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Exercise Physiologists

Summary

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Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EjV0IO8CDI.
Quick Facts: Exercise Physiologists
2023 Median Pay $54,860 per year
$26.38 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2022 16,500
Job Outlook, 2022-32 10% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2022-32 1,700

What Exercise Physiologists Do

Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs to help people improve their health.

Work Environment

Most exercise physiologists are self-employed or work for hospitals. Exercise physiologists usually work full time, but part-time work may be common.

How to Become an Exercise Physiologist

Exercise physiologists typically need a bachelor’s degree in exercise science, exercise physiology, or a related field to enter the occupation.

Pay

The median annual wage for exercise physiologists was $54,860 in May 2023.

Job Outlook

Employment of exercise physiologists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 1,200 openings for exercise physiologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

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

Exercise physiologists develop physical activity programs to help people improve components of their fitness, such as cardiovascular function, muscular strength, or flexibility.

Duties

Exercise physiologists typically do the following:

  • Analyze a client’s medical history to assess their risk during exercise and to determine the best exercise and fitness regimen for the client
  • Perform endurance, stress, and other tests with medical equipment and analyze the resulting data
  • Measure clients’ blood pressure, oxygen usage, heart rhythm, and other key health indicators
  • Develop exercise programs that address clients’ fitness needs
  • Implement programs to improve clients’ health

Exercise physiologists work to improve people’s overall health. Many of their clients have chronic medical conditions, such as pulmonary (lung) disease. Exercise physiologists provide health education and exercise plans to help clients improve their respiratory, circulatory, and other systems.

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 these patients to develop individualized treatment plans that will help the patients meet their health and fitness goals.

The following are examples of types of exercise physiologists:

Applied exercise physiologists study the physiological effects of exercise. They may research topics that explore the link between exercise and illness, such as whether increasing physical activity slows the progression of disease.

Clinical exercise physiologists work with a range of client populations in a variety of settings. For example, they may design exercise programs or promote wellness strategies in schools, taking into account the students’ ages, development, and other factors.    

Kinesiotherapists use rehabilitative exercise, reconditioning, and physical education to treat clients who have problems moving. These workers focus on helping clients regain strength and endurance to increase their mobility.

Exercise physiologists should not be confused with occupations that have similar duties. For example, fitness trainers and instructors (including personal trainers) and athletic trainers promote wellness through exercise and physical activity but not necessarily to treat chronic conditions.

Work Environment About this section

Exercise physiologists
Exercise physiologists typically work in office settings.

Exercise physiologists held about 16,500 jobs in 2022. The largest employers of exercise physiologists were as follows:

Self-employed workers 59%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 26
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 4
Offices of physicians 3
Government 2

Exercise physiologists typically work in office settings that include hospitals and other medical facilities, fitness centers, and schools. They also may travel to meet with clients.

Some work with other healthcare personnel as part of a team. They may spend a lot of time on their feet when working with clients.

Work Schedules

Most exercise physiologists work full time, but part-time work may be common.

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 to enter the occupation.

Education

Exercise physiologists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology, exercise science, kinesiology, or another healthcare and related field. Master’s degree programs also are available. Degree programs include science and health-related courses, such as anatomy, kinesiology, and nutrition, as well as clinical work. Programs in exercise physiology, exercise science, and kinesiology are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).  

Some students participate in internships or practicums, sometimes offered as part of their degree program. These opportunities allow students to gain hands-on experience that may differ from or complement their clinical work.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

State licensing requirements vary for exercise physiology. For example, Louisiana specifies that exercise physiologists be licensed, but other states require licensure for performing exercise physiology duties in related occupations. Check with your state’s licensing agency.

Employers typically require exercise physiologists to have Basic Life Support (BLS) certification or Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) certification, both of which include training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Optional certifications are available, such as those offered by the American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Important Qualities

Compassion. Exercise physiologists work with clients who may be in considerable pain or discomfort and must be patient and empathetic with them.

Communication skills. Exercise physiologists must be able to clearly convey information to clients, clients’ families, and other members of the medical team, including physicians.

Decision-making skills. Exercise physiologists must make informed assessments of their clients, whose health or livelihood may be affected by treatment options.

Detail oriented. Exercise physiologists must record specific, accurate information about their clients’ conditions, along with any progress or setbacks after beginning an exercise program.

Interpersonal skills. Exercise physiologists must be able to interact with clients and other members of the medical team.

Pay About this section

Exercise Physiologists

Median annual wages, May 2023

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

$98,760

Exercise physiologists

$54,860

Total, all occupations

$48,060

 

The median annual wage for exercise physiologists was $54,860 in May 2023. 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 $35,460, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $77,680.

In May 2023, the median annual wages for exercise physiologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government $88,800
Hospitals; state, local, and private 56,100
Offices of physicians 51,010
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 45,000

Most exercise physiologists work full time, but part-time work may be common.

Job Outlook About this section

Exercise Physiologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2022-32

Exercise physiologists

10%

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners

9%

Total, all occupations

3%

 

Employment of exercise physiologists is projected to grow 10 percent from 2022 to 2032, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 1,200 openings for exercise physiologists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Demand for these workers may rise as healthcare providers emphasize exercise and preventive care to help people who have cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases to improve their overall health.

Employment projections data for exercise physiologists, 2022-32
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2022 Projected Employment, 2032 Change, 2022-32 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Exercise physiologists

29-1128 16,500 18,200 10 1,700 Get data

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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 OEWS 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.org. 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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 on Entry-Level Education 2023 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Athletic trainers Athletic Trainers

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

Master's degree $57,930
Chiropractors Chiropractors

Chiropractors evaluate and treat patients' neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Doctoral or professional degree $76,530
Fitness trainers and instructors Fitness Trainers and Instructors

Fitness trainers and instructors lead, instruct, and motivate individuals or groups in exercise activities.

High school diploma or equivalent $46,480
Health educators Health Education Specialists

Health education specialists develop programs to teach people about conditions affecting well-being.

Bachelor's degree $62,860
Occupational therapists Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists evaluate and treat people who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities to help them with vocational, daily living, and other skills that promote independence.

Master's degree $96,370
Physical therapists Physical Therapists

Physical therapists help injured or ill people improve movement and manage pain.

Doctoral or professional degree $99,710
Recreational therapists Recreational Therapists

Recreational therapists plan, direct, and coordinate recreation-based medical treatment programs for people with disabilities, injuries, or illnesses.

Bachelor's degree $57,120
Respiratory therapists Respiratory Therapists

Respiratory therapists care for patients who have trouble breathing—for example, because of a chronic condition such as asthma.

Associate's degree $77,960

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about exercise physiologists and certifications, visit

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

American Society of Exercise Physiologists (ASEP)

Clinical Exercise Physiology Association (CEPA)

For more information about accredited programs in exercise science, exercise physiology, and kinesiology, visit:

Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)

Committee on Accreditation for the Exercise Sciences (COAES)

CareerOneStop

For a career video on exercise physiologists, visit

Exercise Physiologists

O*NET

Exercise Physiologists

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Exercise Physiologists,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/exercise-physiologists.htm (visited May 07, 2024).

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, April 17, 2024

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2023 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 and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.

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, 2022

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2022, which is the base year of the 2022-32 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2022-32

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032. The average growth rate for all occupations is 3 percent.

Employment Change, 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

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 2022-32

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2022 to 2032.

2023 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 and Wage Statistics survey. In May 2023, the median annual wage for all workers was $48,060.