Exercise Physiologists

Summary

Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help patients recover from chronic diseases.
Quick Facts: Exercise Physiologists
2016 Median Pay $47,340 per year
$22.76 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 14,500
Job Outlook, 2014-24 11% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 1,500

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.

Work Environment

About half of exercise physiologists were self-employed in 2014. Most others worked for hospitals, offices of physicians, and other healthcare providers.

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for exercise physiologists was $47,340 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Employment of exercise physiologists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2014 to 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.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for exercise physiologists.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of exercise physiologists with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about exercise physiologists by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Exercise Physiologists Do About this section

Exercise physiologists analyze a patient’s medical history to determine the best possible exercise and fitness regimen.

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

Duties

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 About this section

Exercise physiologists perform fitness and stress tests with medical equipment and analyze the subsequent patient data.

Exercise physiologists held about 14,500 jobs in 2014.

About half of exercise physiologists were self-employed in 2014. Most others worked in hospitals or in offices of health practitioners.

Work Schedules

Most exercise physiologists work full time.

How to Become an Exercise Physiologist About this section

Exercise physiologists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree.

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. 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

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.

Pay About this section

Exercise Physiologists

Median annual wages, May 2016

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

$77,980

Exercise physiologists

$47,340

Total, all occupations

$37,040

 

The median annual wage for exercise physiologists was $47,340 in May 2016. 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 $32,290, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $74,330.

Most exercise physiologists work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Exercise Physiologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

17%

Exercise physiologists

11%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of exercise physiologists is projected to grow 11 percent from 2014 to 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.

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 SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Exercise physiologists

29-1128 14,500 16,000 11 1,500 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of exercise physiologists.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
Athletic trainers

Athletic Trainers

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

Bachelor's degree $45,630
Nuclear medicine technologists

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists operate equipment that creates images of areas of a patient’s body. They prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients. The radioactive drugs cause abnormal areas of the body to appear different from normal areas in the images.

Associate's degree $74,350
Occupational therapists

Occupational Therapists

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

Master's degree $81,910
Physical therapists

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.

Doctoral or professional degree $85,400
Physician assistants

Physician Assistants

Physician assistants, also known as PAs, practice medicine on teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers. They examine, diagnose, and treat patients.

Master's degree $101,480
Recreational therapists

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.

Bachelor's degree $46,410
Respiratory therapists

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.

Associate's degree $58,670
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Exercise Physiologists,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/exercise-physiologists.htm (visited October 18, 2017).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

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State & Area Data

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2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.