How do I get Started in Pharmacology Research?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 February 2020
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Pharmacology research is conducted by trained scientists and medical professionals to develop new or more effective pharmaceuticals. Experts conduct laboratory experiments to analyze the chemical structure and function of different drugs, arrange clinical trials to test a medication's safety and effectiveness, and apply for patents so that new products can be marketed and mass-produced. An individual who wants to get started in pharmacology research must typically pursue a bachelor's degree in a biological science, complete four to five years of post-baccalaureate pharmacology studies, and participate in a postdoctoral fellowship training program.

A college-bound student who is interested in pharmacology research can choose to major in biology, chemistry, physiology, or another related biological science. Bachelor's degree programs usually take four years to complete and involve classroom work as well as laboratory practice. Students have the opportunity to become familiar with the laboratory equipment, statistical designs, and research techniques that they will employ in their future careers. Many college students seek internships with medical technology corporations or pharmaceutical manufacturing companies to gain experience in the field.


Graduates from bachelor's degree programs usually apply for admission into an accredited, four to five year pharmacology school. New students often meet with program officials and counselors to help them outline a specific degree plan. Pharmacology students typically spend their first two to three years taking detailed courses in various areas of the field, such as toxicology, genetics, and clinical procedures. The final year or two of a degree plan is usually devoted to intensive laboratory instruction. In order to meet graduation requirements in most programs, students are required to conduct original pharmacology research and create lengthy dissertations based on their findings.

An individual who has obtained his or her PhD can begin looking for a postdoctoral pharmacology research position at a private institution, hospital, biotechnology firm, or pharmaceutical company. The length of a fellowship usually depends on the type of coursework completed in pharmacology school and the policies of employers. Most fellowships last about one year, during which time new researchers assist experienced pharmacologists in applying for grant money, setting up experiments, finding participants for clinical trials, evaluating results, and writing scientific papers.

Once an individual has completed fellowship training and proven his or her competency for the job, he or she can begin conducting independent pharmacology research. Some research projects can be very time-consuming and tedious, but those that produce useful medicines bring the researcher accolades and a deserved sense of satisfaction. With enough time and proven accomplishments, a pharmacologist may be able to become a supervisor or lead scientist at an esteemed institution.



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