Pharmacologists investigate the effects of pharmaceutical products on organic life systems. They are responsible for examining the effects of new or modified medicines and recording what reactions take place when tests are carried out on biological specimens.
Pharmacological research is carried out to ensure that drugs and medicines are completely safe and free of any dangerous side effects. Pharmacologists also play an important role in the research and development of new medicines.
Pharmacologists usually specialize in a particular field of research, such as biochemistry, toxicology, clinical pharmacology, neuropharmacology, or pharmacokinetics (the movement of drugs within the body). They are employed in both laboratory and field settings by governments, environmental consulting companies, resource and utility companies, chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnical companies, and health and educational institutions. 
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Pharmacologists are required to complete.
- Working alongside other medical research scientists in order to conduct research to discover, develop, refine, and evaluate new pharmaceutical products, as well as improving existing ones:
- Designing, planning, and conducting controlled experiments to improve understanding of a compound's activity;
- devising and testing different hypotheses;
- testing different specimens and samples;
- using computers, high technology measuring systems, and other sophisticated equipment to collect, analyze, and interpret complex data;
- organizing and overseeing tests of new drugs and medicines, ensuring quality control and securing approval for their use;
- liaising with regulatory authorities to ensure compliance with local, national, and international drug regulations;
- testing drugs on cells or through clinical trials on animals and humans; and
- participating in the commercialization of new products, if necessary.
- Ensuring accuracy, scientific integrity, and regulatory compliance for all assigned projects.
- Conducting studies into the identification, effects, and control of human, plant, and animal pathogens and toxins.
- Investigating all aspects of the mechanisms of drug action, the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, organ function, and the assessment of health:
- Researching the harmful and beneficial effects of chemicals on specific regions of the body, such as the respiratory or cardiovascular systems.
- Maintaining documentation, writing detailed reports on their research to present it to their peers and senior colleagues and keeping up-to-date with the latest advances in the field:
- Attending scientific meetings and conferences in order to present posters, give talks, and listen to presentations from fellow pharmacologists and key opinion leaders;
- publishing research papers; and
- being aware of other pharmacological research by reading specialist literature.
- Applying and developing the results of research to work through a variety of applications, such as new products, processes, techniques, and practices.
- Planning, coordinating, and supervising the duties of other technical staff and training or mentoring early-career pharmacologists.
- Maintaining all work areas in a clean and orderly state, disposing of waste, cleaning glassware, and removing expired chemicals/reagents.
- Performing required preventative maintenance and calibration of the laboratory equipment to ensure proper functioning and delivery of consistent and reliable results:
- Contacting manufacturers and arranging for service in event of malfunction of equipment.
- Following all established regulatory safety and health standards at all times.
- Discovering, developing, refining, and evaluating new and existing pharmaceutical products.
- Testing specimens and samples.
- Using computers, high technology measuring systems, and other sophisticated equipment to collect, analyze, and interpret complex data.
- Carrying out clinical trials in animals or consenting adults.
- Writing and publishing research papers.
- Supervising laboratory staff.
- Working alongside other research scientists.
The average Pharmacologist salary is $43,875 per year or $23 per hour. This is around 1.3 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $31,000 while most experienced workers make up to $61,000. These results are based on 1 salary extracted from job descriptions.
- Knowledge of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Good Laboratory Practices (GLP), and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
- Enthusiasm and aptitude for learning new skills and techniques.
- Outstanding interpersonal and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly, both verbally and in writing, in order to create a clear and communicative environment with coworkers in the laboratory;
- being able to read and write technical reports, give presentations, and publish research papers; and
- being able to work cohesively as part of a multidisciplinary team of scientists.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills:
- Identifying issues and resolving problems in a timely manner using critical thinking and good judgment;
- employing creative solutions while carrying out experiments;
- being precise and accurate in their analyses, since errors could invalidate their research; and
- determining if results and conclusions are based on sound science.
- Organizational and time management skills, a methodical approach to work, and great attention to detail:
- Avoiding disorganization in the workplace that can lead to legal problems, damage to equipment, and chemical spills;
- being able to work independently under pressure in a fast-paced environment;
- handling various experiments at the same time; and
- being able to prioritize tasks and responsibilities accordingly.
Pharmacologists must have both an undergraduate degree and an advanced degree such as a Ph.D. in Pharmacology, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chemistry, Biology, Natural Sciences, Biotechnology, Biomedical Sciences, Toxicology, or Biochemistry in order to find a job. A postgraduate research degree or Ph.D. can be beneficial and often leads to higher starting salaries. Research work and 3 to 5 years of experience gained using relevant scientific and analytical techniques can also be useful.
Pharmacologists must have a strong background in math, IT, and science and need to be able to gather, analyze, interpret, and understand medical data. Pharmacologists could eventually move into another field of practice such as medical sales and marketing, drug registration, patent work, or information science.
Pharmacologists rarely work a 9-to-5 shift as flexibility is needed in order to monitor and manage experiments. Thus, they may have to work on weekends and holidays for the same reason.