Toxicologists combine the elements of many scientific disciplines to help us understand the harmful effects of chemicals on living organisms.
Hardly a week goes by without hearing that a chemical may potentially threaten our health—pesticides in the food we eat, pollutants in the air we breathe, chemicals in the water we drink, toxic dump sites near our homes. Chemicals make up everything around us. Which chemicals are really dangerous? How much does it take to cause harm? What are the effects of a particular chemical? Cancer? Nervous system damage? Birth defects?
Finding scientifically sound answers to these very important questions is what toxicologists do, using the most modern molecular, genetic, and analytical techniques available. Toxicology combines the elements of many scientific disciplines to help us understand the harmful effects of chemicals on living organisms.
An additional, important aspect of toxicology is determining the likelihood that harmful effects will occur under certain exposure circumstances, sometimes called “risk assessment.” If the risks are real, then we must be able to deal with them effectively. If the risks are trivial, then we must ensure that valuable public resources are not spent ineffectively.
The responsibility of the toxicologist is to:
- Develop new and better ways to determine the potential harmful effects of chemical and physical agents and the amount (dosage) that will cause these effects. An essential part of this is to learn more about the basic molecular, biochemical and cellular processes responsible for diseases caused by exposure to chemical or physical substances;
- Design and carry out carefully controlled studies of specific chemicals of social and economic importance to determine the conditions under which they can be used safely (that is, conditions that have little or no negative impact on human health, other organisms, or the environment);
- Assess the probability, or likelihood, that particular chemicals, processes or situations present a significant risk to human health and/or the environment, and assist in the establishment of rules and regulations aimed at protecting and preserving human health and the environment.
Jobs are available for recipients of associate through doctoral degrees. Candidates with two- or four-year degrees can work in toxicology as laboratory assistants, research technicians or animal care specialists. Majoring in biology or chemistry provides a basis for a career in this discipline. Take as many biology and chemistry courses as you can, as well as physics, computer science, statistics and mathematics (including calculus). Improve your writing and speaking skills, and develop a multidisciplinary foundation to increase your options and qualifications.
While breadth in your undergraduate training is important, depth and experience provided by working in a laboratory or completing a student research project can be very important in increasing your skills and helping you determine the kind of science career that suits your interest and skills. Depending upon your career aspirations, a master’s or PhD degree may be required for you to achieve your goals.
Median Salary 2018
According to the payscale.com, the median salary of a Toxicologist in 2018 was $83,649.
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