If you’re interested in researching about how natural products can be derived and turned into something useful then you could consider a career as a pharmacognosist. In this profession, you will have the opportunity to research on how compounds from natural species can be utilized to make medicines, agricultural products, consumer products and other purposes. You will be studying virtually all members of the biological kingdoms in order to find out whether they have properties that can be used to form new drugs or dietary supplements and develop agricultural feeds and pesticides, among others. The common biological products that you will be working on include plants, bacteria, fungi and marine invertebrates.
As a pharmacognosist, you could also look into the safety of the compounds used in food ingredients and other consumer products. You could also study how genetic biosynthetic pathways can be manipulated to enhance the production of natural compounds or come up with new ones. Your job may also require you to take a closer look at native cultures to learn what you can about the natural remedies they use to cure diseases.
A career as a pharmacognosist will have you spending a lot of time in the laboratory performing research and other experiments. However, traveling to areas where you will be able to find the plants and other organisms to use for your experiments will also comprise a big part of your job. You will also be recording and taking down notes, recording the results of your studies and experiments and presenting your findings to relevant audiences.
To succeed as a pharmacognosist, you need to be very interested in things that relate to the natural world. A strong training in chemistry is also essential since you will be working with the physical and chemical properties of compounds. Strong observational and analytical skills are also needed in this profession. You also need to be able to express your thoughts both on paper and orally since you will be writing your paper for submission to scientific journals and explaining them to peers, colleagues and other audiences.
Why Become A Pharmacognosist
One reason to become a pharmacognosist is the desire to work in a science-based occupation that has to do with the natural world. This allows individuals who are intent on finding medical and other uses of plants and biological organisms to do research and develop cures and products derived from these natural sources. As the world turns to natural products due to their safety, availability and efficacy, a career as a pharmacognosist holds a lot of promise.
Pharmacognosists work in a variety of settings. They may be hired by pharmaceutical firms as part of their team that develops new drugs, by agricultural companies to develop feeds and pesticides and by consumer products companies to come up with different kinds of consumer products like food, preservatives and others. Federal government agencies are also another work setting for pharmacognosists. The work schedules are typically done during regular business hours.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have salary data specifically for pharmacognosists. However, their mean annual wages can be gleaned from salaries of related occupational categories. The Occupational Employment and Wages report of the agency showed that medical scientists earned $89,390 annually. Chemists, on the other hand, are paid a mean annual wage of $77,740. For pharmacognosists who are hired by pharmaceutical companies, the salary received by pharmaceutical scientists based on the survey conducted by the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists could give a good idea of how much they earn each year. That survey revealed that fulltime pharmaceutical scientists working in the United States earned a base salary of $143,800.
Pharmacognosist Career Outlook
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have specific projections on the job outlook for pharmacognosists, it does reveal that for the broader occupational category of medical scientists, the employment rate is set to grow 13 percent, a rate that is about as fast as the national average for all job types. The great strides taken in the field of research for new drugs that can cure diseases like Alzheimer’s and AIDS will fuel demand. The increasing interest displayed in natural cures in recent years is also expected to give rise to more pharmacognosists in the coming years.
Aspiring pharmacognosists need to possess a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biochemistry, phytochemistry, botany, biology and fields related to the natural sciences as the minimum requirement to get entry level jobs. To advance in their careers, postgraduate degrees in the field are important. Research positions require doctoral degree holders. In addition to education, work experience in a related field is also a must.