Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help patients recover from chronic diseases and improve cardiovascular function, body composition, and flexibility.
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.
Exercise physiologists held about 15,800 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of exercise physiologists were as follows:
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||27|
|Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists||5|
|Offices of physicians||2|
Most exercise physiologists work full time.
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 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.
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.
The median annual wage for exercise physiologists was $49,270 in May 2018.
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 $34,410, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,810.
In May 2018, the median annual wages for exercise physiologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Offices of physicians||48,920|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||48,860|
|Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists||44,440|
Most exercise physiologists work full time.
Median annual wages, May 2018
- Health diagnosing and treating practitioners
- Exercise physiologists
- Total, all occupations
Employment of exercise physiologists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2018 to 2028, 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.
Because this is a small occupation in terms of employment, competition for available positions is expected to remain high.
|Occupational Title||SOC Code||Employment, 2018||Projected Employment, 2028||Change, 2018-28||Employment by Industry|
SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of exercise physiologists.
For more information about exercise physiologists and certifications, visit
Clinical Exercise Physiology Association
For a career video on exercise physiologists, visit
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 (visited ).