If you have a questioning scientific mind, enjoy carrying out experiments and would like to be involved with work of practical value that has relevance to society, a career in toxicology and safety science may be the right path for you…
As a toxicologist, you’ll look at the impact that chemicals, potential new medicines and toxic materials can have on humans, animals and on the environment. You’ll then plan and carry out laboratory and field studies to help identify, monitor and evaluate this impact. You’ll also consider the use of future technology – for example, what are the safety implications of using nanoparticulate materials, or the long-term consequences of gene editing technologies?
Because toxicology is an integrative science, most toxicologists work with other specialists, such as histopathologists, genetic toxicologists, reproductive toxicologists or computational toxicologists, as part of a collaborative team. Like all sciences, the field of toxicology is constantly evolving, so an enthusiasm for life-long learning and a commitment to continuous professional development are essential.
- A reasonable understanding of chemistry and chemical structures
- Sound understanding of biochemistry and physiology.
- An interest in analysing and integrating data from different sources to reach a balanced conclusion
- Good communication skills, both in communication detailed science to other scientists, but also in communicating advice, based on complicated science, to non scientists
If you are 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.
MSc Courses are available at the following Universities: Imperial College London, Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle, Aberdeen etc
If you are 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, medicines 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 your own work and that 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 consider asking someone independent to review and discuss it with you. If you get invited to an interview it is important to read up on the subject of the PhD. Be prepared to ask questions and to demonstrate your ability to suggest experiments. The FindAPhD.com and Jobs.ac.uk websites provide a useful list of currently available PhD studentships.
Professional qualifications or becoming a registered toxicologist
These normally require a number of years of postgraduate study and examinations are offered by The Royal College of Pathologists – Diploma and Membership Examinations and the Royal Society of Biology – which administers the UK Register of Toxicologists. Other examinations are available in specialised areas of toxicology such as environmental or ecotoxicology, pollution science, pesticide science or waste management. need link