How to Get a College Degree in Physiology

How to be a Personal Trainer

Female Physiology

Chapter 2: A Degree in Physiology

* Don’t miss part 1: How to Get a Degree in Exercise Science

If you’ve ever wondered just what it is that makes humans function the way they do, what keeps our bodies and minds up and running, then you might take a shine to the academic field of physiology, which is basically the study of living systems.

Human physiology, in particular, focuses on the physical, mechanical, biological, and chemical makeup of the human body, including cells, organs, and the body as a whole. You might think this sounds an awful lot like anatomy, and truly the two fields are closely related in that they both study the human body.

Whereas anatomy is largely concerned with the form of the human body, including how all the parts are laid out and interconnected, physiology is more interested in the function of these parts and how they work together in a living organism. Most medical fields require the study of both, but if you’re a lot more interested in the function than the form of humans, a degree in physiology is what you’re looking for.


In general, obtaining a physiology degree will require you to take courses in subjects like:

  • anatomy
  • biology
  • chemistry
  • physics
  • life sciences
  • psychology
  • mathematics
  • not to mention plenty of physiological science courses

Unlike some other related degrees concerning the function of the human body (kinesiology, for example), physiology is a well-established field of study dating back as far as the time of Hippocrates (around 400 BCE). You should therefore have no problem finding a slew of prestigious institutions offering this degree program.

Certification or Degree?

Last time, in How to be a Personal Trainer Chapter 1: How to Get a Degree in Exercise Science, we talked about how so many folks intending to get in to the physical fitness field opt to get certified or licensed instead of acquiring a college degree. We must realized that although a personal trainer and/or sports nutrition certification will give you a strong background in that particular field, most of certifications programs are either online or studied from home, and do not garner the same kind of respect in the industry as a college degree.

A legitimate college degree in physiology could open up a wide variety of career paths, or could even be extended to a masters or doctorate degree in science.

Finding a Good School

In truth, you’ll likely find more colleges with a physiology program than you can shake a stick at, but if you’re looking for some of the most highly rated where this particular degree is concerned, the schools that top the list include:

  • The University of Colorado, Boulder
  • The University of Arizona
  • UCLA
  • Georgetown

You might also consider more prestigious institutions that are strong in the sciences.

Before you select a school and declare your major, though, you might want to consider what kinds of jobs are available to someone with a physiology degree. While you can certainly use it as a springboard for medical or other health-related degrees that require further schooling, such as:

  • pharmacology
  • cardiology
  • neuropsychology
  • forensic science

You might also consider physiology-specific occupations as diverse as:

  • physical fitness
  • physical therapy
  • exercise physiology
  • biotechnology
  • scientific writing
  • consulting
  • teaching

Of course, you will likely find all kinds of jobs in laboratory settings or along the lines of data analysis if such pursuits are more your speed.

In truth, a degree in physiology can open all kinds of doors for the scientific-minded student interested in the inner workings of the living human body. Whether you get a degree from a top-rated school in the field or from a school like the University of Florida, you will have the ability to work with patients in a clinical setting or conduct research studies in a lab if you’d rather.

You shouldn’t have any trouble finding the school and the degree program that’s right for you when you decide to major in physiology.

* Don’t miss part 3: How to Get a Degree in Kinesiology

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