How to Become a Physiologist: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 10, 2020

Find out how to become a physiologist. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in physiology.

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Should I Become a Physiologist?

Physiologists examine how the body works under abnormal and normal conditions at the cellular and molecular levels. These professionals study how different body parts work together, including the lungs, heart, and muscles. Physiologists also focus on the way the body reacts in various environments, including water and space.

Physiologists split their work hours between the laboratory and offices. Some labs include exercise equipment where physiologists can observe the human body in motion and track the activity of particular body systems. The majority of such medical scientists work full-time, typically during regular business hours. A physiologist career typically requires a doctorate and work experience through internships or entry-level positions.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Doctorate
Degree Field Physiology or related field
Experience Internship; work experience before moving to independent research
Key Skills Critical thinking skills, mathematics, communication, teamwork, problem-solving; computer skills in imaging software, modeling software and spreadsheets; technical skills involving the use of laboratory equipment, such as microscopes, centrifuges, and lasers
Medial Annual Salary (May 2018) $79,590 (for biological scientists, all other)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How to Become a Physiologist

Step 1: Acquire a Bachelor's Degree

You may begin their education with a bachelor's degree in physiology; however, if this major isn't available, you may consider a biological science program with a minor, specialization or emphasis in physiology. These programs generally last four years and offer related coursework in areas such as engineering, computer science, physics, and mathematics.

Step 2: Obtain a Master's Degree

Master's degree programs, such as the Master of Science (M.S.) in Physiology or M.S. in Applied Anatomy and Physiology, provide more specialized education in the field and begin a practice of research. Some of the coursework at this level covers areas like cellular physiology, pharmacology, molecular physiology, and molecular biology.

Success Tip:

Seek an internship. Universities may offer internship opportunities in labs. These internships can begin to provide experience working in the field and offer a chance to work with established scientists in a lab setting.

Step 3: Complete a Doctorate Program

Most employers require biological scientists, including physiologists, to have a doctoral degree in physiology or a related field. Doctoral degree programs in this field offer research opportunities that can also lead to full-time faculty positions or publishing in academic journals.

Step 4: Attain Work Experience

You can pursue entry-level employment to accumulate work experience in physiology to advance your careers in the field. Many of these opportunities take the form of a temporary research position working with experienced physiologists. This can provide the opportunity to develop valuable work experience and career growth.

To become a physiologist, you'll need to earn a doctorate and gain related work experience.

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