Physiology programs train students to look at the human body -- right down
to the individual cells if necessary -- to unlock the secrets of life.
Anne Atwater teaches at the University of Arizona. She notes that physiology
can be included within the larger discipline of biology.
"Students...are required to take several prerequisite courses in the biological
and physical sciences before completing the major program in physiological
sciences," says Atwater.
"Therefore, they have a foundation in general biology before pursuing greater
depth within the area of physiology."
Programs vary. Some schools focus on plant physiology, while others
focus on human and animal physiology.
"We take an integrative approach to the discipline and include the study
of how living cells function at the chemical and molecular level, how specific
organ systems function (that is, cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal,
etc.), and how organ or system functions are affected by the pathological
effects of diseases and environmental factors," says Atwater.
Joe Casey is a physiology professor. He says his program begins with general
science courses in the first year and becomes progressively more specialized
until the fourth and final year of the program.
"The range of courses begins with basic biology, physics and chemistry
and leads to introductory biochemistry and physiology," says Casey. "In
third and fourth year, specialized courses include cell biology, pharmacology
and subspecialties of physiology such as cell physiology and cardiovascular
At many schools, students are able to participate in research projects
conducted by physiology faculty members and receive university credit for
Students should be well-rounded academically, with good analytical,
writing and oral communication skills. Above all, according to Atwater,
they should be intellectually curious and prepared for serious studying.
In high school, take biology, chemistry, physics and algebra. Trigonometry
is also recommended.
Casey adds that courses such as English, history and philosophy
help strengthen a student's critical thinking and writing skills.
The main costs are tuition and books, although some courses require lab
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Biological
Your Gross and Cool Body
Learn how your body makes everything from sweat to ear wax
See how physiology applies to sports
Physiology and Biophysics
A great list of links from Wright State University Libraries