One of the most fascinating things about the field of medicine is the nearly overwhelming breadth of fields within this massive category. As science and technology continue to grow, demand continues to increase for experts who are knowledgeable and experienced in a wide array of fields. One such example is the growing field of pharmacology. If you have ever found yourself asking, “Just what is pharmacology?” read on.
What is Pharmacology?
Pharmacology is the study of drugs. Specifically, it studies how drugs work, how they interact with the body, how they interact with each other, and how they can be improved upon.
As the name and description would imply, this field involves an extensive amount of scientific and medical knowledge. Practitioners of this field are expected to know how the human body works, with knowledge on everything from individual cellular function to how organs interact with each other.
Someone who is a pharmacologist has a wide array of potential career paths to choose from. One of the more common ones is working for a research or prescription drug company, where an individual can become highly involved in the discovery of new drugs or the improvements of existing ones. Indeed, this is one of the more rewarding branches of pharmacology, and what often drives individuals into this branch of medicine. It is also important to note that pharmacologists can assist in the way that prescription drugs work by reducing negative side effects and improving their overall effectiveness. Pharmacologists can also work to make medicine less addictive, something that is becoming more necessary as the world continues to struggle with the negative impacts of opioids and prescription drug abuse.
People interested in this field should not confuse it with pharmacy, which is the professional in which prescription drugs are created, managed, and then sold commercially to individuals who receive prescriptions. While pharmacists also go through extensive medical training, the two professions are not the same.
How can I get involved in this field?
As you would expect, this field requires extensive education. Generally speaking, someone involved in this field must have some sort of doctorate, usually a Ph.D., Pharm.D., or M.D. This involves getting an undergraduate degree, followed by completion of a medical doctorate. However, just like becoming a medical doctor, this is not the end of a Pharmacologists career path. Pharmacologists must then complete a residency and a fellowship program. This can take another few years.
Eventually, you can become a pharmacological expert. Individuals who are at the top of this field can do very well in their careers, making well into six-figures and potentially receiving endless scientific accolades for their discoveries.
How is Pharmacology regulated?
Certification and licensure by the state of a pharmacologist’s practice are always required. A licensure board is usually responsible for the creation of rules and regulations in each state, which will obviously vary by the location of the practice. Pharmacologists are required to adhere to these rules and regulations in order to practice, with potential fines and sanctions being placed if they fail to do so. There are also a wide array of federal regulations that apply to this field.
Depending on the specific field that a pharmacologist explores, they will likely be expected to adhere to a strict code of ethics. This becomes even more important if an individual gets into the field involving research and experimentation, an area that is fraught with potential ethical conflicts.
What are the Career Options for a Pharmacologist?
One of the benefits of becoming a pharmacologist is the wide array of career options.
Most common is for a pharmacologist to go and work in research. This can be public or private research and typically involves the areas highlighted above, including the discovery of new drugs and the improvement of already existing ones. However, this is not the only career path for pharmacologists. Many work in universities, where they will also conduct research, or become teachers. Pharmacologists can also work for hospitals or private medical centers, where they may be involved in drug creation or research.
Thankfully for individuals who are interested in this field, pharmacology is in high demand, with well-trained pharmacologists typically having no trouble finding work. The level of education and expertise in this area continues to increase, but as our understanding of science evolves, so does the ability of individuals in this field to create life-saving medicine. Indeed, this area combines a love of science with an ability to save lives, making it ideal for people who want to do good through science and medicine.