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Toxicology as a career

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Toxicology as a profession is very important, as people are concerned about the potentially harmful affects of products they use, medications they take, and the chemicals they're exposed to in their everyday lives. Without toxicologists we would not understand what could potentially poison or harm living things as well as the environment around us. Toxicology, the science which deals with toxic properties of substances, involves the study of the effects that toxins or chemicals have on humans, animals, plants and other living organisms. Toxicologist is one who explores the effects of chemicals on living organisms. The field studies the harmful effects of drugs, environmental contaminants and naturally occurring substances. Toxicology covers two main areas- One deals with the effects that toxic materials have on humans, and the other with their impact on the environment.

Toxicology is a field that requires candidates from various interdisciplinary branches like biology, mathematics, veterinary sciences, pathology, physiology, immunology, and genetics. Not only do toxicologists figure out chemical makeup, they use their knowledge of biology, chemistry, and the environment to devise strategies to reduce or control exposure to these chemicals. Toxicologists use scientific principles in order to determine the prevalence, quantity and effects of a certain chemical on the environment and people's health. Researching the safety and potential harm caused by chemicals is the job of a toxicologist. Their tasks range from testing for the effects of particular chemicals, determining their concentrations, assessing risks by interpreting data, and searching for mechanisms of toxicity. The main aim of toxicologists is to examine the threats and hazards surrounding man and the environment and conduct research and experiments to provide protection to the private, public, commercial and industrial sectors.

Toxicologists give information related to substances like food, cosmetics, chemicals or other substances which are safe to human beings and also to other living organisms, like animals. There are various roles played by toxicologists. They may work in a teaching role, a consulting role, or they may stay true to their background and work in a research or scientific role. Toxicologists, who work as consultants, may need to travel to represent their company or clients in meetings. Research is the main part of toxicologists work. Most toxicologists work in a lab or office environment and work in a team with other toxicologists and scientists.



To become a toxicologist one must take science stream for plus two. After that one can opt for a bachelor degree in botany, chemistry, zoology, biochemistry, medicine, veterinary science, pharmacy, biochemistry, biotechnology, microbiology, environmental biology or some other life science based discipline.

For the student interested in entering the field of toxicology, a Bachelor of Science degree is the minimum requirement. After bachelors, one can go for master of science in toxicology i.e M.Sc. Toxicology. There are various specializations in toxicology, and each one requires a specific background in some or the other subject.

Jamia Hamdard, Delhi, Department of toxicology is one of the few universities in India to offer a master's in general toxicology.

Personal attributes

As a toxicologist, it is important to be able to work in a group or as a team. They need to report their research findings for which strong interpersonal and communication skills are essential. Patience is an asset in this profession. Toxicologists also require excellent analytical abilities, logical thinking, attention to detail and problem solving skills. Also, one should develop strong writing and computer skills. Knowledge of environmental issues may be an added advantage.

Job prospects & Career options

As people become more health conscious, there is a greater need for those who study toxins. At present, organisations in India are unable to meet the demand because most toxicologists are attracted by lucrative positions and better research facilities in other countries. There are various fields of toxicology and hence there is potential to grow within toxicology in different ways. Many industries employ toxicologists to assist in evaluating the safety of their products. Toxicologists work as consultants in companies which deal with food, chemical or cosmetic products. Numerous career avenues for toxicologists exist in chemical, food, pharmaceutical, and environment related industries; in teaching and research, and in government organisations dealing with regulation of chemical usage. Biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries are the largest employers of toxicologists. Pharmacovigilance (monitoring and preventing harmful effects of medicines), which is gaining prominence in India, is expected to absorb more toxicologists. Toxicologists can also work for epidemiological surveys done by health authorities.

A Toxicologist's responsibilities will depend on the institution they work for. Depending on their area of work, toxicologists can be divided into eight distinct groups: industrial, pharmaceutical, academic, clinical, forensic, regulatory, occupational, eco-toxicology.

Industrial toxicology is a specific area of environmental toxicology that deals with the work environment and constitutes a significant part of industrial hygiene. The industrial toxicologist plays a crucial role in developing a wide range of effective and safe products including petrochemicals, medicines, pesticides, cosmetics, food and drink, and household products. Often, an industrial toxicologists work closely with regulatory authorities to ensure that a company’s products and production processes conform to local, national and international regulations.Pharmaceutical toxicologists determine the efficiency, mechanism of actions, and the potential adverse health effects of the active pharmaceutical ingredients being produced.

Clinical toxicologists work in the medical field. A clinical toxicologist study the harmful effects of chemicals, drugs, pesticides and other substances on humans through clinical diagnosis of symptoms and detection and diagnosis of biological poisoning. Clinical toxicologists may work in hospitals or pharmaceutical companies. A clinical toxicologist, might work on research-based therapeutic studies or support a medical team during poison or drug overdose emergencies.

Forensic toxicologists investigate causes of death and study crime scenes with law enforcement personnel. A forensic toxicologist specialises in the study of alcohol, legal and illicit drugs and poisons, including their chemical composition, preparations and identifications. They find opportunities with private forensic laboratories, law enforcement agencies and in hospital departments of forensic medicine. Read more on Forensic Science career

Occupational toxicologists study the effect of chemicals that may be encountered by workers during the course of their work environment. Read more on Occupational Therapy career

A regulatory toxicologist has the primary role of ensuring public health and safety from the use of chemicals, drugs and pesticides, by identifying potential health risks posed by exposure to such substances. Regulatory toxicologists work for pharmaceutical companies and government facilities to research new drugs and chemicals. Toxicologists determine whether a new product is safe for public consumption and use.

Academic toxicologists work at non-profit organizations and universities. These toxicologists concentrate on research projects and teach toxicology to students.

Environmental toxicologists or eco-toxicologists study the effects of chemicals on the environment. They research on the field and in laboratories to learn how pollution affects ecosystems, air and water quality, species survival, and public health. Environmental toxicologists continually monitor and measure the level of toxins in the environment. They play an important role in safeguarding public health.


As there is shortage of toxicologists, qualified and experienced ones get paid well. The salary range is dependent on various factors like the geographical location, organization size and work experience. Industry positions generally pay higher than academic, nonprofit, or government positions in this field. Starting salary for a M.Sc. holder in this field can range between Rs. 25,000 to 40,000. Those with experience and specialisation can even earn up to a lakh per month. For example, A toxicologist with a veterinary or medical degree, and a postgraduate qualification can draw above Rs. 50,000 a month.


In India

 » M.Phil. Environmental Toxicology

 » M.Sc. Environmental Toxicology

 » M.Sc. Toxicology

 » Ph.D Toxicology


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 »  USA


   environmental science career , chemistry , biology

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