THE BRITISH TOXICOLOGY SOCIETY

I'm an undergraduate or postgraduate

Graduates with a suitable undergraduate or postgraduate qualification in toxicology may choose to study for a research degree (PhD or MPhil) at one of the many universities and research establishments which specialise in toxicology and related fields of study (e.g. pharmacology, drug safety, biochemistry or molecular biology). Although a PhD is not essential for a successful career in toxicology, studying for PhD does allow you to develop lots of fundamental skills, such as how to plan and execute complicated experiments that test your hypotheses, and how to critically evaluate the work of other scientists. These are skills that employers often look for when recruiting toxicologists.

Most of the time PhD studentships are advertised with a small grant (called a stipend) which covers university fees, laboratory fees and provides a reasonable amount of money for your living costs. There are usually lots of applicants for each PhD studentship, so it’s worth making an effort with your application form, and also reading up on the subject of the PhD. if you get invited to an interview.
 
The FindAPhD.com and Jobs.ac.uk websites provide a useful list of currently available PhD studentships. 
 

 

For those seeking specialist training in environmental or ecotoxicology, diplomas in subjects such as pollution science, pesticide science or waste management are also available.

I’m an undergraduate with a relevant first degree, how can I become a toxicologist?

Having completed a relevant first degree, some graduates chose to gain experience in toxicology by working in a research laboratory or in regulatory services at industrial or government establishments. However, postgraduate study can focus your skills as a toxicologist, which may be more desirable to employers. Postgraduate qualifications can also improve your career progression as a toxicologist. Therefore, many graduates decide to further specialise in toxicology through one of the full- or part-time postgraduate courses. Toxicology may be taught as a single subject, or combined with a second discipline such as forensic science or analytical chemistry. This type of course often leads to the qualification of MSc.

You may find links to suitable postgraduate toxicology courses on the UKPass website and FindAMasters.com

 

Toxicology also forms a large component of courses in public health, occupational hygiene and in the postgraduate training of occupational health workers. These professionals may work more closely with individuals to give advice on the health effects of chemical exposure.  

I'm in school or college

Toxicology can be studied as part of many undergraduate degree courses, often in combination with other relevant subjects such as biochemistry or pharmacology. However, since toxicology incorporates many scientific disciplines, a degree in another relevant subject, such as chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, pharmacy, medicine, medical science, veterinary medicine or environmental sciences, can provide an excellent basis for a career as a toxicologist.

If you’re planning to study toxicology as an MSc, and are concerned that your choice of undergraduate degree course may be unsuitable, it would be worth discussing this with university admissions tutors, since they may be able to advise on the suitability of their course as a basis for further study in toxicology. It may also be helpful speak to admissions tutors for MSc Toxicology courses since they may be able to provide advice that helps you decide on a relevant first degree course.
 
The UKAS website provides details of the available undergraduate courses (try a subject search for ‘Toxicology’). 

I already work in toxicology

If you do not already hold an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification in toxicology, it may hone your skills to study for an MSc degree. Although most courses are full-time, several universities offer part-time courses. Some employers might allow you time to study for a part-time course and may even provide some funding.

As a toxicologist, it is important to continue to update and extend your understanding of the science. Individuals can pursue a programme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), such as that offered by the British Toxicology Society, or work towards registration as a toxicologist (The UK Register of Toxicologists and European Register of Toxicologist), which is seen as a significant milestone in the career for many toxicologists.
 
There are also several advanced qualifications in toxicology, such as the International Diploma in Toxicology offered by the Institute of Biology, the Diploma in Toxicology from the Royal College of Pathologists (DipRCPath), or the Diploma of the American Board of Toxicology (DABT).

I'm an undergraduate, postgraduate or postdoc

Many employers choose to advertise toxicologist job vacancies on the BTS website. BTS Members receive e-mail alerts when new jobs are posted on the website. It’s also worth checking out other jobs websites, such as Jobs.ac.uk

As a member of the Society, attending BTS Conferences may also give you the opportunities to speak to potential new employers. 

Key Skills for Toxicologists

Essential Skills:

  • A reasonable understanding of chemistry and chemical structures 
  •  Sound understanding of biochemistry and physiology.
  •  Good communication skills, both in communication detailed science to other scientists, but also in communicating advice, based on complicated science, to non scientist

Desirable Skills:

  • Innovative and creative