Pharmacologist: Job Description & Career Information

Read on to see what it takes to become a pharmacologist. Learn about education and training requirements. Discover job prospects and earning potential to see if this is the right job for you.

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Career Definition for Pharmacologists

Pharmacologists conduct research on animals or on willing human subjects; they seek chemical compounds and substances that can be used as new medications. Some pharmacologists focus on the effects of harmful chemicals, while others research the harmful and beneficial effects of chemicals on specific regions of the body, such as the respiratory or cardiovascular systems. Job duties include planning and directing studies, standardizing drug doses, preparing research grants, and following safety procedures.

Education Doctorate in pharmacology or related field
Job Duties Planning and directing studies, standardizing drug doses, performing research
Median Salary (2015)* $82,240 (all medical scientists)
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% (all medical scientists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Pharmacologists must have an advanced degree such as a Ph.D. or a Pharm.D. in order to find a job. Students interested in entering the field should take classes in toxicology, chemistry, biology, pharmacology, and microbiology. Students also gain hands-on training through labs and clinical experiences. Additionally, medical scientists who administer drugs to humans or interact with patients must meet the qualifications of a licensed M.D., which requires graduating from an accredited medical school, passing licensing exams, and completing residency requirements, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS,

Skills Required

Pharmacologists must have a strong background in math and science and need to be able to gather, analyze, and understand medical data. Additionally, they should have excellent written and oral communication skills and must be capable of operating medical equipment and other machinery used in research.

Career and Economic Outlook

Jobs available for medical scientists are predicted to expand by about 8% from 2014 through 2024, according to the BLS. The BLS also reported the median annual salary for medical scientists, including pharmacologists, as $82,240 in May 2015. Advancements in medical technology and an increased emphasis on using medications to treat mental and physical issues are expected to create sustained job growth in the industry.

Alternate Career Options

Similar career options in this field include:


Epidemiologists study the cause and evolution of disease outbreaks and related public health concepts to understand how to slow or stop their spread; epidemiologists' work is also used to minimize the chances of such an outbreak happening again. Epidemiologists have earned at least a master's degree or Ph.D. in the field; some also have a medical degree. Epidemiologists can look forward to a positive job growth of 6% from 2014 to 2024, per the BLS. This occupation paid a median salary of $69,450 in 2015, reported the BLS.


A biochemist applies the knowledge and lab skills gained through extensive education and training, including a Ph.D. program in biochemistry, to the study of living organisms. Biochemists focus on how and why cells behave the way they do; they may study the building blocks of cells, how different drugs affect cells, and related ideas. The BLS reports that jobs for biochemists and biophysicists are expected to increase by 8% from 2014 to 2024, and that those in these fields earned a median pay of $82,150 in 2015.

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