How to Become a Physiologist

Physiology is a scientific discipline that focuses on the function of a variety of living systems. Physiologists are biological scientists that specialize on how human beings and other living things function.


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What does a physiologist do?

Physiologists concentrate on how the human body and many different other living organisms function. They study functions from the cellular level to the entire organism and investigate how organisms interact with their environment and other living things. Physiologists are concerned with the internal function of organs, blood circulation, energy utilization, excretion, reproduction, immune systems, and a variety of other bodily functions. They also study everything that influences how organisms function such as nutrition, absorption, and diseases. Many physiologists conduct a variety of research activities on plants and animals. They often collaborate with a variety of other professionals. Physiologists often work for universities, laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and hospitals.

What kind of training does a physiologist need?

Physiologists typically need at least a bachelor degree in a science related field and a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree. Prospective physiologists usually complete courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, and exercise science. Many aspiring physiologists complete internships or shadow experienced professionals to gain practical experience in the field. Many physiologists specialize in a specific area such as exercise physiology, respiratory physiology, and neurophysiology. Physiologists must complete continuing education and additional training on a regular basis throughout their careers to keep their skills current and stay up to date with advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as a physiologist?

Employment of physiologists is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 21% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The growing and aging population and increased demand for physiology research will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be good with some competition. Physiologists with advanced training and extensive experience will have the best job opportunities. Some job openings will stem from the need to replace physiologists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do physiologists make?

As of April 2010, the middle 50% of physiologists earn annual salaries between $40,597 and $51,046. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $56,198 (2).

A career as a physiologist is a great choice for people with a strong interest in physiology and focusing on the function of a variety of living things. Physiologists must have a solid understanding of the concepts and procedures of physiology and a thorough knowledge of many different research methods. Patience, mathematical aptitude, physical stamina, and logical thinking are necessary characteristics. Physiologists must have strong communication and interpersonal skills and ability to interact with a variety of professionals and patients. They must be able to work effectively independently as well as part of a team. They must also be quick on their feet and be able to make effective decisions under pressure.

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