Job Description:

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

Job Category:

What you will 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. (teamwork)


You’ll need:

  • science skills
  • knowledge of biology
  • knowledge of chemistry including the safe use and disposal of chemicals
  • maths knowledge
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a pharmacologist, you typically need to pursue higher education, such as a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or even a Ph.D., in pharmacology, pharmaceutical sciences, or a related field. However, here are some suggested subjects that can provide a strong foundation for pursuing a career in pharmacology:

  1. Biology: This is a fundamental subject for anyone interested in pharmacology, as it covers topics related to living organisms, including human anatomy and physiology, genetics, and cellular biology.
  2. Chemistry: A solid understanding of chemistry is essential for pharmacology, as it deals with the composition and properties of substances, including drugs and their interactions with the body.
  3. Mathematics: Strong math skills are valuable for data analysis and statistical work that may be part of pharmacological research.
  4. Physics: While not as directly related as biology and chemistry, physics can provide a strong scientific foundation and critical thinking skills that are useful in scientific research.
  5. English or Communication Skills: Good communication skills, both written and oral, are important for documenting research findings and presenting them to colleagues and the public.
  6. Additional Sciences: Subjects like environmental science, human biology, or psychology can also be helpful, depending on your specific interests within pharmacology.
  7. Computer Science: In the modern world of pharmacological research, proficiency in using computer software and data analysis tools is increasingly important.

Post School

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.

Working Hours 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.

Career Path & 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.