The field of pharmacology investigates drugs and medications, which are then dispensed by pharmacists. They also determine how the drugs can safely be administered, and at what dosages. Their role is incredibly varied and complex, and requires a great deal of study. As a pharmacologist, you can find employment in a huge range of different settings, including research organizations, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and universities. Your job is likely to be laboratory based and very hands-on, but exactly what you do depends on the precise nature of your job. So what are the things you can do with a pharmacology degree?
In this field, you will focus on poisons. Specifically, you will look at where they are found and how they affect the human body. One of your roles is to find out whether certain drugs have any adverse effects on the body. At the same time, you will study industrial, environmental, and household hazards.
2. Biological Pharmacology
Here, you will be focusing on how different substances interact within the human body. Basically, you will be examining reactions for drug absorption and transformation. This role is of great importance in drug discovery and clinical trials.
In this role, you will determine how drugs are absorbed, distributed, and excreted. In essence, you will examine what happens to a chemical from the point when it is administered up to that time when it is eliminated from the body.
4. Behavioral Pharmacology
In this role, you will study how drugs affect human behavior. This is a very varied field, but one that mainly looks at how psychoactive substances affect sleep, wakefulness, memory, and learning. There is also a strong focus on gaining a greater understanding of drug addiction. Finally, behavior pharmacology looks at metabolism, levels of brain neurotransmitters, and enzyme activity in relation to experimental drug interventions.
5. Cardiovascular Pharmacology
In this discipline, you will determine how certain drugs affect the heart and its various systems (nervous, endocrine, and vascular). The goal, generally, is to find ways to better regulate the function of the heart by monitoring blood flow, arterial pressure, physiological mediators release, and neural activity in the central nervous system.
6. Regulatory Affairs, Drug Development, and Drug Discovery
In this role, you are most likely to work for the federal government, most notably the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. You will examine various clinical tests that have been performed, review them, determine whether they are correct, and so on.
In the field of chemotherapy, pharmacologists help to treat malignancies (cancers) and microbial infections with certain drugs or chemicals. The goal is mainly to improve both the process and the outcomes, focusing on killing or stopping further growth of the cancer cells, without destroying healthy cells.
In this role, you will study the effects of certain drugs on the nervous system. This includes the nerves found all over the body, the spinal cord, and the brain. You will be responsible for complex issues, such as how certain diseases work, and what chemicals could be used to change that behavior. You may also conduct further research into existing drugs. Overall, the goal is to better understand the nature of disease progression and to alter this.
9. Clinical Pharmacology
This is a mixture of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, looking specifically at human beings. You will determine the effects of certain drugs, their interactions with other chemical substances, how they can have an impact on a disease, and how diseases can change the effects of the drugs. Additionally, you will try to determine why different individuals experience different responses to certain drugs.
10. Drug Disposition and Drug Metabolism
This is another subdivision of pharmacokinetics, but it looks specifically at how drugs are metabolized on an enzymatic level. You will examine the process by which the human body breaks down a drug with the use of enzymes and how the resulting metabolites affect the body and then how these are eliminated from the body.
11. Endocrine Pharmacology
This field determines how drugs affect the endocrine system, particularly the hormones or derivatives thereof, as well as of drugs that change the way natural hormones are secreted or behave. You will help to solve some of the world’s greatest mysteries, specifically where metabolic diseases come from and how they can be controlled.
12. Pharmacology Education
In this role, you will move somewhat outside of the realm of direct practice of pharmacology. Instead, you will be training the next generation of pharmacologists. You can focus on any of the specializations, or on pharmacology in general.
13. Molecular Pharmacology
In this specialization, you will look at the biophysical and biochemical characteristics of how cell molecules and drug molecules interact with each other. You will use this knowledge to answer toxicologic and pharmacologic questions. This is a role in which you will need advanced knowledge about molecular biological, chemical, physical, and mathematical techniques, and how these relate directly to biological activity.
14. Therapeutics Pharmacology
As a therapeutics pharmacologist, you will look at how drugs act and affect a disease’s behavioral, immunological, microbiological, biochemical, and physiological factors. You will also aim to determine how the presence of certain diseases can affect how a drug works, looking specifically at how it is absorbed, circulated, disposed, and excreted.
15. Systems and Integrative Pharmacology
Integrative pharmacology looks at how drugs act within the whole animal, and then determines the toxic effects on the body. Systems pharmacology applies the principles of systems biology in the study of the effects of drugs.
16. Cellular and Biochemical Pharmacology
This field of pharmacology has a strong focus on the effects of drugs on cell physiology, cell biology, and biochemistry. Essentially, in this field, you will see the organism – usually the human body – as a machine, and you will determine how certain drugs affect it. It is closely related to kinetic pharmacology, as well as biosynthetic materials. Overall, the goal is to stop the effects of human illnesses.
17. Veterinary Pharmacology
This field looks specifically at how certain drugs affect animals. Within veterinary pharmacology, subdivisions similar to the ones above are starting to emerge, although they are all still classified under the umbrella of veterinary pharmacology.
As you can see, the field of pharmacology is incredibly wide and varied. This is due to a variety of reasons, not in the least the fact that there are new and emerging health concerns, and new and emerging expectations in terms of how these are treated. Additionally, there is an outcry for transparency, with much of the general public believing that the pharmaceutical industry is responsible for creating customers, not cures. As such, more and more often, those who have a pharmacology degree find themselves propelled into the field of public relations, in order to demonstrate that the drugs that have been developed do indeed have a positive effect, particularly when they are found to have substantial side effects, some of which will require further medication in order to be properly managed.
- A Tale of Two Pharmacologists. (2003, Mar. 14) Retrieved from http://www.sciencemag.org/careers/2003/03/tale-two-pharmacologists
- Pharmacy vs. Pharmacology. (n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.pharmcas.org/preparing-to-apply/about-pharmacy/pharmacy-vs-pharmacology/
- Pharmacologist Salary (United States). (2017, Jan. 18, 2017) Retrieved from http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Pharmacologist/Salary
- About Pharmacology. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://www.aspet.org/knowledge/what-is-pharmacology/