Options with physiology
Physiology is the science of normal functions and phenomena of living organisms. During your course, you study the biochemistry of individual cells, integrating this into an understanding of organ function and how living things work. Physiology often looks at the bigger biological picture, creating a broad base of knowledge. The ability to look at science from different angles (individual pieces as well as the big picture) is considered a skill in itself.
Studying physiology enables you to develop skills in planning, conducting/evaluating experiments, and researching and interpreting scientific literature. You also develop the ability to communicate science to both peers and non-scientists and to present work in a variety of ways, including giving talks, writing fluently and presenting results in graphs, tables and diagrams.
In addition, you gain a wide range of transferable skills highly sought after by employers. These skills include:
Jobs that are analytical and quantitative often appeal to physiologists. These include jobs in areas such as law, computing, accountancy, journalism, banking and insurance.
You may be interested in working for a charity that funds research or in gaining the necessary experience to be able to go abroad to work for an organisation such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) , Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) or Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) .
However, your career path may bear no direct relation to what you did in your degree. Your physiology degree can lead on to many different career paths, both subject specific and generic.
Although some of the jobs listed here might not be first jobs for many graduates, they are among the many realistic possibilities with your degree, provided you can demonstrate you have the attributes employers are looking for. Bear in mind that it’s not just your degree discipline that determines your options. Remember that many graduate vacancies don't specify particular degree disciplines, so don't restrict your thinking to the jobs listed here. Look at your degree... what next? for informed advice on career planning and graduate employment, or login/register with My Prospects to find out what jobs would suit you, a helpful starting point for self-analysis.
Explore types of jobs to find out more about the above options and related jobs.
A 2012 HESA survey of 2011 graduates indicates that six months after finishing their course 44% of physiology graduates were in UK or overseas employment, with a further 7.8% combining work and further study.
Of these, over a quarter had gone on to work as scientific research, analysis and development professionals, 7.4% in associate professional and technical occupations and 7% had taken posts in the health sector. An additional 5.6% were working as commercial, industrial and public sector managers and the same figure as business or financial professionals. 15.9% were working in retail or catering or as waiting or bar staff.
There are three main ways you can use your physiology degree in a graduate job:
The major scientific employers of physiology graduates are:
The armed forces also employ clinical physiologists. For more information see Army Jobs .
Non-scientific employers include:
Most opportunities are available throughout the UK, although corporate headquarters and the larger pharmaceutical companies tend to be in the South of England. Biotechnology companies often appear in clusters, such as in Nottingham, Edinburgh and Oxford.
For an insight into other job sectors see:
For further information on possibilities in other employment areas, see job sectors.
Statistics are collected every year to show what HE students do immediately after graduation. These can be a useful guide but, in reality, because the data is collected within six months of graduation, many graduates are travelling, waiting to start a course, paying off debts, getting work experience or still deciding what they want to do. For further information about some of the areas of employment commonly entered by graduates of any degree discipline, check out What Do Graduates Do? and your degree...what next?
A 2011 HESA survey of 2010 graduates indicates that six months after finishing their course 38% of physiology graduates had gone on to further study, with a further 7% combining work with further study.
Some graduates choose to undertake a second undergraduate degree, such as medicine or veterinary medicine. There are graduate fast-track medical courses available at some UK universities. See the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website for details.
Others continue their interest in physiology through a postgraduate qualification such as an MSc, MRes or PhD. In academia, a PhD is generally required to obtain a lectureship. In industry, a PhD is not essential, although most heads of section possess one. Some large employers, such as major pharmaceutical companies, may sponsor a relevant part-time Masters or PhD.
Some graduates move away from pure physiology through an MSc or diploma in related subjects such as forensic science, toxicology, osteopathy or speech therapy. Others change direction by studying courses such as law, teaching, computing or accountancy.
These trends show only what previous graduates in your subject did immediately upon graduating. Over the course of their career - the first few years in particular - many others will opt for some form of further study, either part time or full time. If further study interests you, start by thinking about postgraduate study in the UK and search courses and research to identify your options.
For details relating to finance and the application process, look at funding my further study.