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Pharmacokineticist: Job Description & Salary

Pharmacokineticists are medical scientists who work in drug toxicity and efficacy. Read on to learn more about what these professionals do and how you can become one.

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What is a Pharmacokineticist?

Pharmacokineticists work in the field of pharmacokinetics, which is the study of drug absorption, metabolism, and distribution. Professionals in this field aim to improve the health of their patients by improving efficacy and decreasing toxicity.

Pharmacokineticists are typically employed by pharmaceutical companies or research labs. Job duties will vary depending on an individual's specific role, but typical tasks include preparing reports, conducting studies, compiling research, and collaborating with other scientists in related fields. Individuals looking to break into this profession will require extensive training and education (normally a PhD is required for even entry-level positions.)

Educational Requirements Doctor or professional degree
Job Skills Communication skills, data analysis, critical thinking, problem-solving
Median Salary (2017)* $82,090 (for all medical scientists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 13% (for all medical scientists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

As with most scientific careers, aspiring pharmacokineticists will need multiple degrees in order to be competitive on the job market. Students looking to enter this field can start by earning a bachelor's degree in the natural sciences, such as chemistry or biology. Regardless of the major a student chooses, academic coursework typically involves plenty of quantitative coursework (math and science in particular).

After completing undergraduate education, students will then need to earn at least one graduate degree. Most positions will require a PhD, although some employers will accept candidates who have a master's degree and adequate work experience.

These graduate programs are often much more specialized, as many schools offer programs in pharmaceutical sciences. Aspiring pharmacokineticists can enroll in these programs and in some cases (depending on the program) pursue a specialization in pharmacokinetics. These programs heavily feature both theoretical research and practical work, often in a lab environment.

Pursuing a graduate degree normally involves completing a residency or internship, which can often lead to full-time employment upon completion of a program. Postdoctoral research positions are also common and afford students the chance to publish their research.

Required Skills

Pharmacokineticists will need to have an aptitude for quantitative skills in order to succeed. Scientists are exposed to exorbitant amounts of data, and require the ability to process and make sense of this data.

Along with data analysis, pharmacokineticists need to have excellent problem-solving and reasoning skills as they navigate information and make critically important decisions based on the conclusions they have drawn from the available information.

Lab work typically involves communication with peers, which means pharmacokineticists need to have good communication skills. Collaboration will frequently require working with professionals in other fields, so pharmacokineticists also need to be able to explain their research in a clear and concise way to those who may not be as technically proficient.

Pharmacokineticists also need good writing skills so that they can compose and publish their research. In some cases, professionals in this field may be required to draft grant proposals, making writing an even more important talent.

Career Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that medical scientists (including pharmacokineticists) can expect a positive job outlook, with 13%, or faster than average, growth between 2016 and 2026. A population that is aging and expanding will require the services of more medical scientists. In May 2017, the median annual wage for medical scientists was $82,090.

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