What is Physiology?

hysiology, the study of organismal function, represents the convergence of various disciplines, approaches, and perspectives in modern biology. Physiologists seek an understanding of functional mechanisms and their regulation, the adaptive significance of these mechanisms, the ecological factors that influence organismal function, and the evolutionary processes that have shaped them. In pursuing this understanding, concepts and approaches from a wide variety of scientific fields, covering levels of biological organization ranging from individual molecules, organelles, cells, tissues, organs to whole organisms are used. The tools and techniques of physics, chemistry, biochemistry, molecular biology, and various other areas in biology are brought to bear on physiological investigations that might range from the effects of light on visual systems at the level of cell membranes, breathing in ants, metabolism during running in lizards, to the hormonal control of reproduction in fishes.

All students interested in any area of the biological sciences, including Physiology, enter UCSB as pre-biological sciences majors. Pre-biology majors share a common core curriculum, typically completed during the freshman and sophomore years, consisting of introductory biology with laboratory , general chemistry with laboratory, mathematics, physics with laboratory, and for many of the majors, including the Physiology major, organic chemistry with laboratory. After completion of key preparatory coursework, students may petition to declare the full major. The B. S. in Physiology requires completion of 48 upper-division quarter units including three courses in endocrinology and regulatory biology, two terms of biochemistry, one course in the areas of genetics, cell biology, and neurobiology. In addition to these major requirements, students choose electives in consultation with faculty advisors.

General Major Information

How Can I Tell If I Would Like Physiology?

Physiology majors are inquisitive. They want to know how and why things work and like to analyze how things are interrelated. This student will likely enjoy conducting experiments or reading about how things work. This student is capable of working independently and has good written and verbal communication skills. A strong interest in the sciences and mathematics is important.

What Are Potential Topics Within This Major?

Although the following list can provide students with topics that may be covered in this major, look at the UCSB catalog and consult with the undergraduate advisor for more detailed information about requirements and course offerings.

Reproductive Physiology
Hormonal Reproduction
Sensory Physiology
Marine Animals Physiology
Vision Science

To learn more about whether you might enjoy this major, check with a peer in the Career Resource Room for details on:

- Focus 2 to explore college majors and careers.

- The Strong Interest Inventory®, an assessment that compares your interests against six broad categories of work. This assessment helps match your interests and suggests potential careers to explore.

What Can I Do To Make My Major More Marketable?

  • Pursue relevant work, internship, volunteer, and/or research experience.
  • Choose a complementary minor.
  • Specialize in an area; take courses in related fields.
  • Develop your computer skills.
  • Learn a foreign language.
  • Study abroad.
  • Join professional associations.
  • Get involved in student clubs.
  • Participate in community organizations.
  • Seek out leadership positions.
  • Research specific prerequisites for different positions.
  • Network with others in fields that interest you.


General Career Information

What Are Some Possible Career Options?

Note: On its own, your major does not dictate what your job will be.  The following list provides only a handful of possibilities.  Physiology majors with strong liberal arts background may pursue career options in many fields.  Depending on experience, specialized coursework, and possible graduate study options include:

Biomedical Engineer
Medical Laboratory Technician
Biology Instructor
Molecular Biologist
Sports Medicine (Athletic Trainer)
Forensics Expert

The undergraduate major in Physiology is excellent preparation for graduate study and professional programs in a variety of areas in the biological, biomedical, and health sciences, as well as veterinary and human medicine. Research, industrial supervisory, and academic careers require advanced training beyond the bachelors degree. Those who seek immediate career entry after finishing a B. S. degree in Physiology can seek employment with:

  • State or federal agencies
  • Private industries
  • Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology companies
  • University and hospital research laboratories
  • Teaching institutions at the community college level


Graduate and Professional Schools
This is a comprehensive website that provides information about where graduate programs are offered throughout the nation.

Click “Graduate School” for information on how to choose a grad school, how to pay for grad school, how to survive and flourish in grad school.

This is a database to help find where graduate programs are offered throughout the U.S.

Come to the Career Resources Room to view the CHOICES lab version of graduate schools.

Experience Search Strategies

New Scientist Jobs
All types of biology jobs categorized by field, location, government/private, etc.
Lists biotech jobs, biology teaching jobs and bioscience jobs

Physiology Jobs
This is a job board relating specifically to physiology.

UCSB Career Services “Job Links” section
Check out job links in the following categories: Local/CA, National, International, Industry Specific, UCSB Careers by Majors and Diversity.

When you join LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, you get access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights that help you be great at what you do.

Professional Associations

The American Institute of Biological Sciences
The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) scientific association dedicated to advancing biological research and education for the welfare of society.

The American Physiological Society
The American Physiological Society (APS) is a nonprofit devoted to fostering education, scientific research, and dissemination of information in the physiological sciences


UCSB Resources