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What Is Human Physiology?

Human physiology is the study of human organs and of the cells that make them up. An understanding of human physiology is helpful in a variety of fields, such as medicine, fitness, and biology.

Field Overview

Human physiology is the science of the functioning of human organs and the cells that compose them. Human physiology studies the mechanical, physical, and biochemical functions that determine the health of an individual. While anatomy studies form, physiology is the study of function.

Important Facts About This Study

Possible Careers Athletic trainer, exercise physiologist, biochemist, biophysicist, physician assistant, recreational therapist
Concentrations Exercise physiology, biomechanics, animal physiology
Degree Levels Bachelor of Science in Human Physiology, Master of Science in Physiology, Ph.D in Human Physiology
Online Availability Related degrees fully available online and in hybrid format (online and in class)
Median Salary (2019)* $94,490 (biochemist/biophysicist); $48,220 (recreational therapist)
Job Outlook (2019-2029)*4% (biochemist/biophysicist); 8% (recreational therapist)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Levels of Study

Human physiology is broken into four levels of increasing physiological complexity. The most basic level is the molecular level, which includes all chemical substances that are necessary for cells to function. At the tissue level, study expands to examine function of the basic types of tissue, including epithelial, muscle, nervous, and connective tissues. The third level of study is the organ level. An organ consists of two or more tissues that perform a certain function. Typical organs studied include heart, liver, lungs, and stomach. The fourth level of study is the system level, which studies the functions of the major systems of the human body:

  • Digestive
  • Nervous
  • Endocrine
  • Circulatory
  • Respiratory
  • Urinary
  • Reproductive

Occupations

Many occupations incorporate human physiology and are listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They include fitness trainers who work in spas or gyms where they organize and direct health and fitness programs. Biological scientists study living organisms and their relationship to the environment. Physician assistants practice medicine under supervision of physicians and surgeons and must understand human physiology to treat patients. Recreational therapists provide treatment and recreation for individuals with disabilities. Human physiology is also essential for those involved in cancer study and research, breathing-related illnesses, and liver and heart disease.