Human Physiology Careers

Workers in human physiology could be employed by hospitals, fitness centers or government research facilities, among other places. Find out about career options in this field and the education each position requires, along with employment outlook and salary info. Schools offering Anatomy & Physiology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Physiologist Do?

A physiologist is a trained professional, who can help individuals maintain health and well-being through proper fitness to improve cardiovascular health or mobility. Physiologists may focus their work on exercise programs that can help strengthen the body or they can choose to focus their work on research regarding the movement, photosynthesis or respiration processes in the body. The following table provides some pertinent details regarding this field:

Exercise Physiologists Physical Therapists
Degree Required Master's or Doctoral Master's or Doctoral
Education Field of Study Physiology Physical Therapy
Key Responsibilities Develop exercise plans for clients, use equipment to monitor clients' fitness levels, teach clients various exercises Diagnose patients' problems, develop rehabilitation plans, teach rehab exercises to patients
Licensure Requirements Only required in Louisiana License required
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 10% 22%
Median Salary (2015)* $49,270 $87,930

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kinds of Jobs Are Available to Physiologists?

Physiologists may work as clinical exercise physiologists or physiology researchers. They may even be eligible for careers in healthcare. Clinical exercise physiologists evaluate, plan and oversee exercise plans for individual clients or for organizations. Such programs may be designed to improve strength, flexibility, cardiorespiratory efficiency, body composition or muscular endurance. Exercise physiologists may use EKG machines to monitor a person's cardiovascular fitness levels. Physiologists may also use weights and other exercise equipment to evaluate overall fitness and measure flexibility and strength.

Physiology researchers may work in government-sponsored, academic or private laboratories. Researchers in this field do not restrict themselves to human physiology and may study the physiological systems of other life forms as well as plants. Many physiologists focus research on a particular area, such as reproduction, respiration, photosynthesis or movement.

Physiologists working in healthcare may work in medicine or in therapy. For example, physical therapists need a background in physiology. Physical therapists use applied physiology to help patients recuperate from injuries, reduce pain or improve strength and flexibility.

What Degree Do I Need?

Most professional positions in physiology require you to have at least a master's degree in physiology. Positions in exercise physiology may require you to have a degree specifically in exercise physiology instead of general physiology. Additionally, research positions will likely require you to have a doctoral degree and a significant body of research.

Physiology programs may allow you to study areas such as public health toxicology, molecular biology, human physiology fundamentals, laboratory statistics or cell structure. You might also learn about research methodologies, cellular dynamics, cardiopulmonary concepts, sports nutrition or aging. Other areas of study might include epidemiology, exercise programming, neuromuscular systems or conditioning.

What Is the Job Market Like?

Exercise physiologists were expected to experience an employment growth of 10% from 2018-2028, according to the BLS, which was faster than average ( The employment rate for physical therapists, one example of a career for physiologists working in healthcare, was expected to rise 22% (much faster than average) from 2018-2028.

How Much Will I Make?

Exercise physiologists made a median annual salary of $49,270, according to the BLS. Physical therapists earned a median annual salary of $87,930 during the same time.

What Are Some Alternative Related Careers?

Recreational therapists are trained to direct, plan, and implement recreational programs for persons suffering from injury, illness or disability. They may develop their treatment programs around sports, music, dance and other activities to enhance mobility. A bachelor's degree and certification is required.

Athletic trainers are taught to treat, diagnose, and prevent diseases associated with muscle and bone injuries. Athletic trainers are employed in many work environments, which may include hospitals, fitness centers or schools. They need a bachelor's degree to enter the field, but master's degrees are common.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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