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Pharmacologist

Pharmacologists study the effects of drugs and other chemical substances on cells, animals, humans and the environment.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £25,000 to £80,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37.5 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll usually need a degree in pharmacology, although some employers may accept degrees in:

  • biochemistry
  • physiology
  • neuroscience
  • microbiology

It may also be useful to have paid or unpaid work experience. 

The British Pharmacological Society (BPS) and the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) have more information on work experience and becoming a pharmacologist.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • problem solving skills
  • accuracy and attention to detail
  • the ability to analyse and interpret data
  • excellent communication skills
  • a creative and innovative approach
  • the ability to organise, lead and motivate a team

3. What you'll do

You’ll work in a research team, and might specialise in:

  • clinical pharmacology - the effects of medicine on people in clinical trials
  • neuropharmacology - the effects of drugs on the nervous system

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • designing, setting up and carrying out experiments
  • analysing data using complex equipment and measuring systems
  • testing drugs on cells in labs and through clinical trials
  • making recommendations using the results of research to develop new products and manufacturing processes
  • studying the effects of drugs and testing the safety of manufactured products

Some of your duties may involve animal research.

You’ll also contribute to meetings and conferences, and publish reports. 

You may also supervise support staff and manage projects.

4. Salary

Starter: £25,000 to £28,000

Experienced: £30,000 to £40,000

Highly Experienced: £40,000 to £80,000

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. When you’re working on experiments or clinical trials you may work longer hours. You’ll also regularly work extra hours if you’re based in a university or work as a researcher in industry.

You’ll wear protective clothing to prevent contamination.

You’ll be based in a laboratory, but you’ll need to travel to fieldwork sites and scientific meetings and conferences.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could progress to supervisor or manager. You could also move into medical sales and marketing, drug registration, patent work or information science.

You could work in research and development with a postgraduate degree in pharmacology or a relevant PhD.

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Last updated: 21 December 2016