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How to become a Pharmacologist

pharmacologist careers

What does a Pharmacologist do?

Pharmacologists study the effects of drugs and chemical compounds on humans and animals. They investigate the safety and effectiveness of drugs, advise on dosage, create tests to establish any side effects, and seek to identify elements which may contribute to the discovery of other new drugs. Working as part of a multidisciplinary team including biochemists, biologists, geneticists, microbiologists, toxicologists, and pharmacists, they may be involved in running clinical trials of new drugs, or work in research and development.

Their duties are likely to include:

  • assessing the therapeutic potential and biological properties of compounds which may be effective against disease
  • screening biologically active compounds for potency, selectivity, safety and stability
  • developing new approaches to designing, synthesising and producing drugs
  • testing drugs on cells, tissue cultures, organs and animals
  • conducting clinical trials on humans
  • testing the safety of products such as pesticides, cosmetics, solvents and food additives
  • assessing the effects of pollutants, poisons and pesticides.
Much of the work involves collecting, analysing and interpreting complex data using computers and sophisticated equipment.

Pharmacologists keep abreast of developments in their particular subject area, and write reports and present the findings of their own research to colleagues. Some supervision of support staff and the management and co-ordination of projects may be part of this job.

What's the working environment like working as a Pharmacologist?

Pharmacologists normally work 37.5 hours a week, Monday to Friday. Occasionally experiments or clinical trials may involve working longer hours. Academics in universities and researchers in industry regularly work extra hours.

Protective clothing is worn to prevent contamination and to avoid contact with hazardous substances. Fieldwork may involve travel and periods away from home and attendance at scientific meetings and conferences.

What does it take to become a Pharmacologist?

To be a pharmacologist, you should:

  • have an ability and an interest in science
  • have an enquiring mind, be creative and innovative in your approach to work
  • have good problem solving skills
  • be interested in developing new cures and treatments for diseases
  • be able to work in and lead a team of scientists
  • be able to work accurately and pay great attention to detail
  • have an aptitude for maths, statistics and IT, be able to analyse and interpret data
  • have well developed written and verbal communication skills
  • be patient and tolerant, able to respond positively when experiments fail.

Pharmacologist Career Opportunities

Pharmacologists are employed by a wide range of organisations in both the public and private sectors. These include the pharmaceutical industry, manufacturers of chemicals, food and drink products, household goods or cosmetics, NHS hospitals, the Public Health Laboratory Service, and government or charity-funded research institutes.

There are opportunities to take on supervisory and managerial responsibilities, and to move into other areas of work such as medical sales and marketing, drug registration, patent work, and information science. A large proportion of pharmacologists work for multinational companies, so there may be opportunities to work abroad. Relocation may be necessary for career progression.

Pharmacology graduates wishing to work in medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine may be able to do so by completing a shortened degree course. Courses usually take four years to complete and are offered at several universities throughout the country. For more information check the BPS website.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Pharmacologist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

British Pharmacological Society
16 Angel Gate
City Road

Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
12 Whitehall

Facts and Stats:

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Courses to help you become a Pharmacologist