Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated December 2010
Studying in the field
Pharmacology is the branch of the medical or health sciences that deals with the interaction of chemical substances with living systems. The field can encompass a variety of topics including drug composition, drug properties, molecular chemistry and biology, genetics, immunology, toxicology, and disease therapy. Pharmacology can examine health issues from the level of widespread disease therapy or prevention down to the cellular or sub-cellular level at which drugs interact with biological systems.
Pharmacology can be studied at either a master's or a doctoral level. Generally, some prior background in chemistry, biology, or the life sciences may be required and more advanced coursework in pharmacology or related topics may be desirable.
Just as the field of pharmacology is wide-reaching in its focus, pharmacology programs typically offer students the ability to specialize and tailor the program to research particular areas. Almost all doctoral pharmacology programs involve a research component, which is built on a year or two of preparatory coursework in the sciences. Other important aspects of pharmacology studies may focus on statistical analysis and critical interpretation of data in order to investigate the causes, prevention, and treatment of disease.
A brief survey of some of the websites of graduate pharmacology programs yields a long list of specializations within the field that have extremely long names. While we won't list them all here, rest assured that if you want to explore a particular area that falls under the umbrella of pharmacology, various programs are available to fit your interests.
Job opportunities in the field
Graduates with an advanced degree in pharmacology may pursue careers in a variety of sectors, particularly academic, industrial, or government. More specifically, many pharmacology graduates end up in research, teaching, or administration. Pharmaceutical, chemical, and biotechnology companies like to hire pharmacologists.
The work of pharmacologists is vital to certain government regulations, particularly those designed to prevent drug abuse and protect consumers. The Food and Drug Administration is the most notable example of this in the U.S. as they regulate the manufacture, sale, and administration of medication.