If you have a methodical and scientific mind, and love carrying out experiments, a career as a toxicologist may be ideal for you. Toxicologists look at things like radiation and other toxic materials and try to understand the impact they are having on the environment. They work in laboratories and out in the field, both monitoring and evaluating the impact, and then coming up with new technologies that will help in the future.
In order to become a toxicologist, you’ll need to have a degree. There are a few different options here depending on the area of toxicology you want to work in, with biomedical science and pharmacology being the two main ones. The degree you choose to take must give you an advanced knowledge of chemistry and biology, but you may also want to specialize in forensic, environmental or veterinary science. Those who want to specialize further may want to take a postgraduate course.
It is very unlikely that you will be able to find a toxicology role with just a foundation degree, so it’s important to take the time to find a course that will suit your career goals.
In order to be a successful toxicologist, you will need to have most of the following skills:
- Excellent oral and written communication skills so that you can effectively communicate results with others.
- A proactive approach to work and self-motivation.
- The ability to analyze and solve problems
- Good teamwork
- A methodical and organized approach to work.
- A fairly good knowledge on labratory equipment, as this is what you’re going to be working with (the basics being microscopes, bunsen burners and serological pipets; in toxicology, the equipment will be more complicated, but you will learn more about this from the job).
You will also need to learn how to perform risk assessments, perform various tests, and how to analyze specific data sets. You will be working not only with other toxicologists, but also the government and healthcare professionals.
Although work experience isn’t mandatory, it can help you to build some worthwhile contacts and give you practical experience in the field – two worthwhile things. Some degree courses will provide work experience as part of the course, but if yours doesn’t, it can be worth reaching out to companies to see if they are willing to take you on. Work experience will also look fantastic on your resume and help you get a step ahead in your career.
The entry level toxicologist salary, according to Healthcare Salaries Guide, is around the $44,000 mark. However, with experience and a master’s degree, this can increase to around $115,000. Location also plays a key part in the salary you will receive.
As your career progresses, it’s likely that you will spend less time out in the field, and more time on analyzing data. You can also progress into supervisory roles and project management, or consulting. Some toxicologists also opt to move into more specialized careers once they have a master’s degree. These include, but are not limited to, safety pharmacology, neurotoxicology and immunotoxicology.
Toxicology is a fantastic choice of career and one that has plenty of opportunities for growth. It’s something that is forever changing, and you’ll never get bored.