How to Become a Toxicologist

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:

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  • 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 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.

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