Physiology, General  Program Description


Insider Info

dotPhysiology 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 physiology."

At many schools, students are able to participate in research projects conducted by physiology faculty members and receive university credit for this experience.

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 fees.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Biological Scientists

Your Gross and Cool Body
Learn how your body makes everything from sweat to ear wax

Exercise Physiology
See how physiology applies to sports

Physiology and Biophysics
A great list of links from Wright State University Libraries

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this program is about? Check out Just the Facts for a simple description.