Pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacy

Work at the forefront of medical research, cures, and treatments.

What is pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacy?

As a pharmacologist, a toxicologist, or a pharmacist, you’ll have a starring role in the medicines and treatments that keep us healthy.

Whilst these subjects are often grouped together on combined courses, there are very important differences between them:

Whether you are interested in providing a front-line clinical service or research into the design and development of new drugs and medicines, this subject group is a highly specialised science that will teach you a wide range of technical skills.

  • Pharmacy degrees (MPharm) are mandatory in order to become a pharmacist. As clinicians with a strong science foundation, they are experts in the use of medicines to provide care to patients. Pharmacists are key members of the healthcare team and work in many different settings, including in
    • GP practice
    • Community Pharmacy
    • Military settings
    • Urgent Care
    • Care Homes
    • Hospitals
    • Prisons
    • Mental Health organisations

    Pharmacists provide many key services including:

    • supporting patients to manage and optimise complex medication regimes
    • promotion of the safe, effective, and appropriate use of medications
    • administration of flu and COVID-19 vaccinations 
    • providing treatment for minor ailments such as coughs and colds, in addition to managing long term conditions, eg diabetes
  • Pharmacology degrees are more research-focused, teaching you how to investigate chemical effects and create new remedies.
  • Toxicology degrees are similar to pharmacology, but instead focus on the toxic (rather than the healing) properties of venoms, poisons, and drugs.

Pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacy course entry requirements

You will not be surprised to hear that science subjects such as chemistry and biology top the wish lists of universities offering pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacy degrees. Many universities require A/Bs in your science subjects. Other relevant subjects include mathematics, physics, physiology, and psychology. When making decisions around university choices, be sure to visit the University pages for specific requirements.

When preparing your application and personal statement, you should consider demonstrating a range of both science and healthcare knowledge, along with softer skills such as strong communication skills, compassion, and empathy. You will need to be able to work effectively as part of a wider team, work under pressure and demonstrate high levels of accuracy, all of which are vital skills for pharmacists, pharmacologists, and toxicologists.

What you will need to do
  • Apply by the January deadline
  • Attend an interview
  • Submit a personal statement
  • Show work experience
What you won’t need to do
  • Submit a portfolio
  • Audition for a place
  • Take an entry test

Will I be able to undertake real medical or healthcare-related research during my degree?

Every university is different, but many will allow you to use your experiments, practical workshops and learning from work-based placements as part of a research project. Examples of these types of projects could include drug testing on cells, or monitoring the effects of drugs in different groups of patients. Your dissertation should at least constitute a level of independent research. 

Why study pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacy at university?

Pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacy are some of the most important degrees in helping us fight disease. Whether it’s finding the cure for cancer, developing antidotes for poisons, or furthering our understanding of mental illness, the world needs more scientific minds working on these challenges.

As a pharmacologist or toxicologist, you’ll be at the forefront of medical research, fighting new diseases and illnesses as they occur. You’ll also be working to ensure that current medicines remain effective, keeping the population healthy.

As a pharmacist, you will be a part of the third largest healthcare profession in Great Britain. Pharmacists are experts in the safe and effective use of medicines to treat and manage disease wherever they work. Pharmacist roles also typically involve elements of leadership and management, education, training, and research. You will use each of these skills to ensure that patients receive the right medication, at the right dosage, at the right time.

Studying any of these subjects will make you highly employable, with nine out of ten graduates in employment or further study within six months of finishing their course. You can also expect to be earning around £20k straight out of university, with outstanding progression if you go on to specialise in certain areas.

Some modules you may study are:

  • Dispensing medicines
  • Drug discovery and delivery
  • Pharmaceutical chemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Life science skills
  • Microbiology
  • Endocrine and neurophysiology
  • Clinical toxicology
  • Providing basic and extended Pharmacy Services
  • Clinical Pharmacology
  • Public Health
  • Law and Ethics related to Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Toxicology

What kind of work experience do I need for these courses?

University admissions teams are realistic and appreciate it may be difficult to gain work experience. However, if you can show temporary or project work linked to healthcare or science then you’ll have a better chance of acceptance. Some examples could include volunteer positions or weekend jobs in your community pharmacy, hospital or GP practice or any scientific companies in your local area. Also demonstrating awareness of the healthcare team in its entirety is valuable to understanding the patient journey. It’s more about showing your commitment, rather than the job itself.

Read more advice from admissions tutors for pharmacy personal statements.

What can you do with a pharmacology, toxicology, or pharmacy degree?

Most graduates from this subject group will enter careers in healthcare, whether in the lab or on the frontline as a:

Many will go on to specialise or progress, while some will enter related jobs, including:

What’s it like to study pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacy?

All three subjects will present students with a challenging, technical course, that requires a great level of research and dedication. Pharmacologists, toxicologists, and pharmacists are all contributing to the care of patients through medicine, so the level of training is extremely high. As with medical degrees, these courses are often longer than the three-year standard.

Teaching these subjects involves a variety of environments and styles, ranging from lectures and research projects, to laboratory work, and clinical and industry placements. You’ll undertake experiments, both in simulated and real environments, and be encouraged to think innovatively to solve problems.

Pharmacy degrees will develop your social skills, as you’ll be a forward-facing medical professional who will need to diagnose, understand, and plan treatment for patients.

Pharmacology and toxicology degrees will focus more on the scientific and analytical side, leading to much more lab work and experimentation. These subjects will also offer you options to specialise after the first year, if the research and treatment of particular groups of diseases interest you.

All three subjects will require a high level of theory, which will be tested in coursework, exams, and dissertations. It’ll also be tested on the frontline whilst on placement, which can come as a sandwich year, or in certain modules, throughout the year.

During your degree, you can expect the following:

  • writing reports and essays
  • laboratory experimentation
  • carrying out research projects
  • lectures and seminars
  • practical demonstrations
  • placement projects within industry

You will spend around 10 to 20 hours per week in the classroom depending on your course, not including any placement modules or projects that may be a feature of the course.

Are you considering an accelerated degree? Click here to read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course in two years rather than three. 

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