Health & Medicine

Postgraduate courses in Physiology

Physiology accounts for quite a number of jobs in the broad area of health and medicine. There are many different kinds of physiologists which work in different areas but carry out similar duties in their specific areas. 

We have the basic information for you below should you want to take this route in your career and again a postgraduate degree to develop your career. 

If you’re looking to specialise in a specific area, we have a few examples for you below. 

What is physiology?

Physiology is the scientific study of functions and mechanisms in a living system. It can be investigated at the level of cells, tissues, organ systems, and the whole body. The main goal of physiology is to be able to explain the mechanisms that take place in a human body or animal and how exactly they interact. 

What does a physiologist do?

Physiologists could work an average of 40 hours a week possibly including evening and weekends. The duties of a physiologist may differ from day today and depending on the area of physiology you are working in. Different areas include clinical physiology, animal physiology, plant physiology, exercise physiology, cell physiology, viral physiology, medical physiology, and exercise physiology . 

General duties carried out include: 

  • Conduct research in areas such as respiration, circulation, excretion, movement etc
  • Carry out experiments to find the effects of internal and external environmental factors on life processes and functions
  • Use equipment such as microscopes, x-ray equipment, spectroscopes
  • Study the human body and its functions 
  • Examine how organs and systems work together
  • Monitor patients during exercise or cardiopulmonary diagnostic testing 
  • Test and record patient observations
  • Study areas such as glands and their relationship with bodily functions
  • Study the effects hazardous natural processes such as animal bites, plant poison
  • Provide treatment for these natural processes
  • Identify spread of symptoms 


There are many courses to choose from in this area across the UK. Some courses offer the option of studying both part-time or full time. Some courses may have restrictions or changes due to Covid-19. More detail on courses can be found on university websites or course overviews. Examples of courses include:

Animal Behaviour

Postgraduate courses in animal behaviour allows students to learn about the mechanisms underlying behaviour. You will look at cutting edge techniques to uncover the secrets of the natural world. Students will gain an understanding of key ethical dilemmas in the field and have the opportunity to improve their research skills. 

Exercise Physiology

Exercise physiology postgraduate courses have a strong emphasis on active learning and practical training. It will help students to gear their career towards working with athletes, coaches, governing bodies and industry to help optimize elite performance. Students will gain the relevant knowledge, carry out research and gain the skill in order to do so. 

Cellular and Molecular Physiology

Postgraduate courses in this area focus on the understanding of how molecular and cellular processes give rise to complex physiologic functions. There will be focus on areas such as modern physiology, gene expression to cell, tissue and whole organism biology. Other areas of focus include smooth muscle physiology, intestinal epithelial cell biology in health and disease, mechanisms of infection and immune call response, to name a few. 

Other courses available include Clinical Exercise Physiology, Human, Applied Physiology and Sport and Exercise and Human Physiology among others. 

Entry requirements 

Entry requirements may change from course to course and University to University so it is important to research your specific course to be sure you meet the criteria. An undergraduate degree in physiology or related fields such as animal behavioural science or sports science. Some courses will look for a 2.1 degree while a 2.2 may suffice in others. More detailed course outlines can be found on University websites and course overviews. 

Typical Employers

The typical employers may include:

  • NHS
  • Private hospitals 
  • Healthcare organisations
  • Medical centres
  • Research and academic field
  • Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies


The salary of a physiologist can differ depending on their employment and the area of physiology they decide to work in. We will look at a couple of examples to give you an idea. All figures are based on estimates and are used as a guide only. As a clinical physiologist, your starting salary may be around £37,570 if you are working with the NHS. With time and experience, you can earn between £44,606 to £60,983. As an exercise physiologist you can earn anything from £18,000 to £35,000. 

Skills and requirements 

Skills and requirements needed in this area include:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Ability to work well with others
  • Strong verbal skills
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Excellent problem solving skills
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to question 
  • Good judgement 
  • Critical mind
  • Computer and IT skills
  • Planning skills
  • Time management skills 

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