Exercise Physiologists


Quick Facts: Exercise Physiologists
2017 Median Pay $49,090 per year 
$23.60 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 15,100
Job Outlook, 2016-26 13% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 2,000

Join Nextstep Career Mentorship Programs for Exercise  Physiologists with our partners:


Exercise Physiologists Career, Salary and Education Information

What Exercise Physiologists Do

Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help patients recover from chronic diseases and improve cardiovascular function, body composition, and flexibility.

exersicphysiol.jpg

Excercise Physiologists

Duties of eXCERCISE pHYSIOLOGISTS

Exercise physiologists typically do the following:

  • Analyze a patient’s medical history to assess their risk during exercise and to determine the best possible exercise and fitness regimen for the patient

  • Perform fitness and stress tests with medical equipment and analyze the resulting patient data

  • Measure blood pressure, oxygen usage, heart rhythm, and other key patient health indicators

  • Develop exercise programs to improve patients’ health

Exercise physiologists work to improve overall patient health. Many of their patients suffer from health problems such as cardiovascular disease or pulmonary (lung) disease. Exercise physiologists provide health education and exercise plans to improve key health indicators.

Some physiologists work closely with primary care physicians, who may prescribe exercise regimens for their patients and refer them to exercise physiologists. The physiologists then work with patients to develop individualized treatment plans that will help the patients meet their health and fitness goals.

Exercise physiologists should not be confused with fitness trainers and instructors (including personal trainers) or athletic trainers.


Work Environment for Exercise Physiologists

Exercise physiologists held about 15,100 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of exercise physiologists were as follows:

Self-employed workers: 53%

Hospitals; state, local, and private: 26%

Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists: 4%

Offices of physicians: 3%

Government: 3%

Work Schedules for exercise physiologists

Most exercise physiologists work full time.


How to Become an Exercise Physiologist

Exercise physiologists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree. Degree programs include science and health-related courses, such as biology, anatomy, kinesiology, and nutrition, as well as clinical work.

Education

Exercise physiologists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology, exercise science, kinesiology, or a related field. Master’s degree programs also are available. Programs include courses in science and health-related subjects, such as biology, anatomy, statistics, kinesiology, and nutrition, as well as clinical work. In 2017, there were about 60 programs in exercise physiology, exercise science, and kinesiology accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Louisiana is the only state that requires exercise physiologists to be licensed, although some states have pending legislation to create licensure requirements.

Employers typically require exercise physiologists to have Basic Life Support (BLS) certification or Advanced Life Support (ACLS) certification, both of which include training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

The American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP) offers the Exercise Physiologist Certified (EPC) certification, which physiologists can use to demonstrate their qualifications. To be eligible for certification, candidates must pass the ASEP exam and hold ASEP membership. In addition, candidates must have either a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology or a bachelor’s degree in a related field, and they must have completed specific coursework requirements. To maintain certification, candidates must complete continuing education courses every 5 years.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also offers certifications for exercise physiologists: the Certified Exercise Physiologist (EP-C) and the Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist (CEP) credentials for candidates with a bachelor’s degree, as well as the Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP) for candidates with a master’s or higher degree. All three ACSM credentials require CPR certification and passing an exam. Candidates for the CEP and the RCEP also must have at least 400 and 600 hours of supervised clinical experience, respectively. All three ACSM certifications require candidates to complete continuing education courses every 3 years, and keep their CPR certification up to date.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Because exercise physiologists work with patients who may be in considerable pain or discomfort, they must be sympathetic while working with patients.

Decisionmaking skills. Exercise physiologists must make informed clinical decisions because those decisions could affect the health or livelihood of patients.

Detail oriented. Exercise physiologists must record detailed, accurate information about their patients’ conditions and about any progress the patients make. For example, they must ensure that patients are completing the appropriate stress tests or practicing the correct fitness regimen.

Interpersonal skills. Exercise physiologists must have strong interpersonal skills and manage difficult situations. They must communicate clearly with others, including physicians, patients, and patients’ families.


SaLARIES FOR Exercise Physiologists 

The median annual wage for exercise physiologists was $49,090 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,250, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,410.

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for exercise physiologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government: $71,600

Hospitals; state, local, and private: $48,660

Offices of physicians: $48,220

Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists: $41,460


Job Outlook FOR EXCERCISE PHYSIOLOGISTS

Employment of exercise physiologists is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand may rise as hospitals emphasize exercise and preventive care to help patients recover from cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and improve their overall health.

Employment projections data for Exercise Physiologists, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 15,100

Projected Employment, 2026: 17,100

Change, 2016-2026: +13%, +2,000


Careers Related TO EXCERCISE PHYSIOLOGISTS

Athletic Trainers

Athletic trainers specialize in preventing, diagnosing, and treating muscle and bone injuries and illnesses.

Chiropractors

Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They use spinal adjustments and manipulation, as well as other clinical interventions, to manage patients’ health concerns, such as back and neck pain.

Fitness Trainers and Instructors

Fitness trainers and instructors lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities, including cardiovascular exercises (exercises for the heart and blood circulation), strength training, and stretching. They work with people of all ages and skill levels.

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients for imaging or therapeutic purposes.

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists treat injured, ill, or disabled patients through the therapeutic use of everyday activities. They help these patients develop, recover, improve, as well as maintain the skills needed for daily living and working.

Physical Therapists

Physical therapists, sometimes called PTs, help injured or ill people improve their movement and manage their pain. These therapists are often an important part of the rehabilitation, treatment, and prevention of patients with chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries.

Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses. These therapists use a variety of modalities, including arts and crafts; drama, music, and dance; sports and games; aquatics; and community outings to help maintain or improve a patient’s physical, social, and emotional well-being.

Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, from a chronic respiratory disease, such as asthma or emphysema. Their patients range from premature infants with undeveloped lungs to elderly patients who have diseased lungs. They also provide emergency care to patients suffering from heart attacks, drowning, or shock.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Athletic TrainersBachelor's degree$46,630
Nuclear Medicine TechnologistsAssociate's degree$75,660
Occupational TherapistsMaster's degree$83,200
Physical TherapistsDoctoral or professional degree$86,850
Recreational TherapistsBachelor's degree$47,680
Respiratory TherapistsAssociate's degree$59,710
ChiropractorsDoctoral or professional degree$68,640
Fitness Trainers and InstructorsHigh school diploma or equivalent$39,210

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Exercise Physiologists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/exercise-physiologists.htm