Pharmacologist Vs. Toxicologist

Pharmacology and toxicology are careers that involve extensive study of substances and their effects on living things. Learn details about these careers, including their differences and similarities, along with salary, education, and related careers.

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Comparing Pharmacologists to Toxicologists

Both pharmacologists and toxicologists deal with medications/drugs. A pharmacologist develops and studies new drugs and their effects on people. Toxicologists study the negative effects of medications and other harmful substances.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Pharmacologist Doctoral or professional degree in medicine or related life science field $97,411 8% (for all medical scientists)
Toxicologist Doctoral or professional degree $84,710 8% (for all medical scientists)

Sources: *PayScale **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Pharmacologists vs. Toxicologists

Pharmacologists and toxicologists work in the medical science field, studying medications and other substances for safety and efficacy. Pharmacologists research new drugs and their effects prior to being approved for dispensation to patients. Toxicologists research substances and treatments to determine safety parameters. Individuals in both of these careers must be highly detail-oriented, to ensure that adequate tests are being conducted for human safety. Pharmacologists and toxicologists may choose to specialize in a certain area of their field, such as studying certain molecules or safe dosage limits.


Pharmacology is one branch of a broader field known as medical science, which conducts studies and research for various branches of medicine. Pharmacologists are medical scientists that specialize in studying drugs. They work in a laboratory or similar setting, where they design and conduct experiments to determine the efficacy of various medications and the effects they have on the human population. They may study the specifics of a particular medication or may study the effects on a larger population. Most pharmacologists work standard hours.

Job responsibilities of a pharmacologist include:

  • Conducting clinical trials of new medications
  • Developing new methods for studying medications
  • Reviewing and evaluating data included in studies conducted by others for accuracy and safety
  • Creating standards for dosage and administration methods for new drugs to ensure safety and maximum efficacy


Toxicologists work as medical scientists, conducting studies and research regarding the harmful effects of poisons, cleaning and other household substances, and medications. They sometimes research whether certain substances are harmful at all or if the substance is only harmful with certain exposures or amounts. Some toxicologists also research these effects on other living things, such as animals and the environment. Many toxicologists work in laboratories, either public, such as at a university, or private, such as at a pharmaceutical company. Hours may vary based on the organization, but they usually work 40-hour weeks.

Job responsibilities of a toxicologist include:

  • Designing and executing studies that replicate exposures to certain substances
  • Working with health departments and other organizations to develop health standards, based on their expertise
  • Adhering to a strict safety regimen when handling any potentially dangerous substance
  • Analyzing data to determine causes and treatment for toxicity, pathogens, and diseases

Related Careers

A career as a medical doctor may be interesting to those looking to become pharmacologists, as both careers involve working with medical information to improve patient health. Those looking to become a toxicologist may be interested in a career as an epidemiologist, which entails studying the patterns of human health and how disease spreads.

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