Physiology Degree and Course Information

Oct 12, 2019

Essential Information

Consisting of classroom, laboratory and clinical components, physiology degree programs may feature coursework in the areas of physics, cell biology and nutrition science. Bachelor's degree programs generally prepare students for medical or graduate school admission. Master's-level programs are for students interested in teaching or research careers and might also require degree candidates to write a research-based thesis prior to graduation.

To apply to a BS program, students must have a high school diploma and a background in biology. Applicants to an MS program must hold a bachelor's degree.

Bachelor of Science in Physiology

Many bachelor's degree programs in physiology are offered as ideal undergraduate programs for pre-medical students. They can sometimes be taken by pre-med students as alternatives to a bachelor's degree in biology. Students are expected to learn how to identify and analyze functions of living organisms, including the human body. Other topics covered in a 4-year degree program in physiology include human anatomy, neuroanatomy, cardiopulmonary pathophysiology, exercise physiology and neurophysiology. Example include:

  • Cell biology
  • Organic chemistry and biochemistry
  • Systems physiology and animal physiology
  • Basic physics
  • Human anatomy and nutrition science
  • Pathophysiology

Master of Science in Physiology

Master's degree programs in physiology are designed primarily for students who are interested in exploring research in a particular aspect of physiology. Students are often asked to select their own area of interest in the field, such as muscle physiology and aging, issues in cardiopulmonary disease or memory and neurobiology. The curriculum included within a graduate program in physiology is highly changeable, depending upon a students' selected course of study. Some examples of core courses and possible electives include:

  • Biostatistics
  • Molecular and muscle biology
  • Cardiopulmonary pathophysiology
  • Exercise physiology
  • Gross human anatomy
  • Neural systems

Popular Career Options

Bachelor's degree programs in physiology are often chosen to lay the foundation for graduate study. However, they can also prepare students for entry-level positions in hospitals, research facilities or insurance companies. Some career options include:

  • Biotech researcher
  • Clinical lab technician
  • Pharmaceutical technician
  • Clinical assistant

A graduate degree in physiology can prepare individuals for careers in academia, clinical practice or pharmaceuticals. Some specific examples of possible careers include:

  • Associate professor of physiology and anatomy
  • Research physiologist
  • Pharmaceutical research manager
  • Fitness center director
  • Rehabilitation center manager

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, biological science postsecondary teachers were projected to see a 11% increase in jobs from 2018 to 2028. The median annual salary for biological science professors was $82,550 in May 2018.

Continuing Education Information

While some graduates of a bachelor's degree program in physiology can go on to a master's degree program in the field, most choose to enroll in medical programs. A bachelor's degree in physiology can be a strong lead-in to medical, dentistry, biochemistry or similar graduate degree programs. Students can also use a degree in physiology as a jumping off point to begin graduate studies in health administration, public health, education and even law.

There are both undergraduate and graduate-level programs offered in physiology. While bachelor's degree programs provide a general overview of the field to prepare graduates for entry-level lab positions or admission to medical school, master's degree programs allow for focused research in a student's interest area.

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