Pharmacologist: Job and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a pharmacologist. Learn about degree requirements, employment outlook, salary and job duties to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Pharmacologist Do?

Pharmacologists study the drugs that will eventually be dispensed by pharmacists and develop safe administration and dosing regimens. As a pharmacologist, your job duties may include developing new drugs and researching the outcomes of medications. You'll need a good understanding of how drugs affect the human body. You may work in research, drug development or in toxicology. Read the table to learn more about the education needed and other key career information.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Pharmacology, biology
Key Responsibilities Research the outcomes of medications, develop new drugs, consult with other scientists regarding the effectiveness of health programs
Licensure A medical license is only required if administering medication
Job Growth (2014-2024)8% (for all medical scientists, except epidemiologists)*
Median Salary (2016) $96,392**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What is a Pharmacologist?

A pharmacologist is different than a pharmacist. Pharmacy is classified as a health profession; an aspiring pharmacist needs to complete a Doctor of Pharmacy program before he or she can dispense medication to the public. Pharmacologists don't practice pharmacy in the United States - they study how different drugs interact with human systems. As a pharmacologist, you'll examine ways in which medicine can be introduced and regulated within the body.

What Education Will I Need to Have?

You'll typically need to have a graduate degree in order to work as a pharmacologist. You should first earn a bachelor's degree in life sciences, mathematics or engineering before applying to a graduate pharmacology program. You might pursue a Master of Science (M.S.) in Pharmacology, an M.S. in Pharmacology and Toxicology or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Pharmacology. Some schools offer a combined Doctor of Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy (M.D./Ph.D.) in Pharmacology.

You'll study basic biological processes in human and animal cells through most graduate-level programs. Common courses may explore laboratory techniques, clinical trials and research methods in pharmacology. You might learn how different types of medicine or therapeutic treatments can offset organ failure in humans as well as animals.

Many of your courses will be laboratory-based. You'll need to write a thesis in order to earn a master's degree; doctoral programs usually require completion of a dissertation in order to graduate.

Where Will I Find Work?

A graduate program in pharmacology could prepare you for a career in medical research, pharmacology or toxicology. You might devise and regulate new types of medication for a drug company; you could work for a government department like the Federal Drug Agency or the Center for Disease Control. Earning a Ph.D. may lead to work as a professor at a 4-year college or university.

How Much Could I Earn?

According to PayScale.com, the 10th to 90th percentile of pharmacologists earned between $31,414 - $122,536 as of October 2016. During the same year, the 10th to 90th percentile of toxicologists earned between $44,423 - $138,416. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that medical scientists in general (except epidemiologists) earned a median annual wage of $82,240 in 2015 (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Individuals can also pursue a career as an epidemiologist, which also requires a master's degree and has a health-related focus. Epidemiologists study the causes of disease and injury and work to improve public health. Biochemists are scientists who study the chemical characteristics of living organisms. They manage laboratory teams, write research papers, and conduct research. Entry-level biochemist positions can be obtained with a bachelor's or master's, though a doctoral degree is required for most research positions.

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