Pharmacology is all about investigating the effects of pharmaceutical products on organic life systems. Pharmacologists are responsible for examining the effects of new or modified medicines and recording what reactions take place when tests are carried out on biological specimens.
Pharmacological research is carried out to ensure that drugs and medicines are completely safe and free of any dangerous side effects. Pharmacologists also play an important role in the research and development of new medicines.
Essentially, these guys work in laboratories alongside other medical research scientists, carrying out complex experiments, testing specimens, using high-tech devices and analysing complex scientific data.
Pharmacologists also write detailed reports on their research findings and then present them to senior colleagues and their scientific peers.
Pharmacologists usually specialise in one of various sub-categories, such as biochemistry, clinical pharmacology, neuropharmacology and pharmacokinetics. Pharmacologists are employed in both the public and private sector.
In the public sector, pharmacologists work for the NHS, government research centres, academic institutions and regulatory authorities. In the private sector, they predominantly work for pharmaceutical companies, medical research facilities and privately-funded clinical research organisations.
Salary & benefits
Starting annual salaries for pharmacologists range between £25,000 and £30,000, while experienced pharmacologists can earn anywhere between £30,000 and £100,000.
Earning potential is primarily mainly driven by individual qualifications, subject-matter expertise and experience. However, generally, private sector professionals tend to earn higher salaries than public sector employees.
Both private and public sector staff tend to work a standard nine-to-five day. However, you may be required to work longer hours when research deadlines are looming.
To become a pharmacologist, you will need to obtain a relevant undergraduate or postgraduate degree (2:1 minimum) in a subject such as chemistry, biology, natural sciences, pharmacology, biotechnology, biomedical sciences, toxicology or biochemistry.
Entry into this profession is incredibly competitive and thus a postgraduate degree may help your chances of finding employment, especially with major pharmaceutical companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
Training & progression
Graduate development programmes are common in the private sector. These schemes allow entry-level employees to develop their skills in a structured environment.
However, if you enter the profession through another channel, there are plenty of professional courses you can take. It’s also a good idea to become a member of organisations like the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and the British Pharmacological Society (BPS).
Pharmacologists in the academic domain can move into the private sector, and vice versa. You can also progress within your organisation to take on managerial roles. However, as you progress up the career ladder, it’s likely that you’ll take a step back from hands-on scientific research activities.