How to Become a Toxicologist

How to Become a Toxicologist: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a toxicologist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a toxicologist:


Those who become toxicologists must not only have a keen interest and curiosity in science, they must have the intellectual and emotional fortitude necessary to complete an advanced degree in toxicology.


They must also have communications skills and be articulate, in order to perform such duties as communicating their findings and drafting research grant proposals. Toxicologists must also have the patience and resolve to complete research properly.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a toxicologist. 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 to Become a Toxicologist

To gain an entry-level job in toxicology, you need to have a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, toxicology, biochemistry or a related field.


Depending on the requirements of the employer, a Master’s degree in toxicology is typically sufficient for many applied research positions. To become a toxicologist who works in research and university teaching positions a Ph.D. in toxicology is needed. Toxicologists must also complete continuing education throughout their careers in order to keep their skills current stay up to date with advancements in the field.


Specialized Toxicologists: Different toxicology specializations require different academic backgrounds. For example, medical or veterinary toxicologists must become doctors or veterinarians first, then pursue advanced coursework and training in toxicology.


For more information about related education programs, see the How to Become a Doctor and How to Become a Veterinarian career path guides.




Toxicologist Job Description

Toxicologists are responsible for studying the harmful effects that biological, physical and chemical agents such as drugs, plant toxins, radiation, pesticides, food additives and industrial chemicals have on living things.



Toxicologist Job Duties

• Conduct laboratory studies on substances or on energy in order to determine their effects on animals, plants and human tissue

• Develop new tests for toxicological studies

• Evaluate the level of risks that are associated with periods and levels of exposure

• Develop standards or guidelines for safe levels of chemical and physical agents in workplaces, air, food or drinking water

• Supervise the work of technologists and technicians

• Advise policy and program development officers concerning the health and legal aspects of chemical use

• Determine appropriate controls for various physical and chemical hazards



Where Do Toxicologists Work?

There are many organizations within different sectors of industry that are interested in utilizing the skills, knowledge and competencies of toxicologists. These organizations include:


Colleges and Universities: Many colleges and universities hire toxicologists to teach toxicology at the undergraduate and the graduate level.


Federal Government Agencies: Certain federal government agencies hire toxicologists, such as regulatory agencies, to assist in the development and enforcement of laws that govern the production, use and disposal of chemicals.


Private Research Firms: Many private research firms employ toxicologists for the purpose of conducting research on specific issues of industrial or public concern.


Pharmaceutical Companies: Pharmaceutical companies often hire toxicologists in many of their departments, including product development, product safety evaluation, and regulatory compliance.


Consulting Firms: Many government agencies, private corporations and lawyers hire toxicology consultants to provide guidance and advice in matters related to toxicology, such as helping to explain to the public why regulatory action was or was not taken in certain situations.





Toxicologist Salary: How Much do Toxicologists Make?

The salary level of toxicologists can vary depending on a number of factors, including their level of education, their level of experience, the specific responsibilities of their job, where they work, and many others.


Toxicologist Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Biologists and Related Scientists occupational group, which includes toxicologists, earn an average wage of between $26.73 and $62.00 per hour.


Toxicologist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for workers in the Biochemists and Biophysicists occupational group is $79,390 per year. The lowest 10 percent of salaries in this group are less than $43,050, and the top 10 percent are more than $142,420 per year. 



Why Are Toxicologists Important?

If you choose to become a toxicologist, you will be preparing for a very important and meaningful career. Chemicals are increasingly present in daily lives; from pesticides in the food we eat to pollutants in the air we breathe. Toxicologists help answer critical questions related to specific chemicals and how they affect humans, plants and animals. Such questions include whether or not certain chemicals can cause cancer, birth defects, nervous system defects, or if they have other undesirable and harmful effects.


Toxicologists also play a key role in advising lawmakers and government agencies in matters relating to public health and regulatory issues. Toxicologists help determine which programs our valuable public resources are spent on by determining the risk certain chemicals and products pose, and under which specific conditions they pose that risk.



Personality Traits and Skills Needed to Become a Toxicologist

In order to become successful in a career as a toxicologist, you need to have a certain set of personality traits, as well as a certain skill set. These skills and traits will ensure that you are able to perform your job in a competent and professional manner.


• Posses the patience and stamina to keep until results or breakthroughs are achieved

• Have a strong interest in science and biology

• Enjoy conducting research and synthesizing information

• Highly organized and able to keep detailed records of work performed

• Comfortable working with teams of scientists, who will likely be composed of individuals with a variety of personality types

• Able to effectively deal with a difference in opinion

• Able to precisely observe and monitor samples and other data

• Able to determine what data will be able to help answer the questions posed prior to, during and after research


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Careers Similar to Toxicologist

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




Medical Scientist






References: Toxicologist Career

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


Occupations in Alberta:Biochemist.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 14, 2020.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Biochemists and Biophysicists.” (September 4, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 14, 2020.

Careers:Becoming a Toxicologist.” (n.d.). Society of Toxicology website. Retrieved January 14, 2020.

College to Career:Toxicology.” (n.d.) American Chemical Society website. Retrieved January 14, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Toxicologist

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Toxicologist can be found on the following pages:


Biochemistry Scholarships

Biology Scholarships

Chemistry Scholarships


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!



Becoming a Toxicologist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a toxicologist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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