Bureau of Labor Statistics

Exercise Physiologists

Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help patients recover from chronic diseases.
Quick Facts: Exercise Physiologists
2019 Median Pay $49,170 per year
$23.64 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2018 15,800
Job Outlook, 2018-28 10% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2018-28 1,500

Summary

What Exercise Physiologists Do

Exercise physiologists develop fitness and exercise programs that help injured or sick patients recover.

Work Environment

About half of exercise physiologists are self-employed. Most others work for hospitals and other healthcare providers. Most exercise physiologists work full time.

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 $49,170 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

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.

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

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 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.

Work Environment

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

Exercise physiologists held about 15,800 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of exercise physiologists were as follows:

Self-employed workers 56%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 27
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 5
Government 3
Offices of physicians 2

Work Schedules

Most exercise physiologists work full time.

How to Become an Exercise Physiologist

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 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.

Important Qualities

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.

Pay

Exercise Physiologists

Median annual wages, May 2019

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

$82,380

Exercise physiologists

$49,170

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for exercise physiologists was $49,170 in May 2019. 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 $34,990, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,310.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for exercise physiologists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government $72,440
Hospitals; state, local, and private 49,390
Offices of physicians 48,200
Offices of physical, occupational and speech therapists, and audiologists 45,190

Most exercise physiologists work full time.

Job Outlook

Exercise Physiologists

Percent change in employment, projected 2018-28

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

13%

Exercise physiologists

10%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

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.

Job Prospects

Because this is a small occupation in terms of employment, competition for available positions is expected to remain high.

Employment projections data for exercise physiologists, 2018-28

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

Occupational Title

Exercise physiologists

SOC Code29-1128
Employment, 201815,800
Projected Employment, 202817,300
Percent Change, 2018-2810
Numeric Change, 2018-281,500
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

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.

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

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2019 MEDIAN PAY
Athletic trainers

Athletic Trainers

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

Bachelor's degree $48,440
Nuclear medicine technologists

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients for imaging or therapeutic purposes.

Associate's degree $77,950
Occupational therapists

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists treat patients who have injuries, illnesses, or disabilities through the therapeutic use of everyday activities.

Master's degree $84,950
Physical therapists

Physical Therapists

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

Doctoral or professional degree $89,440
Recreational therapists

Recreational Therapists

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

Bachelor's degree $48,220
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.

Associate's degree $61,330
Chiropractors

Chiropractors

Chiropractors treat patients with health problems of the neuromusculoskeletal system, which includes nerves, bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

Doctoral or professional degree $70,340
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 $40,390

Contacts for More Info

Last Modified Date: Friday, April 10, 2020

Suggested citation:

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 June 20, 2020).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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