Facts About Being a Pharmacologist

Pharmacologists sometimes work with  toxic substances
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Pharmacologists sometimes work with  toxic substances

Part scientist and part pharmacist, the pharmacologist is an interesting figure in the medical field. Pharmacologists may come off as uptight lab rats, but the truth is that their research supplies people with lifesaving medications. Pharmacologists can be found working on college campuses and government labs, but not behind the counter at your local drugstore. Saving the world from illness and disease is the goal for these medical superstars.

What They Do

Pharmacologists are the scientists who test out medications and their effects on humans. In preliminary research, they may work with lab animals, spending their days documenting the effects of drugs on symptoms or illnesses. They look for side effects and use calculated research to determine what dosages are best. You can thank a pharmacologist for the booklet listing a million side effects and warnings that came with your last dose of antibiotics. They also oversee clinical trials on medical test subjects. Remember when your college would offer $10 to test subjects to use the latest acne cream? Pharmacologists analyze tons of data and may spend years just working on one medication or one disease.

Where They Work

Pharmacologists are not pharmacists despite the fact that they work with drugs. They do work in research for pharmaceutical companies but they will not be dispensing your cold medicine. You can find pharmacologists buried deep within the research labs of colleges and universities working on their current hypotheses while trying to secure grants for their work. They also work for the government, researching diseases and performing clinical tests. The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, is a big employer of pharmacologists since medications must obtain FDA approval before being released to the public for sale.

How Much They Make

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics defines pharmacologists as medical scientists. The average rate of pay for this group in 2010 was $76,700. Working in the private sector or for the federal government pays even more. The average salary for folks in these sectors was $90,000 plus annually. Since a large segment of the population is entering retirement age, the need for advanced medicines is growing. This means that the number of jobs in this field is expected to increase by 36 percent between 2010 and 2020.

How to Become One

There are not too many colleges offering undergraduate degrees in pharmacology, however a degree in chemistry or a biological science will put you on the right path. A Ph.D. is required to become a pharmacologist, and this can be obtained in a medical, pharmacy or veterinary medicine school, all of which offer pharmacological programs as a course of study. It takes approximately four to five years to complete a Ph.D. After graduating, the new pharmacologist usually spends another two to four years in research training before embarking on a career.

2016 Salary Information for Medical Scientists

Medical scientists earned a median annual salary of $80,530 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, medical scientists earned a 25th percentile salary of $57,000, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $116,840, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 120,000 people were employed in the U.S. as medical scientists.

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