How to Become a Toxicologist
Toxicologist Careers & Degrees

Drugs and chemicals are a common presence in today’s modern culture.

On the news we hear about accusations that celebrities and athletes face in regards to taking illegal drugs or unauthorized steroid use.

We also hear about pesticides that are used to grow our food and the prevalence of pollution in our air.

Toxicologists use scientific principles in order to determine the prevalence, quantity and the effects of a certain chemical on the environment and people’s health.

Toxicologists analyze and determine whether the presence of a certain chemical is a potential threat to our health.

They also gauge the adverse effects these substances may have on the human body and how much would need to exist until they start affecting people in a negative manner.

In addition, there are many sub-specialties that a Toxicologist can focus on which can include some of the following careers:

  • Chemical carcinogenesis
  • Reproductive and developmental toxicology
  • Neuro-toxicology
  • Immuno-toxicology
  • Inhalation toxicology
  • Risk assessment
  • Forensic Toxicology

If this type of career interests you and want to take the steps to become a Toxicologist , continue reading below to learn more information about this fascinating career such as education requirements, a general job description, the career outlook for this career and salary and wage information.

Education Requirements to Become a Toxicologist

In order to become a Toxicologist, students need to further their education in order to grasp all the scientific information they will apply in their practice.

The minimum requirement to become a Toxicologist is an Associate’s degree; however, people with this educational background or a Bachelor’s degree would only qualify for lab assistant or research technician positions.

Most employers require candidates to have a graduate degree.

In fact, the Society of Toxicology (SOT) reports that 55% of candidates who go into Toxicology have a Doctoral degree.

The society also reports that at least 50% of employed Toxicologists have a doctoral degree and that approximately 29% of employers seek candidates with this background.

For an undergraduate focus, candidates should focus on a scientific track such as Toxicology, Biology or Chemistry.

In addition, students need a comprehensive background that includes taking courses in Statistics, Mathematics, Computer Science and Physics.

Graduate Toxicology programs have very specific requirements that students need to meet.

They require students to have taken courses in organic chemistry, one year of biology, a year of mathematics and physics courses.

The SOT provides a list of Toxicology programs.

Toxicologist Job Description

A Toxicologist’s responsibilities will depend on the institution they work for.

For example, Toxicologists working for academic and nonprofit organizations will mainly perform research regarding the effects of chemical substances on specimens.

They will evaluate toxic responses on human and animal cells.

Toxicologists can work for a forensics team providing their services in legal matters; these professionals are called Forensic Toxicologists and work for a local or state government.

Toxicologists can also work for private practices.

These professionals are responsible for analyzing the presence of drugs or chemicals in bodily fluids.

Using this information, Forensic Toxicologists can assist in legal matters.

Some privately owned companies hire Toxicologists to perform safety evaluations on many of their products.

These Toxicologists provide product safety evaluations.

They analyze and measure whether a certain product is safe enough for the consumer market.

Some types of products these professionals evaluate include: therapeutic drugs, cosmetics, food additives, agricultural chemicals such as pesticides and a variety of other chemicals.

These professionals must follow federal safety standards and have to provide various test runs in order to determine the maximum safety for the public.

Toxicologist Salary and Career Path

Careers for Toxicologists are extremely competitive.

However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that career opportunities are expected to grow through the year 2016 by 31% providing more opportunities for interested candidates.

This statistic is higher than average when compared to other careers.

According to Salary.com the salary range for professionals in this field is approximately $46,000 to $97,000 per year.

The BLS reported a median wage of $47,680 for professionals working in the field in 2007.

The below information is based on the 2019 BLS national averages.
  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary

$52,910
$31K
$37K
$52K
$64K
$80K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$54,560
Alaska$67,190
Arizona$44,840
Arkansas$45,350
California$50,720
Colorado$50,740
Connecticut$51,240
Delaware$62,500
District of Columbia$66,280
Florida$48,710
Georgia$51,220
Hawaii$55,580
Idaho$45,690
Illinois$55,130
Indiana$45,510
Iowa$47,310
Kansas$47,740
Kentucky$49,530
Louisiana$65,590
Maine$49,280
Maryland$54,800
Massachusetts$55,730
Michigan- NA -
Minnesota$52,670
Mississippi$52,050
Missouri$49,070
Montana$54,700
Nebraska$58,860
Nevada$54,770
New Hampshire$47,050
New Jersey$61,170
New Mexico- NA -
New York$52,630
North Carolina$51,660
North Dakota- NA -
Ohio$49,510
Oklahoma$57,110
Oregon$46,230
Pennsylvania$48,710
Rhode Island$52,020
South Carolina$45,150
South Dakota$38,530
Tennessee$49,570
Texas$60,900
Utah$49,270
Vermont$54,120
Virginia$48,260
Washington$51,040
West Virginia$56,140
Wisconsin$49,000
Wyoming$52,180
Puerto Rico$38,820

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $67,190.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $67,190
District of Columbia - $66,280
Louisiana - $65,590
Delaware - $62,500
New Jersey - $61,170
* Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Chemical Technicians, OCC Code 19-4031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a toxicologist do?

A toxicologist is a trained scientist that conducts research to identify, assess, and track the impact of toxic materials on human (or animal) health and on the environment.

The typical duties of a toxicologist usually include identifying toxic substances; conducting laboratory and field experiments; analyzing statistical data; writing scientific papers; carrying out risk analyses; creating safety profiles, and so on.

There are a lot of different types of toxicologists that work in a wide range of industries – analytical toxicologists, clinical toxicologists, environmental toxicologists, forensic toxicologists, industrial toxicologists, nutritional toxicologists, regulatory toxicologists, and veterinary toxicologists.

QuestionHow much do toxicologists make?

On average, a toxicologist can make a little more than $85.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to follow this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $49.000 and $135.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location and so on.

Toxicologists that work in Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia, and Texas, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level toxicologist can expect to earn $12 per hour, while specialists with years of experience can make $49 per hour.

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a toxicologist?

You would certainly need a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology, environmental science, or a related field, in order to become a toxicologist.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

To improve job perspectives, you should go for a master’s degree in toxicology or biochemistry, for example, (in most cases, up to $43.000 per year).

Most toxicologists, however, have doctoral degrees ($36.000-$49.000).

You would also need to get certified through the American Board of Toxicology (over $250).

QuestionWhat is the demand for toxicologists?

Between 2018 and 2028, the medical scientist (including toxicologists) job market is expected to grow by 8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is a little faster than the national average for all occupations in the United States.

Toxicologists will certainly continue to be needed as they contribute to the improvement of human (and animal) health.

The candidates that possess a graduate degree and years of experience will have better job perspectives.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a toxicologist?

A bachelor’s degree will take you 4 years to acquire.

You should consider gaining laboratory experience through internships and lab courses while still in university.

A master’s degree will require 1-2 years of your time, while a doctorate degree will take you anywhere between 3 to 5 years to obtain.

The sooner you decide which particular area of toxicology you are more interested in, the better.

To qualify for the American Board of Toxicology certification exam, you would have to possess at least 3 years of work experience.

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