Difference Between Physiotherapist & Exercise Physiologist

Physiotherapists and exercise physiologists provide healthcare services to people who are experiencing medical issues. The needs of their patients differ, and there are some key differences between these professions that this article explores.

Comparing Physiotherapist to Exercise Physiologist

Physiotherapists are also known as physical therapists, and they earn higher salaries and have better job prospects than exercise physiologists. Physiotherapists work with patients who have been injured or affected by an illness. They are qualified to diagnose the patient's condition and use a variety of strategies to treat their condition. Exercise physiologists work with people who have had a disease by administering exercise programs to improve patients' health. The sections below further highlight similarities and differences between these two professions.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Physiotherapist Doctoral Degree $85,400 34%
Exercise Physiologist Bachelor's Degree $47,340 11%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Physiotherapist vs Exercise Physiologist

Physiotherapists and exercise physiologists are both involved in treating people with medical issues, and can find themselves working in a hospital or medical office environment. Physiotherapists are qualified to diagnose patients, and they may use exercise or assistive devices in their patient's treatment. The objective of a physiotherapist is to help patients gain or regain motor functions or manage their pain. Exercise therapists focus on helping their patients improve their physical health through exercise. They may create programs with a specific focus, such as helping a patient lose weight or improve cardio.


Physiotherapists must have a doctoral degree in physical therapy and a license. Although just over a quarter of physiotherapists work in hospitals, the highest percentage work in medical offices. Physical therapists may also work in nursing homes or provide in-home medical care to patients. Their work hours may vary and include evenings and weekends, depending on where they're employed. Physical therapists treat people who are having pain or mobility issues.

Job responsibilities of a physiotherapist include:

  • Determine the cause of a patient's medical issues
  • Create treatment plans for patients
  • Set targets for patient progress
  • Teach patients exercises that can help with their condition
  • Teach patients how to use equipment such as walkers
  • Document patient progress

Exercise Physiologist

Exercise physiologists can enter their profession with a bachelor's degree. A high percentage of exercise physiologists are self-employed, while others work in hospitals or medical offices. Those who work in medical offices may confer with physicians to determine the best approach to treating patients. Exercise physiologists typically work with patients who have been affected by disease and create exercise plans for them that are intended to improve their health.

Job responsibilities of an exercise physiologist include:

  • Review the patient's medical condition
  • Conduct tests on patients using medical equipment
  • Assess test results and relevant medical data
  • Create an exercise plan for patients
  • Teach patients how to perform exercises
  • Assess the treatment's effectiveness

Related Careers

Aspiring physiologists may also be interested in becoming occupational therapists, since occupational therapists also work with patients who may have been affected by injuries or illnesses. Another career option for those considering a career as an exercise physiologist is to become a physical therapy assistant, since physical therapy assistants also teach patients exercise plans that are designed to help them improve their health.

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