You’re interested in living organisms and you enjoy learning about how they function – genes, cells, organs and systems. You’d probably be very happy entering a physiology degree program. Physiology is generally divided into two areas: plant physiology and animal physiology. Humans are included in the field of animal physiology.
If on the other hand you have an interest in disease -- bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi – and the cause, development and consequences of changes in living organisms, pathology is a better choice. There are three primary pathology specialties: anatomical pathology, clinical pathology and oral & maxillofacial pathology. Some universities place the pathology program in the school of medicine since a large percentage of pathologists are physicians that have chosen to conduct research or work in forensic pathology instead of seeing patients.
Though physiology and pathology are both life sciences, physiology focuses on normal living functions, while pathology looks at the abnormal. Combine these two areas of study and it gives you a well-rounded understanding of organisms – both living and dead. WELCOME
In general, while there are plenty of courses in both physiology (i.e. genetics, microbiology, renal cell biology) and pathology (i.e. plant diseases, virology, nematology, anatomy & autopsy), there are no college programs which offer a combined degree in human physiology AND pathology. Normally, you would choose to focus specifically on one or the other discipline.
However, once you have chosen, you may find that you will need to take some of the same courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, mathematics, physics, and statistics. Plus, depending on the college or university you attend, you may also study topics such as:
Physiology and pathology are degree programs that most students enter with the intent to pursue the highest level of education. So while you may choose to obtain an Associate degree of Science in pre-exercise physiology or a Bachelor degree in forensic pathology, you should be prepared to get further education.
While a Master degree of Science is required for many clinical careers, management, or public health, a Doctorate degree is needed to work in a university, private, or government research lab. In addition, many who pursue this educational path continue on to receive their MD to practice medicine or their JD to practice patent or health law.
One of the more popular fields of study is exercise physiology which provides students with the essential knowledge to work in exercise and rehabilitation programs. However, you may also choose to pursue further study in alternative medicine, chiropractic medicine, dentistry, nursing, nuclear medicine, therapy – massage, physical, occupational – or public health.
As with all degree programs, studying physiology and pathology will provide you with a wide range of knowledge in a variety of life sciences; however, additional skills will be required to land the right career. So look to develop these skills through your course of study as well.
One career path you may choose with your degree in physiology or pathology is as a clinical laboratory technologist. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that employment is excellent in this field and growing faster than with other professions at around 14% over the next few years. You may also want to consider a career as a biological scientist where the growth rate is expected to be even faster – at around 21%.
The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS) fully accredits about 479 programs for medical and clinical laboratory technologists, medical and clinical laboratory technicians, histotechnologists and histotechnicians, cytogenetic technologists, and diagnostic molecular scientists.
Even though most college and university programs do not offer a dual degree program in human physiology and pathology, there are dual programs for those who want to study plants. Louisiana State University (LSU) has a graduate program in plant pathology and crop physiology, while Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) has a graduate program in plant pathology, physiology and weed science.
As for online college degree programs the University of Massachusetts offers a certificate in clinical pathology and there are several general online physiology and pathology courses you can take.
You have a lot of career choices when it comes to the fields of physiology and pathology. You might choose to go onto medical school. Or if you pursue a career in research with your undergraduate degree, you could be a research assistant or lab technician. You might also choose to work as a medical sales representative or in the biotechnology field.
If you continue to graduate school in the clinical life sciences, you could become a physician’s assistant or physical therapist. Alternatively, you might pursue your doctorate and head a research program in a university, government or hospital setting. As an MD with a graduate degree in pathology, you might even choose to work with the coroner’s office.
Many employers prefer applicants who are certified by a recognized professional association. Associations offering certification include the Board of Registry of the American Society for Clinical Pathology, the National Credentialing Agency for Laboratory Personnel and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) if you decide to become a Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist (RCEP).