Toxicology is a potential laboratory career for those with an investigative nature, analytical thinking skills, and the desire to conduct research and have a direct impact on human health. Toxicologists must be comfortable performing animal testing.

Typical Job Functions

Toxicologists study the safety and biological effects of drugs, chemicals, agents, and other substances on living organisms. About half of all toxicologists work in industry, including pharmaceutical, agricultural, chemical, and consumer products companies. Here, extensive toxicology testing is required on all new products to ensure their safety.

Toxicologists working for the federal government conduct environmental risk assessments and conduct and review research to support decisions related to product registration. Academic toxicologists conduct basic research to understand the mechanisms by which compounds exert their toxic effects.

Typical on-the-job activities for toxicologists include:

  • Planning and conducting experiments
  • Dosing animals and collecting data
  • Investigate the relationship between dose and effect through dosing regimen, routes of exposure, etc.
  • Analyzing data and conduct risk assessments to ensure the safety of the products and compounds for their intended use
  • Integrate data from many different studies to identify patterns in large datasets
  • Ensure that new products meet regulatory requirements and data quality standards
  • Create reports and recommendations for organizations and regulatory agencies

Toxicology brings together a wide variety of fields (e.g., chemistry, medicine, environmental science) to help inform policies and regulations to protect both human health and the environment.

Career Paths

Most toxicologists begin by working in animal facilities and laboratories, conducting experiments on in vitro and animal models. As they gain experience, they may move up to supervise others. Senior toxicologists in industry may advance to plan and manage large studies.

Ph.D. toxicologists spend most of their time in an office, planning and designing experiments, interpreting data collected by others, reviewing literature, and writing reports and recommendations.

Getting Started

To work as a toxicologist, you will need to earn at least an undergraduate degree in toxicology or a related field (chemistry, biology, biochemistry). Laboratory experience and courses in statistics and mathematics are valuable.

  • A bachelor’s or master’s degree is typically required to work in the lab.
  • A Ph.D. is typically required to direct and manage studies.

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