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Pharmacology Program Information and Earnings Potential

Majors Overview January 4, 2013

The study of how living organisms are affected by chemical substances such as pollutants, toxins and drugs are the domain of a pharmacologist. Medications are developed as a result of pharmacological research. A prospective pharmacologist is required to maintain a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. Continued education in the form of a post-doctoral program in clinical pharmacology is an option. In this article, we will look at the various educational options available to an aspiring pharmacologist.

Doctoral Degree

Aspiring pharmacologists can aim to complete a Ph.D. program in pharmacology; alternatively, they can seek enrollment in a joint program that will earn them both a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and a doctorate in pharmacology. Coursework in these programs usually combines classroom work and laboratory research. Before embarking on Ph.D. research, potential candidates are required to complete a comprehensive exam. The development of an original research project is probably expected from students, apart from the preparation and submission of a grant proposal. The writing and defending of an essay (on the basis of their research results), in a majority of cases are required of them.

Bachelor or Master Degree

Prospective pharmacologists are required to complete a bachelor or master degree program in life science such as biology or among others, before they can seek admission to a Ph.D. program in pharmacology. Submission of scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and letters of recommendation is required along with the application for admission to the doctoral program. To become eligible for admission to the joint Ph.D./M.D. programs, students have to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).


Coursework in a doctorate program in pharmacology includes topics such as the effect of drugs on different parts of the body, the use of drugs and mechanisms of action of drugs. Different specialty areas may be offered; these include neuropharmacology (the study of the effect of drugs on the nervous system) and molecular-level pharmacology. Curricula also covers the ethics relating to the development and testing of new drugs, apart from other subject areas such as Drug screening, scientific ethics, cellular pharmacology, the use and care of Lab animals, and pharmacodynamics.

Job and Wage Potential

In 2009, medical scientists employed in pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing firms earned an average annual salary of $91,720 (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( An encouraging job growth of twenty percent has been projected for pharmacologists during the decade from 2008 to 2018.

Postdoctoral Course in Pharmacology

Pharmacologists seeking continued education, particularly in the field of clinical pharmacology, can target a fellowship or post-doctoral course. These are research-intensive programs that run for durations of two to three years’; applicants are required to maintain a Ph.D. degree in Pharmacology. The most popular continued education programs among post-doctoral students are pharmacokinetics, biostatistics, ethical issues, and clinical trial design. Clinical training helps students gain knowledge about the development of new drugs; they will gain expertise in evaluating and understanding of others’ research in the subject area. Completion of a post-doctoral program will help pharmacologists obtain employment in academia, drug management and new drug development.

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