How Do I Start a Career in Behavioral Pharmacology?

Emily Daw
Emily Daw
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Woman holding a book

Behavioral pharmacology, sometimes called psychopharmacology, is the study of how therapeutic or recreational drugs impact human behavior. It is a subfield within the study of pharmacology, which is the way drugs effect the human body in general. To become a behavior pharmacologist, you will need to get the appropriate education, usually a master's degree in pharmacology. While in school, you should conduct research and network among other pharmacologists, which will put you in a good position to apply for behavioral pharmacology jobs.

While a bachelor's degree in pharmacology is available, most jobs in behavioral pharmacology require a master's degree, or M.S. If you already have a bachelor's degree in any field, you may need to take only a few prerequisite courses in the sciences before starting your master's. If you do not yet have a bachelor's, consider earning one in a field like biology or psychology.

Next, you will need to apply for a relevant pharmacology master's program. When choosing a graduate school you should not only look at the overall academic reputation, but also at the particular program in which you are interested. You should look for schools that have professors or researchers who specialize in behavioral pharmacology. It is best to apply to several different graduate programs, so that you will be able to choose from those that will provide you with the best funding and other opportunities.

It is important that you make the best possible use of your time in graduate school by participating in research projects related to behavioral pharmacology. Participating in the research of your professors as well as developing your own independent projects, will give you a competitive edge in the field. Take note of current research that interests you, and try to get in touch with the people developing that research. One good way of doing this is to present papers at academic conferences.

When you are nearing the end of your behavioral pharmacology studies, it is a good time to begin applying for jobs. Your professors or other researchers you worked with in graduate school may be able to point you to career opportunities. Jobs may also be listed online on the Web sites of pharmaceutical companies, universities or research labs.

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