Are you fascinated by the human body? Do you enjoy learning how brain cells work or how disease affects muscle tissue? Are you curious about how it is that your heart and blood vessels, which work so effectively most of the time, can sometimes fail? A physiologist analyzes these functions of the human body, at the whole organism, cellular and/or molecular levels. As a physiologist you might choose a career in research or clinical practice. Either way, you’ll need a strong science background.
What do Physiologists do?
Many go on to become medical doctors or other health care professionals; others pursue careers in research. With an undergraduate degree in Human Physiology, you could be a research assistant, lab technician, clinical trials coordinator, surgical technician, or medical assistant. You could also work as a medical sales representative, as a scientific or medical writer, or in the biotechnology field.
If you continue to graduate school in the clinical sciences, you could become a medical doctor, physician’s assistant, nurse, dentist, or physical therapist. Alternatively, you might pursue your doctorate and head a physiology research program in a university, government, or hospital setting. You could also go into hospital or health care administration, public health, science policy, or work in health or patent law.
Where do Physiologists work?
- Hospitals and other health care centers
- Medical and dental schools
- Private or government research centers
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Biotechnology industry
What will I like (or dislike) about this work?
- Understanding how living processes and systems work
- Focusing on and solving a problem
- Combination of independence and working with others
- Approaching problems from both big-picture and detailed perspectives
- Working with teams of health professionals on a shared problem
- Writing and communicating with others
- Helping others to live longer and better lives through biomedical research
How is the job outlook?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook (2010-2011): job opportunities for physiologists should be about the same as those for all occupations. Biotech and pharmaceutical research and development will continue as strong employers of those with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physiology. Many of those employed will use their science background for positions in sales, marketing, and research management, rather than work as bench scientists. The outlook is not as rosy for physiologists with doctoral degrees who face increasing competition for a limited number of positions.
What are the Educational Requirements?
- Bachelor’s degree (minimum)
- Master’s degree for many clinical careers, management, or public health
- PhD to work in a university, private, or government research lab
- MD to practice medicine
- JD to practice patent or health law