Why Choose a Masters in Pharmacology & Toxicology Degree + Online Option

This article discusses what a master’s in pharmacology and toxicology is. It discusses the subject matter that you study in this graduate degree program, and why earning this degree could be a good choice for your career. Also described is an online master’s in pharmacology and toxicology program.

What Is a Master’s in Pharmacology and Toxicology?

A master’s degree in pharmacology and toxicology is an advanced degree that is usually designed for students who already have a strong background in chemistry, biology or a related subject. A pharmacology and toxicology degree introduces you to the complex world of drug interactions, brain chemistry, as well as cellular physiology. For many students, this master’s program is a bridge from the academic world to the world of the pharmaceutical industry. It helps students to take theoretical knowledge and apply it to the pharmaceutical and healthcare fields.

The field of pharmacology is very broad and it involves drug composition, drug synthesis, drug design, molecular and cellular mechanisms, chemical biology and toxicology.

The majority of students who earn this degree will eventually earn their Ph.D., which gives you the qualifications to teach or to do more in depth scientific research. Others may stop with the master’s degree and work at pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies. Still others may work for a drug regulatory agency such as FDA.

Students with this degree may become either pharmacologists or toxicologists. Both of these fields study the effects of chemicals on different cells. However a toxicologist examines what the effects are of poisons on cells. Pharmacologists are focused solely on drug-related chemical reactions and interactions.

Typical courses that are taken in this type of master’s program include:

  • Principles of pharmacology
  • Fundamentals of physiology
  • Cell and molecular physiology
  • Gene expression
  • Cell biology
  • Neuroscience
  • Protein structure and function
  • Graduate pharmacology

Why Earn a Master’s in Pharmacology and Toxicology?

To understand why it may be desirable to earn this advanced degree, it is important to note the growth of the healthcare industry in the United States. Employment in all healthcare occupations is set to explode in the coming years. It is anticipated that healthcare occupations will grow by 19% by 2024. This will account for as many as 2.3 million new jobs.

This strong job growth is expected to occur because the population of the US is aging, and federal health insurance reform has increased the number of people who are able to get health insurance.

As the demand for healthcare services, procedures and pharmaceuticals increases, it makes sense that there will be a rising demand for professionals who design drugs and engage in related activities. Advances in medical technology and drug therapies also are creating more demand, and more job opportunities for highly trained medical scientists.

Become a Medical Scientist

One of the jobs for which you could qualify with a pharmacology and toxicology master’s degree is medical scientist. These workers conduct medical research that is intended to improve human health. Medical scientists often design and conduct clinical trials to reach conclusions about promising new drugs and other therapies.

Some of the typical jobs of medical scientists are:

  • Design clinical studies that investigate many human diseases, and methods to prevent and treat them
  • Prepare and analyze medical samples to look into causes and treatments of many diseases
  • Study dosages, drug potency and methods to allow for mass production of drugs and various medical compounds
  • Write proposals for grants and apply for government grants, as well as private sources of funding

A common role for a pharmacologist is to use a clinical trial to see if a certain drug or drug combination will help to reduce the incidence of a disease. These medical scientists will analyze all of the data from patients in the trial to see how the drug performed. These results then are compared to the control group, and then they analyze the various attributes of the study participants.

Professionals with a pharmacology and toxicology degree also can be employed in clinical trials, manufacturing, regulatory affairs, IT, finance and scientific writing.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS reports that pharmaceutical and medicine manufacture jobs currently comprise 6% of all medical science roles in the US as of 2014. The medical science field is expected to grow by 8% by 2024, so there should be a steady rise in need for professionals with this advanced degree.

BLS adds that our growing, aging population and increased rates of chronic diseases should increase the demand for all medical scientists, including pharmacologists.

The median salary for pharmacologists and toxicologists is $113,000.

Online Option for Master’s in Pharmacology and Toxicology

Michigan State University

This university offers a Master of Science in Pharmacology and Toxicology that will train you in cellular, molecular and organ systems pharmacology. The program is designed to give you an advanced science knowledge in pharmacology. It is made for people who want to attain additional academic qualifications that will help them to advance to higher positions in their company. Some students also use this program to increase their competitiveness to be accepted into a Ph.D. program in pharmacology or a related field.

Students may choose a general pharmacology and toxicology degree, or may select a concentration either in toxicology or pharmacology specifically.

The program is designed to suit students with an undergraduate degree in biology or chemistry. Coursework offers students the chance to explore these physiological systems while also expanding their knowledge of pharmacology.

Required courses are:

  • PHM 819 Principles of Drug-Tissue Interaction
  • PHM 822 Academic & Research Integrity
  • PHM 830 Experimental Design and Data Analysis
  • PHM 980 Special Problems in Pharmacology or Toxicology
  • PHM 430 Human Pharmacology
  • PHM 431 Pharmacology of Drug Addiction
  • PHM 450 Introduction to Toxicology
  • PHM 813 Cardiovascular Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • PHM 817 Neurotoxicology
  • PHM 828 Concepts in Carcinogenesis
  • PHM 829 Neuropharmacology
  • PHM 831 Endocrine/Reproduction Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • PHM 833 Gastrointestinal and Liver Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • PHM 834 Respiratory Pharmacology
  • PHM 835 Biopharmaceuticals: Development to Manufacturing
  • PHM 837 Autonomic Pharmacology

To be considered for admission for this competitive, online program, you must write a personal statement that describes and your personal and academic background. It should be emphasized that this statement is the major way that you will introduce yourself to the selection committee. The statement should be succinct and have an appropriate balance of professional, personal and academic information.


The healthcare field is growing very quickly as the US population lives longer. They also are demanding more healthcare services and products, including pharmaceuticals that increase their quality of life as well as extend it. In the coming years, it is likely that demand for skills pharmacologists and toxicologists will grow. Earning this master’s degree will provide you with much-demanded skills that will lead to a very productive career.

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