Difference Between Anatomist & Physiologist

Anatomists and physiologists both work with the human body; however, their areas of study differ. This article will cover the job descriptions and outlook for each career to assist you in selecting the best one for you.

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Comparing Anatomists to Physiologists

A career as an anatomist or physiologist may be suitable for individuals with an interest in medicine and strong critical-thinking skills. However, while both occupations are in the medical field, the purpose of these professionals' work differs. The main similarities and differences between these careers are highlighted below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Anatomist Master's and doctoral degrees are common $74,790 (Biological scientists, all other) 6% (Life scientists)
Physiologist Ranges from bachelor's to doctoral degree $80,530 (Medical scientists, except epidemiologists) 8% (Medical scientists, except for epidemiologists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Anatomists vs. Physiologists

Anatomists and physiologists both study the human body to better understand it. Both careers require strong analytical and problem-solving skills. An anatomist focuses on anatomical studies of not only humans, but also animals and plants. In contrast, a physiologist focuses on how organs and biological systems interact and how the environment can impact the human body.


As an anatomist, you will be part of a wide field that includes anthropologists, paleontologists, and biomedical engineers. The term ''anatomist'' is generally used to refer to people who research or teach anatomical sciences. Anatomists can work for educational or medical institutions, and many in the field spend time in laboratories conducting experiments or performing applied research. Other job responsibilities can include dissecting plants and animals for educational purposes. A master's or doctoral degree is typically required for these types of teaching or research positions. Job responsibilities of an anatomist include:

  • Teaching courses on subjects such as anatomy and embryology to physician assistant or medical students
  • Operating a laboratory at educational or medical institutions
  • Collaborating with other researchers, scientists, and students on experiments
  • Utilizing anatomical principles to find solutions to particular issues in animals or humans


Physiologists are part of a very broad field that specializes in how the human body works. You may work in research and development, education, or hospital settings. Job responsibilities may include observing and recording patients' vital signs during activity tests, performing laboratory experiments, and advising the treating doctor of test results. Physiologists with advanced work experience may have additional duties, such as serving as a project leader on studies. A bachelor's degree is needed to work as a research assistant, while a master's degree is required for management, clinical, or public health positions. You will need a doctoral degree if you are interested in pursuing a position with a research lab or educational institution.

Job responsibilities of a physiologist include:

  • Operating and maintaining devices used for cardiopulmonary stress tests
  • Opening a research laboratory and managing operations
  • Creating scientific reports based on their findings
  • Instructing or mentoring undergraduate or graduate students

Related Careers

If you would like to become an anatomist, consider a job as a biochemist, as this career focuses on the study of living things at the cellular level. Individuals interested in a career as a physiologist may be interested in a job as an epidemiologist, as both occupations involve studying the effects of disease on the human body.

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