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From common cold and headache remedies to anti-depressants, chemotherapy, and HIV-mitigating anti-retrovirals, drugs are at the center of most medical care in the world today. The discovery of new diseases, the growing elderly population, and the constant pursuit of better drugs is increasing the need for pharmacologists, who research, produce, and create policy about the use of drugs.

Pharmacologists are often thought of in tandem with toxicologists, for both research the effects of chemicals on cells. However, toxicologists examine the effects of poisons on cells while pharmacologists remain focused on drug-related chemical interactions. Most pharmacologists work as researchers or in public policy, in universities, the burgeoning biotech industry and government agencies. Clinical pharmacologists with a medical degree work specifically, though not solely, with clinical trials of drugs. Prospective students should seek programs that will train them in the type of work they hope to be doing and give them access to hands-on opportunities.

Degree Information

The M.S. degree is a one or two year program that generally prepares one either for a career in the pharmaceutical industry (typically not in research, but sales, marketing, or outreach) or for advanced study towards medical school or a Ph.D. Joint degrees, such as M.S./MBA, are also offered.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • What kind of research are the instructors doing?
  • Does the program have connections to the settings where you might want to work, whether pharmaceutical company, government agency, or academia?
  • Does it offer a subspecialty you’d like to focus on (i.e. oncology or infectious diseases)?

Career Overview

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment in this field is expected to grow faster than the average through 2012. Graduates may develop new drugs for pharmaceutical companies, create policy at government agencies, and write policies at insurance companies.

Career/Licensing Requirements

Licensing requirements will depend on the ultimate career path chosen.

Salary Information

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2002, pharmaceutical researchers earned a median annual income of $72,330.

Related Links

American Board of Clinical Pharmacology
Recently created organization that administers an optional accreditation for clinical pharmacologists.

National Association of Chain Drug Stores
Provides information pertaining to the drug store industry, including government regulations, resources for students and others, and publications.

American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Professional organization provides information about research and subspecialties within the field.


  • Drugs And The Addictive Process

  • Advanced Organic Chemistry

  • Biostatistics

  • Directed Research In Pharmacology

  • Mammalian Physiology

  • Membrane Physiology

  • Neural Control

  • Pharmaceutics 1–Biopharmaceutics

  • Pharmacy Law And Ethics

  • Pharmacy Practice 1