The amount of education necessary for becoming a toxicologist is lengthy and extensive. A medical degree is considered a minimum requirement for a job in this field. Further training in the form of a medical residency is also required. A board certified toxicologist can expect to complete a fellowship as well, resulting in about ten years of training.
A high school diploma is the first stepping stone that a toxicologist must use toward his or her career. A college preparatory diploma heavy in math, English and science courses is the best option to utilize in order to prepare for this career. Students should also expect to take a foreign language course and Advanced Placement honors courses in order to get into the best college available. Maintaining a high grade point average, participating in balanced extracurricular activities and completing some volunteer work are all good strategies to use to enter the best college. Students should also strive to score highly on the American College Testing exam or the Scholastic Aptitude Test.
Toxicologists must obtain a bachelor’s degree prior to entering medical school. Very few schools offer a toxicology bachelor’s degree, but other related majors are acceptable for medical school entry as well. A science-based program, such as pharmacology, is also optimal. Students spend four years at this level of university. Coursework typically includes biochemistry, environmental studies, physics and calculus. Law classes are key in this field, as are communications studies. The toxicologist education path includes studies regarding drugs, overdose, chemical exposure and related subjects. The cost of this bachelor’s degree is $50,000 annually for out of state students or $30,000 for residents.
Once the bachelor’s degree is completed, students should apply to medical school. This four-year experience will include coursework including forensic science, toxic agents in the environment, acute and chronic toxicity, criminal poisoning and many other related subjects. Studies also focus on herbal toxicity, seizures induced by toxins and smoke inhalation. Students may participate in wilderness medicine courses when available. At the end of medical school, students must complete a minimum of three years in a residency program. Students can expect this experience to cost an average of $28,685 when attending public school, plus lab fees, the price of textbooks and other costs.
To prepare students for board certification, toxicologist training includes two years of fellowship work. This requirement consists of fulfilling duties within the toxicologist’s preferred area of study, such as research, forensics or other areas. Medical toxicology is a common selection. Students who are unsure of what area they wish to specialize in may visit various areas through rotation schedules. After completing a fellowship, board certification is earned via exam through an organization related to that preferred area of study, such as the American Board of Emergency Medicine or the American Board of Pediatrics.
Toxicology careers can take a decade or longer to prepare for. A career in this field, however, is interesting and lucrative, allowing the physician to make a difference in people’s lives while earning a good living. Toxicologists are also rarer than many other medical professionals, creating a demand for professionals in this area making the years of education worthwhile.