Career Planning

The usual route to a career in physiology, pharmacology and/or toxicology involves obtaining both an undergraduate and a graduate degree. 

If you are currently in high school, you should plan on completing the requirements for admission to the first year of a university science or biology program. These should include biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics. It is also important to study English as the ability to communicate using both verbal and written language is an essential skill of the modern scientist. Visit the Office of the Registrar website for more information on admission requirements and procedures. 

If you are already in university, plan on completing an honors degree (B.Sc.) in a biological science such as pharmacology, pharmacy, toxicology, physiology, chemistry, biochemistry, or zoology (among others), before applying to a department of physiology, pharmacology and/or toxicology for admission to its graduate program. Admission to these programs is always competitive.

Undergraduate Degree

The undergraduate degree is often an Honors Bachelor of Science degree (B.Sc. Hons.) or Honors Bachelor of Medical Sciences degree (B.MSc. Hons.) in a relevant area such as pharmacology, toxicology, physiology, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, microbiology, molecular biology, or zoology. This degree takes four years.

Graduate Degree

The graduate degree is usually a doctorate (Doctor of Philosophy, PhD) obtained through advanced studies in one of the biological sciences indicated above. This degree normally takes about five years to obtain after completing the Hons. B.Sc. degree.

The degree of Master of Science (MSc), which takes about two years to obtain after the Hons. B.Sc., may also be used in preparation for a career in pharmacology and toxicology, but the holder of an MSc degree is usually more limited in the choice of positions available. In general, holders of a PhD degree work in positions where they direct a research laboratory and undertake independent research. Holders of a MSc degree, on the other hand, usually work as research assistants/associates in laboratories and undertake research projects under the direction of a senior scientist.

Doctor of Medicine

Another route involves obtaining the degree of Doctor of Medicine (MD). Holders of this degree usually study further, either pursuing a fellowship in medicine or clinical pharmacology in order to function as a clinical pharmacologist, or performing research and obtaining the PhD degree. Some schools (including Western University) offer joint MD/PhD programs which allow both degrees to be obtained in six years rather than the normal time of eight years if pursued separately (four years for each degree). Please visit the MD/PhD website for more information.