How To Become A Physiologist (With Skills And Duties)
Updated 9 June 2023
Physiology involves studying how genes, cells, tissues, organ systems and organisms function. Physiologists study various aspects of how human and animal bodies work, such as the behaviour of individual proteins in single cells or the interaction of cells in organ systems. If you want to explore a career as a Physiologist, you can benefit from learning the duties and skills required to excel in the field. In this article, we define what a Physiologist is, provide a step-by-step guide on how to become a Physiologist, share their educational requirements and skills required, and list some career options.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.
What Is A Physiologist?
Physiologists study life processes and functions of living organisms, such as humans, animals and plants. They may specialise in the physiology of a particular body area, function or system like neurophysiology, exercise physiology, pulmonary physiology, diagnosis physiology, pharmacology and nephrology. They work in universities, research institutions and biotechnology, and pharmaceutical companies. Here are some of their responsibilities:
Conducting experiments and observations to assess the effects of internal, and external environmental factors on the body
Analysing data and determining results to derive conclusions
Measuring and monitoring patient vital signs, such as heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen levels
Developing and implementing exercise programmes for individuals or groups
Writing research papers and presenting their findings at conferences
Collaborating with other health care experts to provide comprehensive care to patients
How To Become A Physiologist?
Here are the steps you can follow to learn how to become a Physiologist:
1. Get a formal education
The primary qualification to be a Physiologist is to complete the 10+2 senior secondary education from a recognised board. Candidates require having a minimum aggregate of 50% or above in the 10+2 examination with physics, chemistry and biology to pursue undergraduate courses. For postgraduate degrees, candidates require having a minimum of 60% or above in a bachelor's degree in science stream with subjects like physics, chemistry, biology and physiology. There are various undergraduate degrees, such as Bachelor of Arts in physiology, Bachelor of Science in physiotherapy and Bachelor of Science (BSc) in physiology.
Admissions to these courses depend on the student's entrance examination scores or their 10+2 grades. Some common entrance exams for BSc include Kerala Engineering Architecture Medical (KEAM) and Common University Entrance Test (CUET). Candidates can opt for postgraduate degrees, such as a Master of Science (MSc) in physiology, cell biology, anatomy or human physiology, to further their knowledge and skill in the field. They can also consider a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in physiology, human physiology and pathophysiology.
2. Gain research experience
You can check the science or undergraduate research websites of institutions for opportunities to assist with faculty research. Volunteering in a laboratory at local universities or research institutions can help you gain research experience. Many universities offer summer research programmes to undergrad and postgraduate students. You can also look for independent research projects to learn ways to collect and analyse data, and present your findings. Alternatively, you can work under the guidance of a principal investigator or faculty member as part of a research assistantship.
3. Obtain relevant certifications
There are several certifications available that you can choose from depending on your interests and career goals. Look for the eligibility requirements, such as education, work experience and training, while selecting a certification. Make sure to review the exam content outline, gather reference materials and take practice exams for the certification examinations. Some standard certifications include:
4. Gain work experience
You can gain clinical experience through internships, volunteer work or part-time jobs in related fields such as physical therapy, occupational therapy or cardiac rehabilitation. You can search for job openings on various job search websites to find entry-level jobs. You can also take part in online forums and attend conferences to stay up-to-date on the latest research, and developments in physiology.
5. Network with people
Reach out to experts in the field of physiology through professional organisations to learn about job openings and potential opportunities. You can attend networking events and conferences to meet researchers, professors, students and recent graduates. You can also volunteer at events related to physiology to meet new people.
Skills To Become A Physiologist
Here are some skills required to become a Physiologist:
Knowledge of public health
Knowledge of public health helps Physiologists determine how they can translate physiological observations at the cellular and molecular levels into applications that benefit public health. It helps them understand how social, environmental and behavioural factors impact health outcomes. Physiologists can use this knowledge to better understand the mechanisms behind the development of diseases and conditions. They can contribute to this research by conducting studies that provide insight into the mechanisms behind various health outcomes and by identifying potential targets for interventions.
Strong research skills help Physiologists understand the functioning of the human body and other living organisms and developing new treatments for various diseases. Physiologists require designing and conducting experiments, analysing data and interpreting their findings. Reading research articles and taking part in research projects can help develop critical thinking skills and an understanding of research methodology, and interpretation.
Laboratory skills, such as the proper use of microscopes, sample preparation, dissection, spectrophotometers, chromatography systems and electrophoresis equipment, are critical for conducting experiments and research. You can learn these techniques with hands-on laboratory classes to work with various glassware and instrumentation. You can also opt for internships or apprenticeships in laboratories to improve your laboratory skills by working with experienced researchers.
Empathy is an essential skill in health care which helps medical experts understand patients' concerns. Physiologists often treat patients experiencing pain and severe health concerns. Being empathetic helps them make patients feel comfortable and identify their health issues more accurately, allowing them to provide more effective treatment. Empathy can prevent burnout in Physiologists by allowing them to understand and manage their emotional reactions to a patient's problems. You can develop empathy through self-reflection, taking part in communication programmes and being understanding of patients' concerns to create a more supportive therapeutic environment and improve patient outcomes.
Career Opportunities For Physiologists
Here are some career opportunities for Physiologists:
Medical Sales Representative
Medical Sales Representatives promote products like medications and equipment to medical institutions, pharmacists and medical experts. Their duties include presenting a company's products and negotiating, and submitting purchase orders. They are also responsible for conducting product demonstrations, prospecting for physicians, managing inventory and customer accounts, attending surgeries and providing customer support. They also explain the benefits and features of products by contacting potential customers, and answering their queries.
Medical Writers create written content for academic institutions, medical communication agencies and pharmaceutical companies. They write about new drugs, clinical trials, health care policies, treatment guidelines and disease prevention techniques. They develop marketing materials, such as promotional materials, brochures and ghostwritten articles for scientific publications, websites and advertisements. Medical writers may also conduct literature reviews to gather information on the latest developments in the field. They do this by collaborating with scientists and researchers to interpret research findings, and translate them into clear and concise written content.
Research Assistants help collect, analyse, manage and report research, and medical data. They conduct experiments related to research projects, prepare solutions, collect and analyse samples, record data and write reports to summarise their research findings. They prepare documentation, technical reports, summaries and protocols. Research Assistants may organise focus groups and collect initial research data through surveys.
Lab Technicians are responsible for performing various laboratory tasks, such as preparing and dispensing solutions, conducting medical laboratory tests and preparing biological samples for analysis. They manage the storage and inventory of experimental materials, and equipment, such as centrifuges, pipetting machines and pH meters. They also perform mathematical calculations and data collection for basic research, and experiments.
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