What does a toxicologist do?
Toxicologists study and evaluate the effect of toxic materials on the environment, plants, animals, and humans through the creation and implementation of laboratory experiments and field studies. They detect poisoning and evaluate symptoms and treatment options in humans and animals. Toxicologists conduct studies to determine the short and long-term impact and develop ways to prevent exposure to toxins and minimize the negative effects of toxins already present. Most toxicologists specialize in a specific area such as analytical toxicology, environmental toxicology, clinical toxicology, forensic toxicology, and veterinary toxicology. Toxicologists often work in pharmaceutical, chemical, and many other industries to test and make sure workplaces and products are safe. They also work for government agencies to develop and implement laws regarding the safe production, use, and dispose of chemicals.
What kind of training does a toxicologist need?
Toxicologists typically need at least a master degree in toxicology, biochemistry, or other related field. Most positions, especially in specialty areas, require a doctorate degree. Prospective toxicologists usually complete courses in biology, chemistry, physics, public relations, statistics, environmental studies, and calculus. Many aspiring toxicologists complete internships or work-study programs while pursuing their education to gain practical experience in the field. Many employers provide some type of on the job training to new toxicologists to enable them to learn the policies and procedures. Toxicologists must stay up to date on advancements in the field and often complete continuing education and additional training throughout their careers.
What are the prospects for a career as a toxicologist?
Employment of all medical scientists, including toxicologists is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 20% from 2006 to 2016 (1). Increased environmental and health concern will drive job growth.
Job prospects are expected to be good especially for toxicologists with extensive experience. Some job openings will stem from the need to replace toxicologists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.
How much do toxicologists make?
As of December 2009, the middle 50% of toxicologists earn annual salaries between $55,991 and $82,003. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $94,840 (2).
A career as a toxicologist is an excellent choice for people with a strong interest in toxicology and its application to a variety of tasks. Toxicologists must have a solid understanding of the effects of many different toxic materials and they must be able to effectively analyze a variety of data. Determination, eye-hand coordination, patience, and flexibility are desirable characteristics. Toxicologists must have excellent communication skills and be able to work independently and as part of a team. They must constantly follow all safety precautions to prevent contamination.