What is a Pharmacologist?

Pharmacologist A pharmacologist is a highly trained medical scientist who study how drugs are broken down, absorbed, and transmitted through the human body to develop effective medications. Unlike toxicology, pharmacology focuses on the therapeutic effects of drugs rather than the negative impact of chemicals. Due to our large baby boomer population’s increased reliance on pharmaceuticals to treat illnesses and soothe pain, there’s expected to be a rising demand for the research of pharmacologists. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment of pharmacologists and other medical scientists will grow quickly by 13 percent before 2022. If you’re considering using your scientific background to improve human health, the following is a brief career profile on pharmacologists.

What Pharmacologists Do

Pharmacologists have the primary responsibility of conducting research that tests how certain drug therapies impact the body and could possibly treat a medical condition. Many scientists working in pharmacology will select a specialization to study drugs for a certain body region, such as respiratory, cardiovascular, or neurological health. On a typical day, pharmacologists could be involved in designing a new research study, analyzing medical samples, collecting data on toxicity, standardizing drug dosages, applying for research funding, and maintaining the safety of mass drug distribution. Some pharmacologists will work to find the right ingredients that create a new drug that meets Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements.

Where Pharmacologists Work

As you might expect, pharmacologists work mostly in research laboratories to plan and carry out their clinical trials on new drug medications. Pharmacologists can be employed by hospitals, research and development institutions, government agencies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, or private corporations. Certain pharmacologists also work for universities to research medicines while also teaching classes to medical students. Pharmacologists could find employment in forensic crime laboratories, but their focus will be on toxicology instead. The majority of pharmacologists will work full-time in a traditional 40-hour work week, which isn’t possible in several other medical careers. Their work can sometimes be dangerous when working with potentially harmful chemical compounds.

How to Become a Pharmacologist

There’s a long educational journey required for those wishing to be pharmacologists. Like other medical scientists, pharmacologists must develop their research skills by obtaining a Ph.D degree. Ph.D programs in pharmacology are offered nationwide, but some allow students to receive an M.D. or D.O. degree concurrently. Attending medical school and becoming a licensed physician is required for pharmacologists who plan to administer drugs or therapy treatments directly to patients in clinical trials. Medical school will include two years of classroom learning, two years of clinical rotations, and a residency program related to pharmacology. Post-doctoral fellowships are also common for aspiring pharmacologists seeking valuable hands-on lab experience. Obtaining certification from the American Board of Clinical Pharmacology (ABCP) is helpful to build professional credentials too.

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If you’re interested in studying drugs, but don’t want to become a pharmacist and directly interact with patients, then pharmacology could be the perfect fit. Pharmacologists receive a handsome average salary of $90,160 each year in exchange for conducting life-saving research to better understand drug interactions with the body. Becoming a pharmacologist will allow you to delve deeper into the science of how natural and synthetic chemical agents impact our biology. Other similar careers to pharmacologist that could interest you include toxicologist, epidemiologist, cancer researcher, serologist, and immunochemist.