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:

  • Pharmacy degrees are designed to train and license you to dispense prescription medicines, and become a pharmacist.
  • 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.

Whether you’re interested in the research aspect, or the social and dispensing side, this subject group is a highly specialised science that will teach you a wide range of technical skills.

Pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacy course entry requirements

You won’t be surprised to hear that chemistry and biology top the wish lists of universities offering pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacy degrees. And you’ll need decent grades too, with many universities requiring As in your science subjects. Other relevant subjects include mathematics, physics, and physiology.

When preparing your application and personal statement, you should consider what characteristics you should be displaying for these subjects. You’ll need technical and analytical skills, a high level of concentration and focus, along with attention to detail, integrity, and above all else, accuracy.

What you will need to do
  • Apply by 15 January
  • 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 research during my degree?

Every university is different, but many pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacy courses will allow you to use your experiments and practical workshops as part of a research project. At the very least, your dissertation should constitute a level of medical 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’ll master those medicines and know exactly when and how to administer them to the public. You’ll use your interpersonal skills and analytical mind to ensure that each patient is getting the right prescription, 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
  • Molecules and cells
  • Life science skills
  • Microbiology
  • Endocrine and neurophysiology
  • Clinical toxicology

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

University admissions teams are realistic. It’s not likely that many 17 year olds will have work experience in scientific areas, but if you can show temporary or project work then you’ll have a much better chance of acceptance. Try volunteer positions or weekend jobs in your community pharmacy, or any scientific companies in your local area. It’s more about showing your commitment, rather than the job itself.

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 immediately 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 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’ll spend around 20 hours per week in the classroom, not including the placement modules or projects that occur in most courses.


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