Exercise Physiologists

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Exercise Physiologists Do[About this section] [To Top]

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

Duties of Exercise Physiologists

Exercise physiologists typically do the following:

  • Analyze a patient’s medical history 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 patient health
  • Supervise clinical tests to ensure patient safety

Exercise physiologists, sometimes called kinesiotherapists, 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 regiments 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[About this section] [To Top]

Exercise physiologists hold about 14,500 jobs. About half of exercise physiologists are self-employed. Most others work in hospitals or in offices of health practitioners.

Exercise Physiologist Work Schedules

Most exercise physiologists work full time.

How to Become an Exercise Physiologist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Exercise Physiologists near you!

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.

Exercise Physiologist Education

Exercise physiologists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree. Master’s degree programs also are common. Both degree programs include courses in science and health-related subjects, such as biology, anatomy, kinesiology, and nutrition, as well as clinical work. In 2015, there were about 50 exercise programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

High school students interested in postsecondary exercise physiology programs should take courses in anatomy, physiology, and physics.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

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

The American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP) offers the Exercise Physiologist Certified (EPC) certification, which physiologists can use to demonstrate their qualifications. Certification requires graduation with a relevant bachelor’s degree and coursework, completing the ASEP exam, and taking continuing education courses every 5 years.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also offers certifications for exercise physiologists: the Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist (CEP) credential for candidates with a bachelor’s degree and the Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist® (RCEP) for candidates with a master’s degree. Candidates also must have at least 400 or 600 hours of supervised clinical experience for the CEP and RCEP credential, respectively, and pass an exam.

Important Qualities for Exercise Physiologists

Compassion. Exercise physiologists work with patients who may be in considerable pain or discomfort. Therefore, they must be sympathetic while providing treatments and developing individualized exercise programs for the patients.

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

Detail oriented. Exercise physiologists must be able to 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 be able to manage difficult situations. They must be able to communicate well with others, including physicians, patients, and patients’ families.

Exercise Physiologist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for exercise physiologists is $47,010. 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 $31,540, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,840.

Most exercise physiologists work full time.

Job Outlook for Exercise Physiologists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of exercise physiologists is projected to grow 11 percent through 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand may rise as hospitals emphasize exercise and preventive care as part of their treatment and long-term rehabilitation from chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases.

Exercise Physiologist Job Prospects

However, because this is a small occupation in terms of employment, competition for available positions is expected to remain high. Additionally, because licensure for exercise physiologists is not common, there are few recognized standards of practice for these workers.

Employment projections data for Exercise Physiologists, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Exercise physiologists 14,500 16,000 11 1,500

*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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