Pharmacologist

Two people in lab coats using pipette in a lab setting.

Pharmacology is the science of drugs and how the body responds to the drug. In a career as a pharmacologist, you could be on the front lines of research, testing medications and chemical compounds that will be used to treat and prevent major diseases. New areas in pharmacology are rapidly evolving, including personalized precision medicine and gene therapy, regenerative tissue development, and nanotechnology-based approaches used to fight diseases. 

Often confused with pharmacy, pharmacology is a separate discipline in the health sciences. As a pharmacologist, you will learn to design and test new and/or existing therapeutic drugs to achieve optimal therapeutic outcomes. Pharmacists on the other hand, ensure the proper dosage and composition of the medication is dispensed to the patient or utilized in clinical trials. Pharmacology integrates the knowledge of many disciplines, including biochemistry, physiology, medicine, and pharmacy. This integrative nature allows pharmacology to make unique and significant contributions to human health.

Outlook and demand

Demand is projected to increase for medical scientists such as pharmacologists. A larger and aging population, increased rates of several chronic conditions, and a growing reliance on pharmaceuticals are all factors that are expected to increase demand for pharmacologists. 

Pharmacologists will be needed for research related to drugs and clinical trial development to treat diseases such as AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.  In addition, the increasing frequency of international travel may facilitate the spread of existing diseases and give rise to new ones. Pharmacologists will continue to be needed because they contribute to the development of treatments and medicines that improve human health.

Employers look for professionals who can:

  • Direct medical science or healthcare programs.
  • Plan biological research.
  • Monitor operational procedures in technical environments to ensure conformance to standards.
  • Prepare scientific or technical reports or presentations.
  • Operate laboratory or field equipment.

Paths that can lead to this career

To become a pharmacologist, you will need a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field. Depending on your chosen career field, a master's, Ph.D., or other professional doctoral degree may be required. UAB's M.S. in Biomedical and Health Sciences is a one year program that can help you prepare for a variety of other professional healthcare programs. 

High School

If you're currently in high school and interested in becoming a pharmacologist you can do the following steps to prepare for this career:

Undergraduate

If you're currently an undergraduate and interested in becoming a pharmacologist, you can do the following steps to prepare for this career:

  • Complete any bachelor degree from an accredited university, however it is recommended you take:
    • General Chemistry
    • Organic Chemistry
    • Biochemistry
    • Biology with a lab
    • Mammalian Physiology
    • Microbiology
    • Physics
    • Calculus
    • Statistics
    • English
    • Economics
  • Find opportunities for hands-on research experience that will help you learn how to solve problems and think like a scientist. 
  • If you're interested in a one year Master's program to prepare for professional school or to get a more advanced background of the biomedical sciences, you can attend a UAB M.S. in Biomedical and Health Sciences Information Session.

Graduate

If you already have a bachelor's degree, the following courses will help you in this program:

  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology with a lab
  • Mammalian Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Physics
  • Calculus
  • Statistics
  • English
  • Economics
  • Physics 
  • Calculus 
  • Statistics 
  • English
  • Economics 

If you are interested in the development, manufacturing and commercial distribution of drugs, biologics and medical devices you may also be interested in the UAB Biotechnology Regulatory Affairs Certificate.

Job titles and employers

Pharmacologist

Places of work for this career:

  • Academia (Professor, Lab Manager, Researcher)
  • Non-Profits
  • Government (Staff Scientist, Director of Regulatory Affairs)
  • Pharmaceutical Industry (Director of Research, Medical Science Liaison)
  • Law (Tech Transfer Specialist, Patent Lawyer)
  • Science Policy and Outreach (Policy Analyst or Advisor, Public Affairs Director, Outreach Director, Government Affairs Specialist, Consultant)
  • Science Writing (Author, Editor, Freelance Writer, Medical Writer)

To find out detailed salary information and more information on this career, you can explore the Department of Labor's O*Net database..

Organizations to check out for this career:

Next steps

Explore

Find out more information about the M.S. in Biomedical and Health Sciences program.

Get Started

Learn more about admissions and financial aid now.

Ask

Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 205-934-3209.