Physiology and Pharmacology Undergraduate Program

Career Paths

Where will a degree in Physiology & Pharmacology take me?

The Physiology & Pharmacology program combines two key life science disciplines to provide a comprehensive understanding of the functions and mechanisms of actions of the major systems of the human body, and of the effects and mode of action of chemicals which modify the major systems of the body.

At the University of Saskatchewan you can study Physiology & Pharmacology in a close-knit environment. You will learn from well-regarded researchers, participate in labs that will help you synthesize information from many different classes. and learn how to think about the body as an amazingly sensitive system capable of responding an incredible range of environmental pressures without any conscious effort.

Studying Physiology & Pharmacology could be the start of a career in various health care fields. Following a 4-year or Honours B.Sc. degree, students may also choose to continue on to graduate work leading to a Masters or Ph.D. in Physiology or Pharmacology and a career as a research scientist.

Chiropractic is the treatment of chronic joint and back pain without the use of drugs or surgery, by making adjustments to a person’s bones to get them into a more natural alignment. The spine and how vertebral misalignments affect the spinal nerves is the central area of chiropractic. After medical doctors and dentists, chiropractors form the third largest group of primary health care providers. In addition to traditional examination techniques to diagnose joint and back problems, chiropractors are trained to take and analyze X-rays. Chiropractic is a field in which you can focus on improving people’s health rather than on treating specific diseases. Interest in alternative forms of health care is growing, and chiropractic is fastest growing type of alternative health care.

To become a chiropractor you need at least ninety credit units of study at university. Most Doctor of Chiropractic programs are four years long; some take five years. Specific class prerequisites vary from none to about forty-five credit units of specific classes. Regardless of the specific requirements a strong background in biology, and chemistry, with some psychology is recommended by all the institutions. Many also require or recommend physics. While few schools require that applicants hold a bachelor degree, most successful applicants do. Some states require a bachelor degree in addition to the DC degree in order to become licensed. A physiology degree brings together the elements of the other life sciences into a better understanding of the whole organism that will complement the study of chiropractic.

Everyone eats, and most people have an interest in food. Stories about health benefits or problems associated with certain foods are in the media all the time. If you want to be able to get to the real facts about nutrition, a career as a dietician could be for you.

Dietitians help people by evaluating their nutritional requirements, comparing these to the person’s current diet, and planning changes to the diet to improve the person’s health. According to Dieticians of Canada the number of dietitians who work in hospitals and the food service industry is declining in Canada, while the number of Dietitians in business for themselves is on the rise. Dieticians also get involved in education programs. This role of dieticians is increasingly important with obesity rats rising in North America and people becoming obese at younger ages than they used to. Education is also important because of way facts about food are presented out of context in headlines and sound bites.

While most programs to train dieticians only require 1 year of prior study, due to limited enrollment many people apply several times. Planing to work towards a physiology degree while applying to nutrition programs will teach you important foundational concepts such as energy balance regulation.

Medical Doctors make up the largest group of primary health care providers. And despite the huge increase in interest in alternatives to traditional western healthcare doctors are still the most trusted providers of health. Doctors may be general practitioners, or they may specialize in any of a large number of medical fields. Doctors usually work in either clinics or hospitals. Some doctors get involved in clinical research.

The application process for medical school is extremely competitive. It is uncommon to be accepted after the minimum 2 years of pre-med study. While a student could complete the prerequisite classes for admission into medicine while working toward any life science degree, physiology is a very good choice. The emphasis on functional understanding of the entire organism provided by a background in physiology is central to the medical sciences. It is physiological studies that allow learning in biochemistry and microbiology to be linked the homeostatic functioning of the entire organism. Physiology helps you understand why the structural organization learned in anatomy is the way it is. Structure and function are interdependent.

Types of treatment used in naturopathic medicine:
  • Acupuncture: Puncturing the body with needles at specific points to cure disease or relieve pain
  • Botanical medicine: Remedies derived from plants
  • Homeopathy: The administration of very small doses of substances that produce symptoms similar to the condition the patient suffers from to stimulate the body to respond by restoring homeostasis.
  • Physical treatments: The use of heat, cold, light, ultrasound, and massage

Are you interested in alternatives to established western medicine? Do you want to be part of a fast growing health care profession? Are you concerned that a “high-tech” solution may not always be the right solution? Ideas about health care that were once thought of as primitive are gaining credibility as researchers uncover the scientific basis for the effectiveness of acupuncture, homeopathy, and other traditional treatment methods. As a naturopathic doctor you can harness these methods to help patients with a wide range of health problems.

Naturopathic medicine emphasises determining the underlying cause of a patient’s aliment and removing obstructions to the natural healing process. A Naturopathic Doctor (ND) provides care that does not use invasive medical techniques or prescription medication. NDs are primary care givers that focus on treating the whole person. They take an extensive patient history and provide lifestyle counseling in addition to treatments.

Naturopathic medicine is licensed in thirteen states and four provinces, including Saskatchewan. To become a naturopathic doctor in these places you need at least ninety credit units –three years– of pre professional study followed by completing a four-year ND program at an accredited institution. Then you must pass a licensing exam called NPLEX. Physiology is a great field of study in which to develop the whole person approach to thinking about health that Naturopathic Medicine emphasizes. Several schools emphasize that having a larger number of anatomy and physiology classes than the minimum requirements for admission will give the applicant a better chance in the competitive admissions process.

Occupational Therapy focuses on helping people acquire the ability to do particular life tasks when there is something that obstructs them from doing those tasks. Emphasis is on helping the patient get a sense fulfillment in their lives by identifying ways that they can do things as independently as possible. Occupational therapists design ways in which the patient’s living space and workspace can be changed to accommodate their needs. They also help family members and other caregivers learn how to live with the patient’s condition.

By 2010 all licensed occupational therapists in Canada will require a masters degree. Many universities that previously offered a B.Sc. are in the process of changing their offerings. There are both clinical master degrees and research based master degrees in OT. The research-based master is intended for people who will continue on to get a Ph.D. You can apply to some Occupational Therapy programs with a minimum of sixty credit units of prior university study. Other programs are intended for people who already have a bachelor’s degree. If you plan to study occupational therapy after physiology you should use your electives to take introductory classes in psychology and sociology.

Perhaps you are interested in health care but are more interested in the interpersonal aspects than the sciences. Occupational Therapy is a field in which you can blend aspects of the natural sciences with the social sciences in a unique health related career.

Do you want to be involved in caring for the sense that most people rely on the most? Sight! It’s vital to our lives and helping people deal with their visual problems can be very fulfilling. Optometry is a good choice for people with a strong interest in health care and science who want to be successful without being on call or working especially long shifts. Or for people who are simply more interested in vision than the rest of the body.

Optometrists provide many types of vision care including prescribing glasses and contact lenses. Optometrists diagnose eye diseases such as glaucoma and ulcers. They may treat these conditions themselves, or refer the patient to an ophthalmologist, depending on how severe they are. They also treat visual skill problems such as difficulty moving or focusing the eye and provide pre- and post-operative care when eye surgery is required.

Becoming and optometrist requires at least two years of study before entry into a Doctor of Optometry program. The Physiology program will give you both the background in the life sciences and the basic physics necessary to start your studies of light and the eye.

With the number of drugs on the market growing every year, and drug companies directly marketing to consumers, pharmacists play a more important role than ever before in ensuring that drugs are properly administered. But there are more opportunities than just working in a drugstore. Pharmacists work for drug development companies, hospitals, and for government regulatory agencies. While biochemistry is important for the understanding of pharmacy physiology emphasizes the function of the organism and will help you better relate the chemical interactions of the drug to homeostatic balance of the organism. If you find that how drugs work is fascinating, going on to do graduate studies in pharmacology could be right for you.
Becoming a pharmacist requires a minimum of one year of pre pharmacy study and completion of an accredited pharmacy program, which is typically four years long, and involves an internship program. The final step is passing a licensing exam. In Canada, the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada sets the exam.
People move all the time. As everyone who has strained their back for a day or two knows, even a small difficulty in moving can be extremely frustrating. Chronic movement difficulties can seriously impede your ability to get anything done. By applying your study of physiology to further study in physical therapy you can learn how to reduce peoples movement difficulties and improve their quality of life.

Physical therapists work to prevent and treat movement dysfunction’s in their patients. This includes developing rehabilitation exercise programs for people recovering from injuries or who have chronic mobility problems and educating people about how to perform physical activities in a way that will not cause problems like repetitive use injuries. Physiotherapy is a synonym for physical therapy.

By 2010 a professional master’s degree will be the required entry-level qualification for physical therapists in Canada. Many universities are in the process of changing their program offerings. Prospective students should be sure to find ask about the timeline of the change from bachelor’s degree programs to the professional masters program. Some universities are structuring their programs so that they will offer both a professional master’s degree and a Master of Science degree. The professional master’s degree is intended for future clinicians while the M.Sc. is research oriented.

Most universities intend to keep the entrance requirements for the professional masters program similar to the requirements for their previous bachelor’s degree programs. two years prior study is the normal minimum, but many successful applicants have completed more than two years of prior study. In the U.S. a professional entry-level masters program is required. Although masters programs that accept people who do not have a bachelor’s degree are common, the American Physical Therapy Association advocates attending programs that require bachelor’s degree. Such programs are a good choice for physiology students because often the applicants major can be something other than physical therapy, such as physiology.

Don't overlook the most straightforward thing you might do with your physiology training; being a pure physiologist. A career in scientific research after doing graduate work in physiology could be right for you. A career in research lets you keep learning and exploring new things much more than other careers. Doing research at an academic institution is a career that offers very high personal autonomy and job security. On a day to day basis you would get to decide how to spend your time. On the other hand being a researcher for the biotech or pharmaceutical industries can be higher paying so it is a trade off.

To work as a researcher you need at least a masters degree but unless you get a Ph.D. you will be part of someone else's research program. A Ph.D. and subsequently a post doctoral fellowship is required if you wish to be in charge of your own lab. Studying physiology here at the U of S positions you well to do graduate study in physiology. Only six universities in Canada offer a physiology undergraduate program. Physiology is not offered at the under graduate level in the U.S. The fourth year honors project is a good way for students curious about research to get some experience.

Veterinarians care for all types of animals. The majority of veterinarians work in clinics, and most clinics in North America today are geared toward small animals that people keep as pets. However they are many other areas that vets work. Large animal practices are still needed to support the agricultural industry. Research into animal disease control, prevention and treatment is carried out at universities and by companies that cater to livestock producers and pet owners.

The Western College of Veterinary Medicine requires 60CUs or university course work to be completed before application. They note that most successful applicants in the past few years have had more than 2 full years of university. They also note that degrees or diplomas held are not considered in the admissions process. But if it is likely to take longer than just 2 years to get admitted, one may as well get an Arts and Science degree while their at it. WCVM is the most likely choice for students from Western Canada because most veterinary colleges will only take a small number of applicants form outside the region which they are intended to serve.

It is extremely important for the potential vet-med applicant to gain a significant amount of experience with animals and some veterinary experience through employment or volunteer work as enrolment is very competitive. Physiology is one of the few direct entry undergraduate programs involving live animal experience. The third year physiology lab has some animal experience with rats and frogs. With the right honours supervisor, the 4th year project could provide a great deal of animal experience to a potential vet student who ended up taking 4 years to get accepted.

Academic Advising

It is important that all students at each year of their program plan their course curriculum for the upcoming year in consultation with an academic advisor.