Study Anatomy & Physiology: Courses, Certificate & Online Training Info

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What kind of job can you get with training in anatomy and physiology? Find out certificate requirements, online options and info on courses in anatomy and physiology programs.
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Anatomy and Physiology Courses and Certificates: Programs at a Glance

Certificate programs and courses in anatomy and physiology will teach you about different systems within the human body and how all those systems interact with one another. Nearly all healthcare professionals must possess a thorough understanding of human anatomy and the physiological processes. In fact, you may have to take anatomy and physiology courses as prerequisites to some healthcare professional certificate or degree programs.

Generally, coursework or certificates in anatomy and physiology will not be enough to get you hired for most medical careers that involve direct patient care. The majority of direct patient care positions require the minimum of associate degrees or career-specific vocational degrees.

Courses Certificate
Who is this for? Medical professionals interested in improving their knowledge of anatomy and physiology Students who want to prepare themselves for medical training degree programs
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) These jobs require professionals to know about anatomy and physiology, but students will have to earn additional degrees to find employment opportunities
- Nutritionist ($54,470)*
- Physical therapist ($78,270)*
- Social worker ($53,900)*
- Registered nurse ($65,950)*
While certificates may help you get into some of these careers, most medical careers require you to get additional training
- EMT ($30,710)*
- Medical coder ($33,310)*
- Medical transcriptionist ($33,480)*
- Sonographer ($65,210)*
Time to Completion 1 semester per course 1 year full time
Common Requirements - Class participation
- Laboratory hours
- Laboratory reports
- Final exams
- Fulfill all course requirements
- Complete all required courses
- Pass any required exit exams
Prerequisites High school diploma - High school diploma
- In some cases, previous work experience, a vocational certificate or a degree
Online Availability Several classes available Some certificate programs available

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Anatomy and Physiology Courses

Some colleges may cover anatomy and physiology topics in one class, whereas other colleges may have separate classes, as in courses specifically for anatomy and different courses for physiology. Whether combined or separated, these topics are both within the hard science field of biology.

Most classes cover some medical terminology, such as the anatomical names of different body parts or the names of each physiological system. Nearly all anatomy and physiology classes will require you to complete laboratory projects. These projects may include looking at samples under microscopes and identifying various biological parts. Laboratory projects may also include dissecting and examining dead bodies.

Pros and Cons


  • Passing these classes is one of the first steps toward a career in the medical field
  • Many healthcare careers are expected to have a faster than average job growth rate*
  • Most classes provide a hands-on learning environment


  • Individual classes are usually not enough training for a career
  • Since so many medical training programs require students to take these courses, class sizes may be large
  • Lab projects may involve working with bad smelling chemicals, bodily fluids and tissue samples

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

The majority of medical training certificate or degree programs require students to take the minimum of general anatomy and physiology. You may have to take more advanced classes depending on your career goals. More advanced classes tend to focus on very specific areas within anatomy and physiology. For example, someone studying to be a sonographer may take advanced anatomy courses that focus on how to conduct thorough examinations of the abdomen area.

Major topics within most anatomy and physiology classes may include some of the following:

  • Muscle tissues
  • Laboratory safety
  • Nervous system
  • Specimen gathering
  • Skeletal system

Most classes require students to learn proper medical terms and understand the physiological processes of the body. You may also have to write up lab reports, analyze hypothetical data and run medical laboratory tests on specimen samples.

Online Options

There are online courses that teach students about anatomy and physiology. Some courses are part of continuing education programs. These online classes are usually somewhat expensive, depending on the academic institution. Completing online courses in anatomy and physiology may count toward course requirements for several vocational and degree programs related to health care professions.

While online video clips, diagrams and other visual aids may help you learn about the body, strictly online courses do not generally provide the opportunity for laboratory experience. Many medical employers seem to prefer candidates who have direct experience using laboratory equipment, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), so you may miss out on the type of training employers want if you only take classes online.

Stand Out with This Training

Passing anatomy and physiology classes may help you excel at technical training programs for some medical careers. For instance, according to the BLS, medical coders read through patient charts to code medical procedures for billing purposes, and these workers need to understand human anatomy and physiology in order to identify the right codes for each procedure. With a working knowledge of anatomy and physiology, you would only need to learn about the technical side of the coding business, such as billing procedures, payment agreements, patient records protocols and medical billing software programs.

Anatomy and Physiology Certificate Programs

Certificate programs in anatomy and physiology often include a more extensive examination of these areas and related subfields, such as chemistry and biology. Some certificate programs may focus on applied studies. In applied study programs, you would first gain knowledge about anatomy and physiology, and then you would apply that knowledge to certain career fields in the medical industry, such as nutrition or exercise physiology.

Several certificate programs are at the undergraduate level, and students with little to no knowledge of the medical field can enroll in these programs. Other certificate programs are part of continuing education programs, and may require applicants to already be working medical professionals.

Pros and Cons


  • Anatomy and physiology certificates may help you meet some prerequisite or course requirements for other medical training programs
  • Completing these programs may help you prepare for some certification or licensing exams
  • Medical professionals can complete certificate programs to meet continuing education requirements for license or certification renewals*


  • Some anatomy and physiology certificate programs do not include clinical training experience
  • You may still have to complete another 1-3 years of school to earn an associate or bachelor's degree needed for some medical careers
  • Some required classes may only be offered during certain semesters, so if you fail or miss a class, you may have to wait a year before the class is offered again

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

The majority of certificate programs have students expand their understanding of anatomy and physiology by requiring them to take related coursework. Biology classes, for example, may cover topics such as cell structure, molecular membranes, biomedicine, animal physiology or environmental contaminants. Other related classes could be in areas such as psychology, chemistry or healthcare technology.

Requirements for these certificate programs are very similar to those for individual anatomy and physiology courses. The main difference, however, is that you have to pass several classes to earn the certificate. Some universities may demand that you fulfill other requirements, such as simultaneously earning undergraduate degrees or passing additional exams.

Online Course Info

You do have some options for earning online anatomy and physiology certificates. Although these programs will allow you to learn at your own pace, not all online certificate programs provide the same amount of support. For instance, if you have a question about the skeletal system, who would you ask for help? Some online universities have systems set in place so that online students can get help, either through e-mails, instant messaging or chat forums. Not all institutions provide the same amount of support, though, and that may seriously affect your ability to earn your anatomy and physiology certificate successfully.

Getting Ahead with This Certificate

One way to get ahead with this certificate is to choose which medical field you want to make into a career. By choosing that specialty early on, you can select anatomy and physiology certificate programs that are best suited for your career field of choice. Furthermore, some certificate programs offer elective courses that are each related to different medical specialties. If you have a preferred specialty, you can choose the electives that will match your preferred field, which may potentially make you a better job candidate when you enter the workforce.

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