Medical Physiology Jobs: Career Options and Requirements

Medical physiology is generally an intensive program which usually requires the acquirement of a doctorate degree. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

Careers in medical physiology require a doctoral degree in philosophy or medicine and can involve working in research or with patients. These medical professionals include immunologists, neuroscientists, and endocrinologists. Those who work with patients are also required to have a medical license.

Essential Information

Medical physiologists study the function of human biological systems and how they relate and interact with each other. After obtaining a bachelor's degree in biological studies, students must then determine a focus for their graduate and doctoral degrees. Common focuses include neuroscience, reproductive or renal physiology, endocrinology, and immunology.

Research in these and other areas is done in concert with medical physicians at hospitals, universities, and government institutions. Medical physiologists can do theoretical research in a laboratory or clinical research with physicians and patients. Researchers at universities are also required to teach classes in their specialty.

Career Immunologist Neuroscientists Endocrinologist
Education Requirements Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D. Ph.D.or MD/Ph.D
Other Requirements Medical license needed if they work with patients Medical license needed if they work with patients Medical license needed if they work with patients
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% for all medical scientists 8% for all medical scientists 8% for all medical scientists
Median Salary $169,852 (2016)** $82,240 for all medical scientists (2015)* $184,427 (2016)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **

Career Options

Medical physiologists typically focus their research on one specific area or system in the body, such as the brain, reproductive systems, immune system or hormones. Some possible job titles include endocrinologists, immunologists and neuroscientists.


Endocrinologists study glands in the body and the hormones they produce. A career in endocrinology requires a doctorate degree as well as over ten years of intensive study and field practice. Students hoping to become endocrinologists will spend years studying chronic diseases brought on by endocrine disorders as well as proper patient treatment.


Immunologists study the human immune system and treat patients with immune disorders. Becoming an immunologist requires years of intensive study and work with patients. An immunologist may work in a hospital or in a private practice, and may choose to focus more on research or direct patient work.


Neuroscientists are physicians who specialize in the human nervous system which includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves throughout the body. Neurological diseases studied and treated by neuroscientists include Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Neurologists and neurosuergons are both highly sought-after careers in the medical field.

Career Requirements

Doing medical research requires getting a bachelor's degree in the biological sciences, and then obtaining a graduate degree in a particular specialization of physiology. Getting a bachelor's degree in biology from an accredited university typically takes 4-5 years.

To obtain a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), students are required to complete around six years of research and specialized courses. Students must also complete a dissertation to be evaluated by a panel of faculty members. Most full-time research positions require several years of work experience in a postdoctoral position after obtaining a Ph.D.

Researchers can get joint Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)/Ph.D. degrees so they are able to work in a medical environment with patients as well as in a laboratory. These programs typically take seven or eight years to complete. Working with patients and prescribing drugs also requires passing medical board exams to obtain a license and doing a residency program after obtaining an M.D.

Researchers may be required to spend time writing grant proposals in order to obtain funding for their research projects, as well as regular progress reports on their research in order to receive continued funding. Top-level researchers are often required to manage other personnel working in their lab, and must manage multiple research projects at one time.

Career and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS) classifies medical physiology jobs among medical scientists. The projected employment increase for these workers was 8% from 2014 to 2024, stated the BLS. The median annual wage for medical scientists was $82,240 in May 2015.

A career in medical physiology focuses on the study, understanding and treatment of medial issues within the biological systems of people. Endocrinologists focus on glands, neuroscientists concentrate on the nervous system, and immunologists deal with immune system disorders. Those interested in careers in these fields can opt to treat patients if they have a medical license, or may choose to pursue a career researching the cause of and potential treatments for injuries and illnesses that affect the immune system, glands, or nervous system of the human body.

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