Find out how you can study to get a job doing brain research and developing new medications for nervous system diseases. Read on to see job details, education and training requirements, career outlook and earning potential in the field.

Is Neuropharmacology for Me?

Career Summary

Neuropharmacology is a biological science within the field of neuroscience that focuses on how chemicals, such as medicines, alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, affect or alter messages sent between brain and other nerve cells. With the knowledge gained through research in the field, doctors are better able to help patients with problems such as substance abuse, nervous system disorders, strokes and pain.

Employment Possibilities

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical scientists generally require a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), but those with the additional Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) will have the best job opportunities ( A Master of Science (M.S.) or Ph.D. in Neuroscience with a concentration in neuropharmacology may open doors to the world of academic research, teaching, industry or government service. You could be a medical scientist, psychiatrist, neurosurgeon or neurologist. Neurosurgeons, neurologists and psychiatrists must have an M.D. or Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) and be licensed, which requires graduation from an accredited medical school and passing an exam.

Salary and Job Outlook

The BLS reported that as of May 2013, medical scientists, with the exception of epidemiologists, had an average annual wage of $90,230. Employment was expected to grow as fast as the average for all occupations, with an increase of 13% in the 2012-2022 decade. This growth was seen as a direct reflection of the expansion in research due to illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. The BLS did not report specifically on neurosurgeons, but reported that surgeons in general had an average annual salary of $233,150. Surgeons and physicians had a reported employment growth of 18% in the 2012-2022 decade. reported that the majority of neurologists made between $79,148 and $296,254 as of April 2014.

How Can I Work in Neuropharmacology?

Undergraduate Programs

To work in neuropharmacology, you'll need to start with a bachelor's degree from an accredited school. The degree should relate to the biological or physical sciences, such as a Bachelor of Science in Biology or another related field. After earning your bachelor's degree, employment will generally require that you further your education with an advanced degree, such as a master's degree or Ph.D.

Graduate Studies

Master's degree programs and Ph.D. programs in the neurosciences are rigorous, with numerous courses required in anatomy and physiology, cell biology, neuroscience and neurophysiology, as well as courses in neuropharmacology, pharmacology and toxicology. You can also expect to take biochemistry and molecular biology courses. Additionally, you'll generally be required to do lab rotations. Master's programs typically require a written thesis, while doctoral programs require a written dissertation based on original research. Some schools offer joint M.D./Ph.D. programs in neuroscience.

Additional Career Options

If you'd like to be a neurologist, psychiatrist or neurosurgeon, you'll need an M.D. or D.O. This will first require a bachelor's degree. Though a science major is not required, you'll need to have taken chemistry, math, physics and biology classes as well as English, humanities and social science courses. You'll then need four years of medical school followed by 3-8 years of participating in an internship and residency, which is typically at a hospital, depending upon your chosen specialty. Additionally, you'll be required to pass an exam to become licensed.

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