To launch a career in clinical exercise physiology, an individual should plan on obtaining an undergraduate degree, as well as a graduate degree or professional certification. Those who plan on pursuing a position that entails academic research should also complete a doctorate degree program. Employment as a clinical exercise physiologist can be sought with hospitals, fitness facilities, physical therapy practices, and rehabilitation centers. Many exercise physiology jobs require that an individual's education or certification be completed prior to gaining professional experience.
The first step towards entering the field of clinical exercise physiology is to begin an undergraduate degree program in exercise physiology, physical education or health science. Since a clinical exercise physiologist is responsible for testing and monitoring the human body's response to various exercises, these degrees can familiarize a person with how the body functions. These programs can also prepare students for further graduate study in exercise physiology, which may be required by some employers. The student's choice of an undergraduate program and school should be based on whether it is designed to prepare individuals for advanced study or employment.
While a student is obtaining an undergraduate degree, he should begin to decide what area of the exercise physiology field he is most interested in pursuing. For example, hospitals tend to prefer graduate degrees, while a specialization such as physical therapy may prefer board certification. Some of the available areas of expertise include cardiac, pulmonary, fitness and research. Board certification in clinical exercise physiology can be obtained through professional organizations that administer certified exams.
Certification can be an asset to an aspiring clinical exercise physiologist. In addition to verifying a practitioner's knowledge and technique, certification also helps ensure that specific ethics and professional behaviors are followed. Some countries and employers use certification credentials as a way of communicating service quality and trust. Vocational schools, universities, and distance education vendors can be sources of coursework that prepares individuals for certification in clinical exercise physiology.
Once a student completes his education or certification, seeking a position in clinical exercise physiology is similar to other professions. While newspaper ads and online job boards can be a good place to start, networking and employment agencies can also prove to be helpful. Recruiters may give presentations or meet with students at college campuses during career fairs. If available, consulting with a college's career placement office is an additional way for graduates to be matched with available openings.