Pharmacology Degrees: Bachelor's, Master's, & Online Training Info

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Bachelor's and master's degrees in pharmacology can lead to careers in the pharmaceutical field. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your pharmacology degree.
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Studying Pharmacology: Bachelor's and Master's Degrees at a Glance

A bachelor's or master's degree in pharmacology could prepare you to work as a drug information specialist, pharmaceutical sales representative or clinical research associate. A master's degree could also prepare you to work as a community college professor. If you would like to conduct independent research or teach pharmacology at the university level, you likely need a Doctor of Philosophy in the field.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not maintain data regarding clinical research associates, but notes that medical laboratory technologists perform similar job duties. The BLS predicted that employment of medical lab technologists would increase 11% between 2010 and 2020. It also predicted that, during the same decade, employment of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives, which includes pharmaceutical sales reps, would increase 16%. Finally, it project that employment of postsecondary teachers would increase 17% during the 2010-2020 decade.

Bachelor's Master's
Who is this degree for? - Individuals who want to work as research assistants, drug information specialists or pharmaceutical sales representatives
- Students wanting to pursue graduate study in pharmacology or a related healthcare field
- Individuals interested in working in a research position or teaching at the community college level
- Students planning to enroll in a doctoral program
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Drug information specialist ($59,000)*
- Pharmaceutical sales rep ($61,000)*
- Clinical research associate ($56,000)*
Career paths are similar to those of the bachelor's degree, plus:
- Postsecondary teacher ($64,000)**
Time to Completion 4 years, full-time 1-2 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Between 120 and 130 credit hours - Roughly 30 credit hours in coursework
- Thesis
Prerequisites - High school diploma or equivalent - Bachelor's degree with some science courses
Online Availability None found at this time Yes

Sources: * (December 2012 figures), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Bachelor's Degree in Pharmacology

Bachelor's degree programs in pharmacology take roughly four years to complete. The curriculum of these programs focus on the hard sciences, including biochemistry, molecular biology and physiology. In these programs, you complete several laboratory courses to acquire the scientific skills needed to understand how drugs work. You may find that many programs concentrate on both pharmacology and toxicology.

Pros and Cons


  • Programs provide laboratory experience, which can be helpful in preparing you to work in a research environment
  • You may be given internship opportunities, which are useful for building professional contacts and may help you acquire employment after graduation.
  • Bachelor's degree programs in pharmacology can prepare you for graduate study in pharmacology and related fields as well as professional studies in medicine, dentistry and related healthcare areas


  • If you want to become a pharmaceutical sales rep, an associate's degree may be all that is needed
  • You may compete for jobs with individuals who possess master's degrees
  • As a clinical research associate or drug sales rep, it may be necessary to work long or irregular hours

Courses and Requirements

Bachelor's degree programs in pharmacology typically begin with classes in the basic sciences, such as cell biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. Upper-division courses focus on advanced science and pharmacology topics. Some programs require that you complete a research project or internship prior to graduation. Courses you may take include:

  • Biochemistry
  • Genetics
  • Physiology
  • Principles of pharmacology
  • Principles of toxicology

Online Info

Bachelor's degree programs in pharmacology are not currently available online. Because laboratory courses are needed, it is impossible to complete required program courses online.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

According to the BLS, experience is often needed to become a clinical research associate. For this reason, you may want to take advantage of internship opportunities offered to you while you work toward your bachelor's degree.

Master's Degree in Pharmacology

Many master's degree programs in pharmacology give you the option to conduct research and write a thesis or to choose a 'coursework only' track. Most programs focus on another discipline in addition to pharmacology, such as toxicology or physiology. Some give you the option to choose a concentration, such as neuropharmacology, natural products or laboratory research. These programs can prepare you for work immediately after graduation or can make you more competitive for admission to a doctoral programs.

Pros and Cons


  • A master's degree can open up the opportunity to teach at a community college
  • You may be given the option to choose a concentration based on your particular area of interest
  • You can usually choose from thesis and non-thesis program options, depending on your interest in research


  • A PhD is typically needed to conduct independent research and teach at the university level, so a master's degree will not prepare you for working in either of those career fields
  • If your goal is to enroll in a doctoral program, a master's degree usually isn't necessary because many programs allow PhD students to simultaneously earn a master's degree in the field
  • You may be competing for jobs with bachelor's degree holders

Courses and Requirements

The curriculum of these programs differ depending on whether you elect to write a thesis. In a thesis program, you spend several credit hours researching, writing and defending your thesis topic before faculty members. In a non-thesis program, you may need to complete a library research project on a current topic in the field and pass an oral exam prior to graduation. Courses in either option might include:

  • Principles of pharmacology
  • Biostatistics
  • Cell physiology
  • Research techniques
  • Toxicology
  • Neuropharmacology

Online Info

Fully online master's degree programs in pharmacology are available, but are rare. As with traditional on-campus programs, admission to these programs requires possessing a bachelor's degree and having completed specific, science-related classes at the undergraduate level. Online programs usually do not focus on research and do not require writing a thesis. Classes in online programs might include toxicology, molecular biology, data analysis, drug-tissue interaction and epidemiology.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

If your goal is to become a community college teacher, you may want to work as a teaching assistant while you pursue your master's degree. Some colleges prefer to hire applicants who already have some teaching experience.

You may also want to look for research opportunities as you work toward your degree or choose a thesis track. This type of experience can be helpful if you want to teach or work as a research associate.

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