How To Become A Toxicologist
Toxicologists study chemicals and their effects on humans, our planet, and all living organisms. They want to know all about toxins and other chemicals. They conduct experiments and find scientific solutions to figure out if a chemical is safe to be exposed to. This is called the “risk assessment” of a chemical. A toxicologist determines if the general public is safe being around a chemical and what will happen if a person is exposed to a toxin. Public health officials work closely with toxicologists to ensure the safety of everybody in the community.
Why Become A Toxicologist
Chemicals are everywhere in the world we live in. There are chemicals in our food, chemicals in our air and water, and chemicals in our homes. Chemicals are a natural part of daily life. But are all chemicals bad? How much exposure to a certain chemical does it take until we see a side effect? And then, what will the side effect be?
Toxicology is a career field for those who love science but are not just interested in research and theory. This is a field where you will be able to put your interest in science to practical use, knowing that your research is being used to benefit everybody in the world around you. You will contribute to the good health of the current population and future generations. You will also be responsible for maintaining proper care of the planet.
Toxicologists should possess the following qualities and skills:
- Problem solver
- Team player
- Good communicator
Toxicologist Work Environment
Toxicologists can work in a number of different settings, depending on the specific field of toxicology they pursue.
The majority of toxicologists work for companies, such as pharmaceutical companies, consumer product companies, and other corporations, to determine the effect certain products have on the environment and on humans. Toxicologists are an important part of product development, quality assurance and compliance, and product safety. These team members ensure that a product is safe before it goes on the market. For a pharmaceutical company, that means helping to test a new medicine.
Many opportunities also exist in academics. Some toxicologists work in colleges or universities, teaching toxicology to students in science classes such as public health, biology and chemistry.
Consulting is another field that is available for toxicologists. Toxicologists can work for private firms, government agencies and other companies who need guidance with learning how chemicals affect the general public. Toxicologists with several years in the field can make a lucrative salary by working as a private consultant.
The salary for a toxicologist is going to vary based on location, field, work location, years of experience, type of degree, and more.
For a toxicologist with a bachelor’s degree and virtually no work experience, an average salary is $30,000 per year. This can increase to $80,000 per year with up to 10 years of experience, and $90,000 with 20 years of experience.
A toxicologist with a master’s degree can expect to earn an average of $50,000 starting in the field. This can increase to an average of $90,000 as the person gains additional experience.
Those with a doctoral degree have the potential to earn the most money. A toxicologist with a PhD can earn $60,000 in their first year on a job. The salary could increase to as much as $150,000 during the next 20 years.
Toxicologist Career Outlook
Toxicology is a field that is expected to grow 13 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The ability of a toxicologist to receive a job offer upon graduation is very good. Many graduates are offered jobs at industries when they finish their degree.
Toxicologists need at least a bachelor’s degree to work in this field. Many employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree or doctorate.
Step 1: Undergraduate Education As a scientist, you will need a strong foundation is basic science classes such as biology, chemistry, and physics. You’ll also need to be great at mathematics. If your college or university offers a major in toxicology, you should major in that. If not, you can choose to major in related fields such as biology and chemistry.
Step 2: Undergraduate Research While you are in college, it is important to gain hands-on experience so you can see if toxicology is the right field for you. Ask to join research projects in your science department and work in your university laboratory to gain additional insights into the field.
Step 3: Graduate School Many jobs for toxicologists will require graduate level coursework. There are many programs available specializing in toxicology. At this level, students specialize in a particular field of toxicology: forensic toxicology, pharmaceutical toxicology, occupational toxicology, ecotoxicology and more.
Master’s degree programs will typically require two years to complete, with PhD programs lasting at least four years. At the end of the program, a student will have to present a thesis or dissertation on their topic to receive their graduate diploma.