How to Become a Pharmacologist

Those who become pharmacologists are strong in academics and are emotionally stable, as this is required to complete short and long-term tasks. They have a solid knowledge of the biological sciences, and also of mathematics, chemistry, and many aspects of medicine.


They also enjoy the idea of conducting research that will be used in real word applications; they typically have big ideas and want them to become a reality.


Pharmacologists may apply their skills and knowledge to a variety of areas, including the development of drugs for the prevention and treatment of physiological, psychological and cardiovascular diseases and illnesses; the review of new drug applications submitted by pharmaceutical companies and many other areas.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a pharmacologist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed You'll Need

You'll likely need to begin by completing a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in pharmacology, or a related science such as physiology or biochemistry. However, because pharmacology involves the use of principles from many of the biomedical sciences, pharmacology careers have more than one possible education route. Pharmacologists may train initially in medicine, pharmacy, molecular biology, biochemistry or physiology before specializing in pharmacology.


A bachelor’s degree in an area related to pharmacology serves as an excellent way to prepare for an advanced degree; it also opens the door to entry-level careers in pharmacology, such as laboratory assistant.


If you want to become a pharmacologist that works as a consultant, you will need a Master’s degree or professional degree, such as a medical degree. To become a pharmacologist that works in research for a large pharmaceutical company, or work as a university professor, a Ph.D., or a medical degree is typically needed.


Success Tip: Aspiring pharmacologists that wish to move into sales representative, or executive management positions later in their career may find that coursework in economics, marketing, management and other areas of business can be beneficial to take.





Pharmacologist Job Description

Pharmacologists are responsible for identifying and investigating the effects of drugs and chemicals on living systems. They use the knowledge they gain from study and analysis to help design drugs used in the prevention and treatment of physiological, psychological and cardiovascular diseases and illnesses, and other medical conditions.



Pharmacologist Job Duties

• Record detailed notes during the research process

• Conduct quantitative analysis to determine how much of one substance is mixed with another

• Develop and improve products

• Develop new production processes

• Assist in the evaluation and marketing of drugs and related pharmaceutical products

• Liaise with government agencies concerning the detection, regulation and licensing of drugs and other pharmaceutical products

• Conduct basic or clinical research in the laboratories of universities, hospitals, research institutes and private industries

• Train physicians, pharmacists, dentists, future pharmacologists and other health care professionals in universities or other post-secondary institutions



Who Hires Them?

Pharmacologists are hired by organizations that are involved in researching, developing and marketing drugs and other pharmaceutical products, as well as organizations responsible for regulating those products. With additional training pharmacologists may also work as physicians, researchers, teachers, administrators, or combinations of these.


Organizations that hire pharmacologists include:


• Provincial/state and federal governments

• Universities and colleges

• Large hospitals

• Private research institutes

• Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies

• Health authorities

• Food processing companies

• Agricultural chemical companies



Typical Salary Level

The salary level of pharmacologists can vary depending on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, the specific responsibilities of their job and many others.


Salary in Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Biologists and Related Scientists occupational group earn an average of between $26.73 and $62.00 per hour.


Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of workers in the Biochemists and Biophysicists occupational group is $79,390 per year.




Personality Traits Needed to Succeed

In order to become effective in a career as a pharmacologist, you need to posses certain personality traits. These traits will not only allow you to conduct your job duties with competence, they will also allow you to endure the ups and downs of this career.


• An interest in solving problems

• An interest in developing products and processes

• An interest in business and a flare for sales

• The ability to communicate effectively with other professionals such as pharmaceutical chemists, product managers and others

• The ability to work on a team

• Emotional stability

• Enjoy working in a lab

• Patience, persistence and the ability to pay attention to detail



Areas of Focus for this Occupation

Most practicing pharmacologists concentrate on more specialized areas such as:


Molecular Pharmacology: Concerned with the biochemical and biophysical interactions of molecules in the study of existing drugs and in the formulation of new compounds.


Biochemical Pharmacology: Studies the actions of drugs through biochemical and enzymological interactions. Biochemical pharmacologists typically have specialized training in areas such as enzymology, protein chemistry, biophysics and genetics.


Cardiovascular-Autonomic System Pharmacology: Deals with one of the leading causes of death in Western society, which is cardiovascular disease. Pharmacologists in this area work to develop new drugs to control diseases of the heart and circulatory system.


Neuropharmacology/Psychopharmacology: This branch of pharmacology is concerned with developing drugs that modify the functions of the nervous system. These drugs include anaesthesia, pain control, suppression of epileptic seizures, as well as drugs that affect mood, behavior, and various forms of mental illness. These pharmacologists typically have specialized training in areas such as physiology, biochemistry and pathology of the nervous system as well as a background in behavioral sciences.


Behavioral Pharmacology: Studies the effects of drugs on behavior, often in larger groups of individuals, or society as a whole. Careers in behavioural pharmacology require a background in psychology, neurology, zoology and biochemistry in addition to pharmacological training.


Endocrine Pharmacology: Endocrine pharmacologists study hormones, as they relate to problems such as regulating the function of hormones on metabolic processes in the control of disease. Their work also deals with issues such as insulin and its use in diabetes, the contraceptive pill, and the use of steroids to combat inflammation.


Chemotherapy: Deals with the interactions of humans, microbiological agents of disease, and drugs. Work in this area is responsible for the development antibiotics, antiviral drugs and cancer-fighting drugs. Careers in chemotherapy require a solid foundation in microbiology, immunology and genetics.


Clinical Pharmacology: Clinical pharmacologists are practicing physicians that work in large hospitals. Their work is concerned drug effects, drug disposition, drug-drug interactions in the body, toxicity, and therapeutic applications. 



Careers Similar to Pharmacologist

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Pharmacologist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Chemical Analyst

Organic Chemist

Pharmaceutical Chemist





Job Postings

Check our job board below to find Pharmacologist postings in your area.



Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Pharmacologist can be found on our Chemistry Scholarships and Biochemistry Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!




Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a Pharmacologist.


Occupations in Alberta: Pharmacologist.” (April 11, 2014). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Biochemists and Biophysicists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Careers:A Tale of Two Pharmacologists.” Career Doctor (March 14, 2003). American Association for the Advancement of Science website. Retrieved January 7, 2020.



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below will help set a valuable foundation for work in this field. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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