What Does A Toxicologist Do (including Their Typical Day at Work)

Alyssa OmandacCareer, Overview

Salary, Job Description, How To Become One, and Quiz


Toxicologists analyze samples in a laboratory setting to detect the presence of various toxins in people, animals, or the environment. Depending on the employer, they may also review the impact of the toxins.

Bachelor's degree

Find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.Confucius

Most people think of Toxicologists as law enforcement professionals. The Toxicologist at a police station may examine samples from someone arrested for reckless driving to detect the presence of drugs or alcohol. However, Toxicologists work in other fields, including pharmaceuticals.

Some Toxicologists study the safety of drugs and agents on living organisms, working to create safer products. It is a broad career that provides the opportunity to seek employment in a variety of industries. You may work for nonprofit institutions, drug testing facilities, or regulatory agencies.

What they do

Toxicologists analyze samples in a laboratory setting to detect the presence of various toxins in people, animals, or the environment. Depending on the employer, they may also review the impact of the toxins.

Develop and enforce laws for the production and disposal of chemicals

Local, state, and federal regulatory bodies often hire Toxicologists to help develop and enforce safety laws and regulations. They assist with the passage of laws related to the production, use, and disposal of hazardous chemicals and materials.

In this role, the Toxicologist is responsible for reviewing the health risks associated with exposure to specific toxins. This information helps policymakers set standards and regulations for the use of chemicals in the production of products.

Analyze human samples to detect the presence of drugs or alcohol

Toxicologists employed at private drug testing facilities or law enforcement agencies may analyze samples taken from people to detect the presence of drugs or alcohol. Depending on the setting, Toxicologists may obtain samples from people and prepare slides for examination.

Toxicologists need to use laboratory equipment to detect toxins and substances in blood, urine, or other bodily fluids. After analyzing the sample, the Toxicologist may be required to compile a report. In a law enforcement setting, the toxicology report may be used to aid the prosecution of a defendant.

Establish controlled environments to replicate exposure to toxins

Toxicologists involved in research may need to create controlled environments to replicate situations where someone may be exposed to a toxin. Controlled environments may be used to test products or to analyze the health effects of toxins on humans.

Research the impact of toxins on the environment and citizens

Nonprofit organizations and private businesses may hire Toxicologists to analyze the impact of toxins or products on the environment or local populations. For example, a public health organization may use a Toxicology report to detect the level of lead in the local water supply. Along with detecting the presence of toxins, the Toxicologist may analyze the health risks associated with exposure.

Toxicologists may use a variety of processes to analyze the presence and impact of toxins. This may include the use of laboratory tests, human studies, and risk assessments.

Perform product safety evaluations

Pharmaceutical companies and businesses that produce health or skincare products often hire Toxicologists to evaluate the safety of their products. Toxicologists in these positions frequently perform product safety evaluations.

A product safety evaluation may involve human testing, animal testing, or a review of related cases to determine if the product is unfit for consumers. For example, a Toxicologist may evaluate the safety of a new pharmaceutical to determine if it increases the risk of cancer, neurological damage, birth defects, or other health issues.

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What is the job like


You may help protect people against toxins

When working for a pharmaceutical company, regulatory agency, or nonprofit, your research may help reduce exposure to potential toxins.

You get to use your knowledge to find answers

Toxicologists spend most of their careers answering questions. They help determine which toxins are present in products, people, or environments. They also identify the health risks associated with exposure.

You can work in a variety of different industries

Toxicologists may seek employment in many different industries including pharmaceuticals, chemical manufacturing, drug testing, law enforcement, and nonprofit organizations.

You may get to conduct experiments and complete original research

Working as a Toxicologist should satisfy your curiosity as you may get to plan and conduct a variety of experiments and research projects.


You may need to spend long hours in the lab

Working as a Toxicologist often involves long days spent in the lab. You may need to spend hours analyzing a single sample.

The Toxicology field offers limited advancement

Toxicologists have limited opportunities for job advancement. Some companies may have Senior Toxicologist positions but you are likely to spend most of your career with the same job title.

Where they work

Pharmaceutical companies
Nonprofit institutions
Regulatory agencies
Private drug testing facilities

Private drug testing facilities are common employers for Toxicologists. Businesses in various industries use private facilities to test employees. Toxicologists may also find employment at pharmaceutical companies, helping to set dosage recommendations and analyze the effects of the drugs.

Nonprofit institutions such as environmental organizations may employ Toxicologists to study the impact of toxic substances. Other institutions may hire Toxicologists to analyze the effects of specific products on people or animals.

Local, state, and federal regulatory agencies hire Toxicologists to carry out the enforcement of laws related to the production and disposal of chemicals.

How to become one

Step 1: Take science classes in high school

Most high schools only require three science credits for graduation. Take as many science classes as you can in high school to gain the scientific background needed for a career in Toxicology.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Toxicology

A Bachelor’s Degree may qualify you for Toxicology Technician jobs, which are entry-level jobs in this field. Common majors include Toxicology, Chemistry, Biology, and Biochemistry.

Step 3: Complete an Internship

While enrolled in a Bachelor’s program, you may find internship opportunities. Use these opportunities to gain lab experience, which is necessary for becoming a Toxicologist.

Step 4: Earn a Master’s Degree in Toxicology

You need a Master’s Degree in Toxicology to advance in this career. You may also benefit from courses in mathematics and statistics.

Step 5: Look for Work in the Toxicology Field

After earning a Master’s Degree, start working at labs. You may need to start with an entry-level position such as Toxicology Technician before becoming a full-time Toxicologist.

Should you become one

Best personality type for this career

The Thinker

People with this personality likes to work with ideas that require an extensive amount of thinking. They prefer work that requires them to solve problems mentally.

You can read more about these career personality types here.

Toxicologists require strong communication skills as they often work with a team of professionals in various disciplines. Good communication skills are also important for explaining scientific results to non-scientists, such as law enforcement professionals.

Diligence is also an essential trait as Toxicologists rarely have direct supervision. You need to manage your time wisely and complete tasks in an orderly fashion. Curiosity and patience are important characteristics due to the technical nature of this job. Toxicologists spend hours analyzing samples, which requires patience. Curiosity keeps you interested in this career and pushes you to perform at your best.

Find out if Toxicologist is the right career for you by taking this one minute quiz.

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