Job descriptions and industry overviews

Pharmacologist: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:39

Pharmacologists conduct research into how drugs affect the human body.

Pharmacologist working in a lab

What does a pharmacologist do? Graduate salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Pharmacologists seek to understand how drugs affect living systems. They work as part of a research teams responsible for developing drugs, improving their effectiveness, exploring possible side effects and investigating the likelihood of patients becoming addicted.

Pharmacology is a general term for the science of drugs and their composition, uses and impacts. Within the field, clinical pharmacologists focus on using human subjects. It’s also possible to focus on veterinary medicine.

Typical duties include:

  • designing and carrying out experiments, including tests on cells, animals and human volunteers
  • analysing and interpreting data (often using specialist computer applications)
  • making recommendations based on findings from research and experiments
  • laboratory and staff management
  • keeping up to date with research
  • carrying out research and writing papers for publication in specialist journals
  • collaborating with and sharing expertise and research findings with associated staff
  • attending meetings and conferences.

The job can involve working shifts and unsociable hours from time to time. Some roles – not all – involve testing on animals.

Graduate salaries

Salaries for pharmacologists start at around £25,000, according to the National Careers Service. Your salary will increase as you gain experience – particularly if you complete a PhD – and is likely to increase more if you work in the private sector than in academia or public health.

Typical employers of pharmacologists

  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Universities
  • The NHS
  • The Medical Research Council
  • Other government research organisations.

Vacancies are advertised by careers services and by the British Pharmacological Society. You will also find them advertised on specialist jobs boards such as, (for jobs in academia) and (for jobs in the NHS).

The recruitment process may involve a technical interview.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into pharmacology for graduates and school leavers.

Graduates need a degree in a relevant scientific discipline such as pharmacology, biology, biochemistry, biomedical/biochemical sciences, microbiology or chemistry. Some roles in clinical pharmacology are aimed at medical students, who initially follow a set training path.

A postgraduate research degree or PhD can be beneficial, and may even be necessary.

Work experience in the form of lab work, internships and industry placements will help your job applications stand out. Look for internship opportunities on the British Pharmacological Society website and via contacts at your university.

School leavers can take an apprenticeship with a pharmaceutical company and gain a degree while working in a related role.

Key skills for pharmacologists

Employers will be looking for the following in candidates:

  • a logical and inquisitive mind
  • advanced IT skills, including the ability to process and analyse data
  • excellent written and oral communication skills
  • good teamworking abilities
  • the ability to keep up to date with current research and to apply it
  • accuracy and attention to detail
  • analytical skills.

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