Clinical Pharmacology Training and Degree Program Information

Although a few jobs in this field may be obtained with a master's degree, practicing clinical pharmacology usually requires further work and study to achieve a Ph.D. This is a relatively long academic road to a specialized medical-scientific career.

Essential Information

Clinical pharmacology is the science of drug research. Practitioners examine how drugs work and look for ways to improve benefits and lessen side effects. Master's degrees in this field often prepare students for further education, and combine classes in human health, pharmacology, and mathematics with research experiences. Doctoral degrees expand upon this knowledge and expect students to conduct extensive research on a topic of their choosing. Following degree completion, graduates can begin entry-level employment or pursue medical degrees to gain more autonomy in the workforce.

  • Program Levels: Master's and Doctoral Degrees.
  • Prerequisites: A bachelor's degree in a related field for the M.S. program and a master's for the Ph.D. GRE scores may be required.
  • Program Length: Typically six years, two for the master's and four more for the doctoral degree.
  • Other Requirements: A thesis or dissertation is usually required. Practicum in clinical trials may be needed.

Master's Degree in Clinical Pharmacology

Those who have completed a bachelor's degree in a related field may enter these 2-year programs that focus on research. Students gain a fundamental knowledge of data collection and analysis. Master's programs in clinical pharmacology typically prepare students for advanced graduate work in a Ph.D. program. Before applying to a master's program, students should know the school's GRE requirements.

Master's programs in clinical pharmacology emphasize research, both in studying statistics and analyzing drug effects in patients. Academic focus is placed on monitoring pharmaceutical therapy and observing effects. In addition to the completion of a thesis project, coursework might include the following:

  • Fundamentals of biostatistics
  • Studies in public health
  • Overview of pharmacology
  • Drug research ethics and issues
  • Clinical trial practicum

Ph.D. in Clinical Pharmacology

A Ph.D. in Clinical Pharmacology generally takes 4 years of study beyond the master's level and involves implementation of clinical trials, lab work and seminar sessions. Strong analytical as well as effective communication skills are needed.

Admissions preference may be given to those who hold degrees related to pharmaceutical medicine. However, other master's degree students such as biochemistry, molecular biology and pharmaceutical sciences are considered. A dissertation is usually required and students can expect coursework focused on pharmaceutical studies in relation to human patients. Topics might include the following:

  • Analysis and theories of pharmacometrics
  • Clinical trials: Development and practice
  • Principles of biostatistics
  • Pharmacoepidemiology: Drug effects and outcomes
  • Contemporary issues related to drug therapy

Popular Career Options

A master's degree in clinical pharmacology could lead to an entry-level position in pharmacological research, such as employment as a clinical trials associate. However, to pursue a career as a clinical pharmacologist, a Ph.D. typically is needed. With a master's degree, graduates can apply directly to a Ph.D. in Clinical Pharmacology program, pursue a medical degree in conjunction with a Ph.D. in Clinical Pharmacology or apply for a fellowship leading to a Ph.D.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Clinical pharmacologists generally work as either academic, government or industry professionals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for medical scientists (which clinical pharmacologists are included in this category) are projected to rise 13% in the period 2012-2022. The median annual salary for medical scientists was $79,930 in May 2014. Those working for the federal government earned the most at an average salary of $120,110 per year. Those employed by the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry bring home an average yearly salary of $109,000.

Continuing Education Information

Clinical pharmacologists must work alongside a licensed medical doctor in order to administer medication and perform procedures while conducting clinical trials. Some clinical pharmacologists decide to obtain their medical degree as well, giving them the independdence to work without a medical doctor's assistance.

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