The first step in becoming a pharmacologist is to earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends a degree in biological science, but some universities, such as Stony Brook University School of Medicine, offer four-year undergraduate programs in pharmacology. Classes vary by school, but typical courses include biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, cell biology and physiology. Most students earn bachelor’s degrees in four years.
Aspiring pharmacologists who do not plan to attend medical school need to earn a Ph.D. in pharmacology, biological science or a specialty, such as pathology or genetics. Most Ph.D. programs require approximately six years beyond the bachelor’s degree. Students typically have the opportunity to assist with research programs at the university and sometimes design their own experiments. Classwork normally includes cell biology, biochemistry, genetics and immunology. Most programs require students to present a thesis before graduating.
Joint Ph.D. and M.D. Programs
Although it is possible for a pharmacologist to first earn a Ph.D. and then attend medical school, the more efficient path is a joint Ph.D. and M.D. program. Students enroll after earning their bachelor’s degree. The programs take seven to eight years to complete, but graduates earn both a medical degree and a Ph.D. in pharmacology or other related field, such as biological science. If aspiring pharmacologists desire to work in a program that administers gene therapy or drugs to human subjects or that will require invasive procedures, such as removing tissue or drawing blood, they must be licensed physicians, and the joint degree programs allow them to earn the necessary credentials in less time.