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Pharmacologist Job Description, Career as a Pharmacologist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Advanced degrees

Salary: Average—$91,407 to $118,828 per year

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Pharmacologists are research scientists who develop, identify, and test drugs to cure, treat, and prevent disease. They also test substances, such as gases, dusts, or food colorings, to determine if they are harmful. They often study the effects of drugs and other substances on laboratory animals, such as guinea pigs and monkeys.

Among the many areas of specialization are clinical pharmacology, which involves testing drugs on human beings; neuropharmacology, which analyzes the effect of drugs on the nervous system; and chemotherapy, the development and study of drugs that kill cancer cells, germs, or viruses without destroying healthy cells. Toxicologists study poisonous drugs and other substances, such as chemicals and air pollutants, that have harmful effects.

The majority of pharmacologists spend their time in laboratories, although many also teach. Pharmacologists work in private industry, hospitals, universities, and government agencies.

Education and Training Requirements

Bachelor's degrees, including courses in sciences and mathematics, are required to enter pharmacology programs. Graduate study includes theoretical courses and laboratory research, resulting in doctorates in pharmacology. Pharmacologists must have both doctorates and medical degrees to conduct clinical testing on humans. Some medical schools have special programs that offer both degrees.

Getting the Job

Graduates can apply directly to drug companies, universities, hospitals, or government agencies. School placement offices and professional associations usually have lists of job openings.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Most pharmacologists advance by continuing their education. They often become experts in one area of pharmacology or lead research teams or university departments.

The employment outlook for pharmacologists is very good through the year 2010. The projected increase in the middle-aged and elderly populations should increase the demand for trained professionals in all of the life sciences. Scientific advances that make more drug products available—and require more testing—should create many new jobs for pharmacologists.

Working Conditions

Pharmacologists usually spend long hours in laboratories and research libraries. Their meticulous work usually gives them great personal satisfaction.

Where to Go for More Information

American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814-3995
(301) 634-7060

American Board of Clinical Pharmacology
PO Box 40278
San Antonio, TX 78229-1278
(210) 567-8505

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary depending on education, experience, and type of employment. In 2006 average earnings of experienced pharmacologists ranged from $91,407 to $118,828 per year. Benefits included paid vacations and holidays, health insurance, and retirement plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine