Anatomy Vs. Physiology: What's the Difference?

Anatomy and physiology are often taught together in the same course or adjacently within a degree program. Although they are similar and related, the two fields are somewhat different. View article »

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  • 0:39 Anatomy Degree Programs
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Video Transcript

Anatomy vs. Physiology

Students of anatomy learn about the structure of body parts, while those enrolled in physiology study the functions and relationships of body parts. While these two fields are often paired together in the same class or program title, they may also be offered separately.

Both fields are also available as degree programs. Anatomy degree programs are typically found at the graduate level and prepare students for careers in the medical field, while physiology degree programs are found at the undergraduate and graduate levels and prepare students for careers in research or exercise physiology.

Anatomy Degree Programs

As a standalone program, anatomy is available at both the master's and doctoral degree levels. At some universities, the anatomy program is available as a joint degree program with the M.D. professional medical degree. At others, the anatomy degree is designed to prepare students for medical school.

Courses include gross anatomy, microanatomy, neurobiology and embryology. Physiology and medical courses are included as well. Master's degree candidates must research and compose a thesis, while doctoral students participate in lab and research rotations and may complete a dissertation.

Graduates of an anatomy program can work as healthcare educators, researchers or medical doctors, though the latter would also require a professional medical degree (M.D.).

Physiology Degree Programs

Physiology programs are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and result in bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. Class topics can include exercise physiology, systems physiology, molecular biology and genetics, biochemistry and cell biology. Pre-medical courses are also usually included in these programs. Graduate-level physiology programs require completion of a thesis or dissertation. Students in doctoral programs may also need to complete research assistantships.

Those with a bachelor's degree are prepared for entry-level clinical and research positions in places such as hospitals, insurance companies and research laboratories. They can also move on to medical school or pursue graduate studies. Individuals with a graduate degree are prepared for careers in research, academia and exercise physiology.

Anatomy focuses on the structures of the body, while physiology focuses on the functions of these parts. Degree programs are available in each field and prepare students for careers in the medical field, research and more.

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