Overview of a Toxicology Bachelor's Degree Program
The number of available bachelor's degree programs in toxicology may be counted on two hands, as this subject is more often studied through a graduate degree program. However, the few schools that do offer toxicology as an undergraduate program can be found in almost all regions of the United States.
The study of toxicology combines various scientific fields. Students in these degree programs take coursework in chemistry, biology and environmental science to examine the effects of toxicants (poisons) on living things (humans, plants and animals). In some instances, students can choose a specialization in one of three areas - environmental, cellular or organismal toxicology. Opportunities to complete research projects or internships at nearby labs could also be available. Below is information about some of the coursework and university requirements, along with what kind of employment options are available upon completion of this degree.
Admissions Requirements for a Toxicology Program
Prospective students looking to apply to a bachelor's degree program in this scientific field will need to have completed high school or obtained a GED. For this degree plan, it is advised that students take as many advanced math, computer science and lab science courses as they can get. Applicants will also need to submit an ACT or SAT score. They should check with their institution for minimum composite score requirements as well as the minimum area scores in math and English. A minimum high school GPA might also be required for admission.
Toxicology Program Coursework
Toxicology programs include a variety of advanced math and science courses, along with classes needed to meet a university's undergraduate general education requirements. Below are some of the more common toxicology courses:
Chemistry and Toxicology
This class introduces students to clinical toxicology and the processes involved in evaluating the function of the body's endocrine, intestinal and renal systems, among others. Students examine the chemical effects of helpful drugs, recreational drugs, pesticides, food additives, and environmental poisons on living systems. The impacts of drug abuse and therapeutic treatments for overdoses might also be discussed.
The Environment and Toxicology
This class discusses the uses of toxicology to evaluate and control environmental contaminants. Students examine case studies of past incidents. They also discuss more current environmental issues to understand the effects of hazardous materials once they are introduced to the environment in their various forms.
Toxicology and Food Safety
A food toxicology course involves the study of foods being produced in a lab as well as those grown on farms. Students might investigate the effects of toxicants in the soil that farmers use to grow crops and the preservatives used to make foods last longer on shelves. The effects of artificial colors and other food additives might also be discussed.
Toxicology and Pharmacology
This course helps students understand what happens to various systems of the human body when certain categories of drugs are introduced. Students also learn to discern between pharmaceuticals that are beneficial and toxicants that are hazardous to our health.
Toxicology and Forensics
Students in this class get an introduction to the role toxicology plays in the examination of evidence collected during a criminal investigation. Students learn the proper methods for collecting samples, testing the material and analyzing the results. They might also study topics like pharmacokinetics and the fundamentals of courtroom testimony.
How to Choose a Degree Program in Toxicology
As there is such a small number of schools that offer a toxicology undergraduate degree, you may want to determine what region of the U.S. you want to relocate to in order to complete a program. You may also want to consider what kind of opportunities the school offers in terms of advanced degrees. Other factors for consideration include internship options, the amount of lab time available to undergraduate students, and the credentials of faculty and their backgrounds in the field. A final consideration could possibly be career opportunities in that region of the country after graduation.
Career Options with a Toxicology Degree
It's not unusual to find people with this degree working as lab assistants and technologists for cosmetic companies, agricultural organizations, food producers, and medical laboratories. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that medical and clinical laboratory technologists will see employment opportunities grow by 14% between 2014-2024, and their median salary was $61,070 as of May 2016. Other employment areas that graduates in toxicology can look into are found below.