students enrolled in the Student Affairs Administration and Leadership Ed.D. (SAA Ed.D.) graduate program. SAA Ed.D. students must complete all degree requirements within ten years from the time of initial enrollment in the graduate program.
  3. Earn a minimum of 30 credits for a master's degree; 54 credits for a doctorate or post-master's degree. Earn at least one-half of the minimum number of credits required in the program in graduate-only level courses (700, 800, 900, and non-slash 600 level courses). Some UWL graduate programs require more than 30 graduate credits. Please review the individual program requirements listed in the catalog for the exact number of credits required.
  4. Earn a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.00.
  5. Satisfy dissertation, thesis, seminar paper, terminal/graduate projects and internships, or comprehensive examination, where applicable. A dissertation or thesis approved by the committee must be submitted to Graduate & Extended Learning for editorial review and approval by the Dean of Graduate & Extended Learning. The recommended initial submission date for review is two weeks before commencement. Ordinarily, a seminar paper or project report does not have to be approved by the Dean of Graduate & Extended Learning. However, if the seminar paper or project report is to be archived in Murphy Library, the student must follow the same rules as they apply to the dissertation/thesis requiring approval from the Dean of Graduate & Extended Learning. For further research/dissertation/thesis guidelines, see Graduate & Extended Learning.
  6. File a completed "Intent to Graduate" form online via the WINGS Student Center immediately following registration for the final semester or summer term in residence. December graduates and winter intersession should file by May 1. May and summer graduates should file by December 1.
  7. Pay the graduation fee and remove all other indebtedness to the university. Payment of graduation fees does not imply readiness for graduation and does not take the place of applying for graduation.
  8. Complete all requirements within 30 days after the official ending date of a term in order for a degree to be awarded for that term. (See #5 above for separate deadline for written capstone experience.)