Learn About Being a Toxicologist

By | February 8, 2024

What Does a Toxicologist Do? – Toxicology is the study of the effects of chemicals on human cells and tissues. This includes everything from environmental toxicity to health hazards caused by workplace exposures. Toxicologists are used to diagnose and treat diseases, but they can also help develop new ways to prevent and respond to chemical spills and other accidents.

Toxicologist Job Description

Toxicologists are experts in diagnosing and managing toxic exposures. They work on a variety of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and ampoo poisoning. In addition to their work in the lab, toxicologists also have an important role in public health. They help to monitor environmental contaminants and respond to spills and other emergencies.


What does a toxicologist do?

A toxicologist is a professional who deals with the study of poisons and their effects on humans. Toxicologists work in many different fields, including public health, environmental science, and industry. They use a variety of methods to identify and understand poisonings. They also have a lot to say about how the environment and human behavior affect poisonings.

A toxicologist researches the effects chemicals may have on humans or animals. They may test water supplies, food and tissue samples for the presence of chemicals. A toxicologist could make suggestions on the safety of certain products, such as cosmetics or cleaning supplies.

Related careers

There are many different types of toxicologists. An analytical toxicologist could identify harmful chemicals in a resource. Forensic toxicologists focus on testing for compounds during an autopsy. Clinical toxicologists review the effects of chemicals on subjects. Depending on the type of toxicologist, additional duties could include:

  • Collecting samples for testing and evaluation

  • Studying the short- and long-term effects related to toxins and radiation

  • Writing reports and presenting them to related parties

  • Identifying and analyzing harmful chemicals

  • Performing research on the effects of chemicals, including how to treat symptoms

Average salary

Toxicologists are typically full-time employees. Their salaries depend on their field, experience and employer. Though detailed salary information is unavailable, here are some similar job titles that can provide insight related to a toxicologist’s average salary. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

Average base salary

  • Scientist 

  • Senior scientist

Toxicologist requirements

Depending on the field of toxicology that a person pursues, they’ll need to meet certain requirements, including:


All toxicologists need at least a bachelor’s degree. Common degree fields include biology, chemistry, immunology and toxicology. A bachelor’s degree can help candidates qualify for most toxicology positions. However, toxicology is a highly competitive field, so many earn a master’s or doctoral degree, with a Ph.D. being most popular. In postgraduate programs, students can focus more on toxicology specialties as well.


Toxicologists typically undergo most of their training in school or directly following it. In undergraduate and master’s programs, students complete internships to gain hands-on experience in the field. Internships usually last three months.

After graduating from a doctoral program, candidates usually enter a postdoctoral fellowship. Fellowships can last several years in which a toxicology fellow performs research, learns from experienced professionals and gains additional training needed for this field.


Though not required for toxicologists, certifications are especially useful in gaining employment. Here are some popular licensing boards for toxicologists:

American Board of Toxicology

The ABT offers certification for individuals interested in demonstrating their proficiency in all aspects of toxicology. To earn an ABT certification, candidates need a doctoral degree and three years of experience, a master’s degree and seven years of experience or a bachelor’s degree and 10 years of experience. All applicants need to pass an exam and renew their credentials every five years.

Related careers

American Board of Forensic Toxicology

The ABFT offers three categories of certification: Fellow, Diplomate and Analyst. Each level of certification requires a certain educational degree and experience, with a Fellow being the only one requiring a Ph.D. Degrees need to be in the natural or life sciences field. Candidates need to pass an exam and renew their certification once every five years.

American Board of Applied Toxicology

The ABAT is a member of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology dedicated to non-physician clinical toxicologists. Those who want to earn an ABAT certification need to have a doctoral degree, have completed postdoctoral training and must pass an exam. Holders need to renew this certification every two years.


Toxicologists need certain skills to excel in the field:

Analytical skills

Toxicologists perform a variety of tests that require analytical skills to interpret the results. They should be able to gather data and facts and review them objectively to gain factual answers.


Because they may work on several projects or collected samples at the same time, toxicologists need good organizational skills. They should be able to keep their tests and results separate to ensure they make no mistakes during the process.

Time management

A toxicologist should be able to manage their days and weeks to make sure they have enough time to complete their many duties. Since some of the tests they run may overlap, it’s important to time each one so they’re finished by the given deadline.


These professionals regularly need to compile their results in the form of an easy-to-read document or presentation. Written communication is essential in creating these reports. Also, many toxicologists work with other professionals in their office or lab, making verbal communication important as well.

Mathematical skills

In some cases, a toxicologist needs to make computations based on collection size. They may also need to measure compounds and testing agents. They should be able to perform basic math calculations while working without slowing down.

Toxicologist work environment

Toxicologists could work in a lab or office environment. Most work full time during normal business hours, though occasional overtime may be needed during busy periods. Toxicologists also may need to work nights or weekends periodically, when running lengthy tests. Here are some common characteristics of a toxicologist’s work environment:

  • Standing or moving for long periods of time while performing tests

  • Sitting at a desk while working on a computer

  • Working with laboratory equipment

  • Wearing protective gear, such as gloves, goggles, long-sleeve shirts and closed-toed shoes

  • Handling potentially hazardous materials

Here are some of the places where a toxicologist could work:

  • Corporations

  • Government

  • Health care

  • Education

How to become a toxicologist

Here are the steps you should take to become a toxicologist:

1. Get a bachelor’s degree.

You should have at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for any toxicology job. Depending on where you go to school, you may be able to get a degree in toxicology. If not, focus on fields such as biology, chemistry and anatomy. During this time, try to find an internship in toxicology to begin gaining experience.

2. Earn a master’s or doctoral degree.

To be a more competitive candidate, you should get a master’s or doctoral degree. Depending on how much time and available funds you have, consider earning a Ph.D. Master’s programs usually last two years while doctoral programs last from six to seven years.

3. Get experience.

Experience is important in earning a toxicology role. If you get a Ph.D., you can work as a postdoctoral fellow for at least a year. If you don’t have internship or fellowship experience, you can gain experience as a laboratory assistant or similar role. You may be able to work as an assistant with a company you like, then earn a promotion to become a toxicologist.

4. Obtain certifications.

Holding an active toxicology certification can expand job options available to you and demonstrate your dedication to the field. There are several different types of toxicology certifications available. The ABT offers a general toxicology certification, but you can earn credentials in different specializations as well. You can earn as many certifications as you want, but you likely need at least some experience to apply for one.

5. Prepare a resume or CV.

A well-written resume or CV is important in obtaining a job with your desired employer. Toxicology is a common field for CVs, so it can be helpful to prepare both a short resume and a long-form CV that details your achievements, published work and certifications. Make sure to alter your application materials for each job you apply for to gain the hiring manager’s attention.

Toxicologist job description example

Healthrite Pharmaceuticals is seeking a clinical toxicologist to join our testing team. The toxicologist will be responsible for developing and implementing drug tests, recording and analyzing results and preparing reports. They will monitor the effects of different compounds in a controlled setting with the occasional need to work with human subjects. The toxicologist will join a team of seven, including assistants, pharmacists and quality control testers. The right candidate will have:

  • Six years of experience, preferably in pharmaceuticals

  • Master’s degree, Ph.D. preferred

  • Excellent analytical skills

  • Ability to work alone for extended periods of time

  • ABAT or ABT certification preferred


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