What's the Difference Between Anatomy and Physiology?

Find out how anatomy and physiology differ, as well as why the two topics are often taught together. Get information about how these fields of study can play a role in career options. Schools offering Anatomy & Physiology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Anatomy classes teach the physical forms of body parts, while physiology classes teach how body parts work. Degrees are available for both subjects, and premed programs typically include classes in both anatomy and physiology. There are a variety of careers available for whichever field of study you decide to focus on.

Degrees Master's and doctoral degrees in anatomy; undergraduate and graduate programs in physiology; medical degrees
Courses Gross anatomy, tissue biology, biochemistry, histology, genetics, neurobiology, exercise physiology, and microbiology
Average Salaries (2017) $59,010 for health educators, $96,070 for medical scientists (except epidemiologists), $211,390 for physicians and surgeons, all other

Source: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is Anatomy, What is Physiology?

Anatomy and physiology are independent disciplines, but they are so closely related that they're offered together most of the time. Anatomy is the study of the structure of body parts, whereas physiology is the study of the functions and relationships of body parts.

What's the Best Way to Study These Subjects?

The best way for you to learn anatomy, physiology or both depends on the program and on your individual goals. Premed courses in both anatomy and physiology can prepare you for medical school and a career as a physician. Both topics will also be covered in depth within a medical degree.

The subjects are often combined in other degree programs as well. For example, a degree in anatomy by itself is usually offered at the master's and doctoral degree levels. Physiology degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Doctoral students for anatomy or for physiology will often complete original research and fulfill teaching assistantships. A thesis is generally included at the master's level, and a dissertation will be the final requirement at the doctoral level.

Some topics covered in an anatomy or physiology course may include:

  • Gross anatomy
  • Tissue biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Histology
  • Genetics
  • Neurobiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Exercise physiology
  • Human disease processes
  • Systems of the human body

What Can I Do With a Degree in Anatomy or Physiology?

With an advanced degree in anatomy, you can work as a researcher or health educator. Jobs can be found in many sectors, including biotechnology, government and industry.

Earning a bachelor's degree in physiology prepares you for entry-level research and clinical jobs. These jobs can be found in hospitals, research labs and the pharmaceutical industry, just to name a few. You can also use your bachelor's degree to move on to graduate school.

If you decide to earn a graduate degree in physiology, you can work in research and academia. You can also work in a specialization area, such as exercise physiology. Jobs for this specialty can be found in schools and at fitness centers, among other locations.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017 (www.bls.com), health educators received an average yearly salary of $59,010, medical scientists earned an average salary of $96,070, and surgeons and physicians not listed separately by specialty averaged $211,390.

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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Popular Schools

  • Purdue University Global

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    • Master
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  • The George Washington University

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  • Grand Canyon University

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  • Johns Hopkins University

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  • Capella University

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  • Penn Foster High School

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  • Trident University

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  • CDI College

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    • Anywhere: Burnaby, Richmond, Surrey
  • Howard University

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    • Columbia (D.C.): Washington
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