BlogUniversityWhat It’s Like Studying a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology at UNSW

What It’s Like Studying a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology at UNSW

UNSW Exercise Physiology - Degree Fact Sheet

Has your passion for the human body and the magic of sports led you to consider pursuing a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology at UNSW?

We’ve brought together all the information you need so you won’t have to break your back figuring out if it’s a right fit – core units, teaching format, university culture and more! Everything is right here in this one article to make your application easier than 10 star jumps.

What are you waiting for? Hop on down for more.

What is a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology at UNSW?
Core Units for this Degree
How to Get into a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology at UNSW
What’s the Teaching Format?
What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?

What is a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology at UNSW? 

If you’re passionate about the crossroads between health and exercise, and their preventive and rehabilitative abilities for injury, a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology at UNSW is for you! It provides you with a comprehensive breakdown on the role that physical activity plays in the management of chronic diseases and injury (quick heads up, it’s a really big one). 

Don’t let the name fool you – this super varied degree is delivered as part of the Medical Faculty so that it can provide students with a holistic understanding of human function. You’ll be studying everything from anatomy, physiology, and pathology to chemistry, physics, and psychology. 

It’s an industry-focused degree that is jam-packed with practical training. Graduates of this program are hyper-qualified and even gain ESSA (Exercise Sports Science Australia) accreditation so they can hit the ground running straight after they finish up their degree.

Career Paths 

There’s almost nothing about the body that UNSW Exercise Physiology graduates don’t know – and their career opportunities reflect that. 

Securing a Bachelors in this program will give you access to a massive growth industry. The Australian government predicts a 24.8% upward trajectory in employment from 2019 to 2022, meaning you won’t even have to break a sweat getting a job out of uni.

The most common areas of employment for UNSW Exercise Physiology (or EP as they like to call it) graduates are:

    • public and private hospitals 
    • private practice 
    • aged care 
    • mental health clinics 
    • community exercise and physical activity programs 
    • workplace health and rehabilitation

Core Units for this Degree

Here’s the thing about UNSW Exercise Physiology – exposing students to a variety of different anatomical areas doesn’t really leave much space for wiggle room. Basically, what we’re trying to say is, there are no majors. 

The course itself is almost entirely built up of core units. Throughout the degree you’ll only have one elective from a prescribed list of options and you’ll also need to take two General Education (GenEds) courses. 

GenEds are UNSW’s way of making sure that all graduates are well-rounded individuals in the workforce. They’re basically compulsory electives that must be outside of your faculty (think Arts or Commerce). 

So with that in mind, you’re probably wondering what the degree looks like year to year. Well that’s what we’re here for!

The Program Throughout the Years

UNSW Exercise Physiology - Student Quote

The first year of study is the foundation year; you’ll be exposed to all the little areas that make Exercise Physiologists tick. It’s a little bit of everything really – a bit of psychology, a splash of chemistry and a drop of introductory courses to exercise physiology. 

Second year is when things get a little more interesting for all those exercise geeks out there, with a bigger focus on physiology and sports sciences itself. You’ll also be doing more practical classes and less science labs than in the first year – there is, however, still a little bit of biochemistry to dive into as well.

Third year will be quite similar to the second, though with an even heavier focus on exercise physiology. You’ll be exposed to neuromuscular rehabilitation, advanced exercise science and, somewhat surprisingly, pharmacology.

By the time you get to fourth year, you’ll be ready to apply all the stuff you’ve learnt into practice, but this year is also notoriously a little bit of a struggle (it’s kinda like the good pain you get from exercise). The final year combines both a practical component and a research component, so it’s quite an autonomous year, which gives you the chance to take the reins (though no one said that would be easy!).

Are there built in internships or work placements?

As you probably guessed, this comes in during the fourth year. You’ll need to take Practicum A and Practicum B at some point in your final year (practicum is basically just a fancy way of saying internship).

Both courses necessitate a total of 200 practical hours each to complete, so you’ll have at least 400 hours of practical experience by the time you finish! Where you choose to do your internship is completely up to you.

Some people may choose to do their practical at a Pilates studio, while others could head in a more clinical direction to work at a hospital. But wait. There’s more!

During the research component you will either be able to do a simple research project or an internship-based project. You will, however, need to maintain a WAM (UNSW’s version of a GPA) of 65% in order to take the internship path.

Throughout this program, you’ll have even more opportunities to expand your professional development while also writing a research report based on your experiences.


How to Get into a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology at UNSW

You’ll need to get an ATAR of 90 to be guaranteed entry into this course. If you’re a bit concerned about not being able to get an ATAR that high, there are also internal and external transfer options. 

A lot of students enter into UNSW through a Bachelor of Science (which needs an 85 for entry), and transfer into the course after a year of study. This can also be done externally (i.e. from USYD) although you will need to reapply through UAC first.

Are there any prerequisite subjects or assumed knowledge?

There are no prerequisite subjects to get into a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology at UNSW, but there is assumed knowledge for HSC Chemistry and Mathematics. If you haven’t done either of these courses, UNSW recommends the Chemistry Bridging Course and the Mathematics Skills Program.

Are there any scholarships?

UNSW offers a variety of scholarships specific to each year and field of study. A list of those scholarships can be found here! 

What’s the Teaching Format?

We’re gonna rip the bandaid off now – as of 2019 UNSW runs completely under a Trimester system. See, that wasn’t too bad!

Under the trimester system, you will either be taking 3 or 2 subjects per semester depending on availability of the course. It’s hard to say how many contact hours you’ll have because it kind of depends on the courses you’re studying at the time.

As a general rule though, it’s somewhere between 4 to 8 hours per course. So if you’re taking 3 subjects, expect something close to 20 contact hours per week.

Class Structure

Courses are built up of lectures, tutorials and labs. Some courses will have 2 lectures, some could have 4, and some will have one.

Generally courses will only have 1 tutorial session and 1 lab session per week, though there are exceptions to that rule as well.


Lectures introduce the course content and they focus on presentational style learning rather than peer-based learning. You will be introduced to theories, concepts and all the stuff that will pop up in the final exam.

During the first years, where you will be studying generalised science classes, the cohort will be quite large. In Psychology 1A for example, you could have something up to 300 people in the theatre.

As the courses progress, this number will go down. Exercise Physiology at UNSW is not the biggest cohort, so in EP classes the class size might be more like 60 people.


Tutorials are much more intimate, regardless of the subject, with around 20 students. Although, some of the EP classes will not have tutorials and will only have labs.

These classes relate directly back to the lectures and you will probably be given preparation questions that you spend the tutorial answering. The teacher is there to help you out and it’s much easier to ask questions here than in the lecture theatre.


Labs are probably the funnest part of UNSW Exercise Physiology. They are the most practical of all the class types.

This is when you’ll be given the chance to apply the stuff you have learnt on paper to actual physical scenarios. You could even end up doing leg presses during these classes!

What are assessments like?

UNSW Exercise Physiology assessments are more practical than other degrees. There are still lab reports and there will be a mid-semester exam and a final exam, but even these exams may be extremely practical.

Final exams, for example, often take the OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) format. OSCE exams have students face multiple different practical scenarios wherein teachers mark their real-time response.

There will be several different tables set up with different practical scenarios, which students will have roughly 7 minutes to respond to – the assessors will mark everything including your communication skills. There are even Viva Voce (latin for “with living voice”) exams, which are completely oral-based. 

Skills That You Will Refine and Learn

UNSW Exercise Physiology’s focus on medical sciences gives graduates a very diverse skill set. The fact that the degree is delivered through the Medical Faculty means that students have skills that a lot of graduates from other programs won’t have. These skills are established in oncology, pharmacology, neurology and anatomy.

The degree’s practical format and oral-based exams also means that graduates have great communication and intrapersonal skills. Their ability to think on their feet, established in these practical exams, also develops their critical-thinking abilities.

What’s the Faculty and Culture Like?

We’re not gonna say that this is the best part of the degree because there are certainly many amazing points that we’ve already touched on. In saying that, UNSW Exercise Physiology truly does have an amazing faculty and cohort culture, which is mostly attributed to the fact that it’s such a tight-knit community.

Unlike other programs with a lot of electives, like a Bachelor of Science, UNSW Exercise Physiology is pretty rigid – this basically means that you’ll be progressing throughout the degree with the same classmates and a lot of the same teachers. It may sound cheesy but you’ll really have the opportunity to see them grow and you’ll most likely keep the friends you make for life. 

As far as teachers go, they’ll always be ready to sit down and have a chat and they’ll even give you hands-on advice with writing resumes. Some of the standout lecturers are Dr David Mizrahi and Dr Rachel Ward.

What are the societies like?

Exercise Physiology Society (ExPhysSoc) reflects the Faculty and its amazing cohort. They organise heaps of events for both social and professional development.

They also organise an end of year ball, which the teachers also attend. This is yet another way you can really build a relationship with not only the people you’re studying with but the ones that are teaching you too.

Arc (UNSW Student Life) also hosts 300 different societies, so why stop with just one?!

Interested in the pros and cons of Exercise Physiology at UNSW? Check out our article here!

Cody Williams is a Content Writer at Art of Smart Education. While Cody studied a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and French Studies at UNSW, he quickly realised that his dream job would have him sit happily behind a keyboard. Cody’s digital writing career started with an internship at Bauer Media where he was writing for ELLE and Harper’s BAZAAR’s online publications. Once he had a taste for writing he never looked back, moving to Brisbane soon later to work as a Producer for Channel Nine Queensland. After a year in television media, he dusted off his online writing shoes so he could put them to good use, stamping out some scorching-hot career and educational resources at AOS.


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