Physiology is a biological discipline that focuses on the forms and functions of living organisms. Physiologists perform research to gather more information on how a living organism -- be it an animal, human being or plant-- reproduces, grows and moves. These professionals apply their knowledge in a range of fields, including health and fitness. Keep reading to learn more about this profession.
1. What Do Physiologists Do?
The specific duties of physiologists vary by specialty as described below:
- Study how the human body adapts to diverse physical exercise conditions
- Study the effects of exercise on reverse disease progression
- Evaluate a person’s physical health
- Develop customized fitness programs to meet the physical health needs of individuals, or performance goals of athletes.
- Study biological, physical and chemical functions of living plants
- Study how various plant species reproduce
- Analyze the effects of soil type on plant growth
- Determine the causes of death in plants
- Research organic and cellular structure in animals
- Study animal reproduction, metabolism and nutrition
- Assess animal housing facilities to determine whether the housing environment supports optimal animal health.
These are some of the popular specialties in physiology. Others include deep sea physiology, space physiology and clinical physiology.
2. Work Environment
All physiologists work from 9am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.
Depending on their areas of specialism, physiologists can be found in laboratories, fitness studios or outdoors collecting research samples.
According to the job site Indeed, physiologists earn an average annual salary of $57,000.
4. Entry Requirements
At the undergraduate level, you will gain a basic understanding of various physiology branches. This will help you to make a sound decision about the field in which you would like to specialize in graduate school.
However, if your mind is already made up, then you can find an undergraduate program that focuses on your area of interest. For example, if you have decided on becoming an exercise physiologist, then you should pursue a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology, like the one offered at Barry University in Florida.
Depending on your specialty, you may also need to obtain a license in order to find employment. For instance, if you want to practice as a clinical exercise physiologist in North Carolina, you will need a license. Be sure to verify whether your state regulates the practice of physiologists.
5. Important Qualities
To be a competent physiologist, you need;
- Excellent analytical skills
- Strong research skills
- Strong observation skills
- Strong problem-solving skills
- Teamwork skills
- A keen attention to detail
- A passion for science
- Practical and technical skills
- Good communication skills
- A good level of physical fitness (particularly for exercise physiologists).
6. Career Advancement
Like many scientific professions, seeking advanced credentials is the surest way to work your way up in physiology. If you entered the profession with a bachelor degree, one of your first objectives should be to earn a master’s degree.
If you are specializing in exercise physiology, be sure to obtain a professional certification from the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP).
Other industry associations like the American Physiological Society also offer membership opportunities, which should seize to access professional development resources such as conferences and research publications.
Doctoral programs in various physiology specialties are also available for those who wish to reach the highest heights in their careers.
7. Job Opportunities
The employers of physiologists include:
- Healthcare facilities
- Research facilities
- Government agencies
- Sports clubs and fitness studios
- Athletes – they hire exercise physiologists to work as fitness instructors
Experienced physiologists with advanced credentials often advance to become senior researchers. Others, especially those with a PhD, move into academia and become lecturers.
The job outlook for physiologists varies from specialty to specialty. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the employment of exercise physiologists, will grow by 9 percent (slightly slower than average) from 2012 through 2022. In general, the best opportunities will be available to those with advanced credentials.
So if you would love to study the processes behind the functioning of animals, humans or plants, then you should become a physiologist.