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Toxicologists research the effects of toxins on living organisms and create products and public and scientific policy to mitigate those effects. The field is inherently interdisciplinary: Environmental toxicology, food toxicology, forensic toxicology, industrial toxicology, medical toxicology, and molecular toxicology are all possible career routes, and programs combine chemistry, biology, biochemistry, ecology, environmental science, statistical analysis, pharmacy studies, and other disciplines from a variety of departments. When searching for the right program, students should keep in mind that toxicology programs can be embedded within Environmental Science, Biology, Integrative Sciences, Pharmaceutical Studies, and other departments.

Degree Information

Master’s programs (such as the M.S. in Toxicology and Master’s of Environmental Toxicology) typically take two to three years to complete. Completion of the degree usually requires taking a combination of oral and written exams as well as a thesis research project. Though less common, some programs offer dual degrees (for instance, the M.S./J.D.) In general, though, the master’s degree is rarely seen as terminal, and most students continue on for another four-plus years to earn their Ph.D. Also, medical toxicology is an officially recognized as a medical subspecialty, so students must receive a medical degree (M.D.).

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Do you want to work in academia, government, private industry, non-profit, or clinical care?
  • Does the institution offer a “just master’s” option?
  • What lab resources does the institution have? What connections to outside institutions?
  • What research is the faculty doing?

Career Overview

Most toxicology programs prepare students to teach and conduct research at colleges and universities, to measure and enhance the commercial value of health-care products and services in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, and/or to provide analysis and management within hospitals, insurance companies, environmental and other non-profit organizations, pharmacy benefits management companies, and government agencies.

Career/Licensing Requirements

There are no licensing requirements in the field of toxicology.

Salary Information

Salaries vary widely depending on the type of employment. For master’s-level graduates, salaries in academia will be in the middle $20,000 to $30,000 range, while those working in pharmaceutical companies and with consumer products can start at $55,000 to $65,000. Post-doctorate students start at $35,000 to $45,000 in academia and $75,000 to $85,000 for private industry positions. (Figures are taken from a 2001 survey co-sponsored by the Society of Toxicology and the American College of Toxicology.)

Related Links

The Society of Toxicology
Plenty of information about schools, degrees, grants and fellowships, links to career information, and other resources.

American College of Toxicology
New information, theories, and practices between toxicology professionals. Includes information about publications such as the International Journal of Toxicology.

The American Academy of Clinical Toxicology
The site provides information about research topics, education, prevention, and treatment of diseases caused by chemicals, drugs and toxins, and a bounty of links.


  • Advanced Cell Biology

  • Biostatistical Methods

  • Cancer Biology

  • Cellular And Molecular Basis Of Disease

  • Experimental Methods And Design

  • General Toxicology

  • Immunobiology

  • Molecular And Cellular Pharmacology

  • Molecular Genetics And Genomics

  • Physiology

  • Principles Of Neurobiology

  • Thesis

  • Topics In Environmental Disease