What is Pharmacology?

PharmacologyWhile pharmacy is a familiar term to people, many might wonder what exactly is¬†pharmacology? In fact, these terms refer to very different career choices in the fields of medicine and science. A pharmacist is recognizable to the public as a qualified dispenser of medications, whereas, a pharmacologist’s job duties are less obvious.

What Does a Pharmacologist Do?

According to the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, pharmacology involves the in-depth study of life sciences and the desire to investigate how chemicals, hormones or other substances affect biological systems at the molecular level. Pharmacologists apply their knowledge to determine the positive or negative effects of substances such as drugs, organic compounds, herbicides, or pesticides on plants and animals. Their work is oriented towards research and they often are involved in clinical trials, molecular drug modeling or environmental studies. Unlike pharmacists, pharmacologists do not dispense medications.

Degree Programs in Pharmacology

Pharmacology is considered to be a subset of the pharmacy curriculum. Undergraduates engage in a rigorous, four-year Bachelor of Science program with cores studies in: botany, biochemistry, microbiology, genetics, pathology, physiology, pharmaceutical sciences, toxicology, research principles and statistics. Graduates with a B.S. in Pharmacology or Pharmaceutical Sciences are eligible to work in entry-level jobs. To work in mid- or higher-level positions, pharmacologists need to possess a master’s or professional degree in specialized areas of the field.

Specialized Areas of Pharmacology

Pharmacology students at the master’s and doctoral level usually focus on specialized career interests. Specialization focuses on:

  • Effects of drugs on behavior, the cardiovascular system or cellular function
  • Effects of drugs on neurological systems, including the brain and spinal cord
  • Effects of chemotherapy on the body to eradicate cancer
  • Clinical studies of drug interactions and how they affect disease processes
  • Identification, development and regulation of drugs for the marketplace
  • Endocrine studies to determine the effects of organic or synthetic hormones on organism
  • Molecular studies of how drugs operate at the genetic level
  • Toxicology studies that investigate the harmful effects of drugs on organisms

Certification Opportunities

Holding certification demonstrates a high level of professionalism and assures employers that job candidates have the training and knowledge to be experts and leaders in the workplace. In addition, certification is often part of a compliance program that ensures all personnel are qualified for their positions. Certification programs include:

Qualified pharmacologists will be found working in public and private sectors for: research laboratories, hospitals, nursing centers, pharmaceutical companies, biomedical and biotech firms, consumer products organizations, environmental groups, government and regulatory agencies, veterinary clinics and health related non-profits.

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Through their important work, the question “What is pharmacology?”, can now be answered: Pharmacology improves the quality of life through specialized research that leads to safer use of drugs and environmental agents.