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Toxicologist

Toxicologists study the potential harm various agents can have on living things. These include chemical agents (such as drugs, pesticides, food additives, and industrial chemicals), biological agents (such as plant and animal toxins), and physical agents (such as ionizing and electromagnetic radiation).

Also Known As

Biological Scientist, Regulatory Toxicologist, Research Scientist, Risk Assessment Toxicologist, Veterinary Toxicologist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Microbiologists and Cell and Molecular Biologists (2121.2) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Biologists and Related Scientists (C021) 
  • 2011 NOC: Biologists and related scientists (2121) 
  • 2016 NOC: Biologists and related scientists (2121) 
Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Microbiologists and Cell and Molecular Biologists

2006 NOC: 2121.2

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to study the effects and control of human, plant and animal pathogens and toxins

OBJECTIVE

Interest in precision working with instruments to conduct clinical and laboratory studies to test, evaluate and screen drugs and pharmaceuticals, and to conduct molecular and biochemical studies and experiments into genetic expression, gene manipulation and recombinant DNA technology

DIRECTIVE

Interest in consulting to advise on issues related to the development of new practices and products at the cellular and molecular level; may supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 

It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective, and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes for this NOC group is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn About Interests

Abilities

Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Toxicologists research the hazards of chemical, biological, and physical agents at different levels of exposure. Their goal is to improve industrial and environmental safety. They also promote public health and protect the environment.

In general, toxicologists:

  • do lab studies on substances (such as drugs, food additives, solvents, and herbicides) or on energy (for example, radiation)
  • determine the effects of these substances on lab animals, plants, and human tissue and cells
  • research new tests for use in toxicological studies
  • assess potential risks based on levels and periods of exposure
  • study and evaluate data (gathered from studies and reliable scientific documents)
  • determine suitable controls for various chemical and physical hazards
  • develop standards or guidelines for safe levels of chemical and physical agents in:
    • workplaces
    • air
    • food
    • drinking water
    • the environment (including the aquatic environment, soil, and various land uses)
  • inform and advise policy and program developers on the health and legal aspects of chemical use
  • supervise and co-ordinate technologists, technicians or trainees (students)
  • share findings through publications (such as journals and the media).

Analytical toxicologists specialize in detecting natural products. These include:

  • toxins
  • venoms or plant poisons
  • toxic environmental chemicals
  • toxic anthropogenic (human-made) chemicals
  • the biotransformed metabolites of the above.

Clinical (biomedical) toxicologists work in medical environments or pharmaceutical companies. They study the effects of drugs or other chemicals on the human body. They may be part of a medical team responding to emergencies (such as drug overdoses). Or they may monitor drug therapies for patients with certain diseases (such as epilepsy or asthma).

Environmental toxicologists study the effects of chemical, physical, and biological agents. They study humans and other organisms who have been exposed to those agents through:

  • food, air, water, and soil
  • the environment (including aquatic habitats, sediment, and soil).

They determine levels of toxicants in the environment. This helps them establish background or naturally occurring levels. They then identify acceptable guidelines.

Forensic toxicologists examine post-mortem tissues for drugs and poisons. In general, they are called upon when deaths are suspicious, unexpected, or have no anatomical cause. They are concerned with the medical and legal aspects of impairment or deaths. These may relate to drugs, including alcohol. They often testify in court. They may help train police to use breath-testing equipment.

Industrial toxicologists test new products such as pesticides and drugs. This helps manufacturers determine a product’s toxicity. This is important during production to protect industrial workers. It also helps establishing safe uses for consumers and the public.

Nutritional toxicologists test food additives and new food products. They study how additives interact with nutrients in foods to determine their safety for consumers.

Regulatory toxicologists develop controls for safe uses of new chemical products. These can include:

  • industrial and agricultural chemicals
  • pharmaceuticals

Risk assessment toxicologists study the possible results of exposure to toxic substances. They develop guidelines for safe exposure levels.

Veterinary toxicologists study health problems or non-infectious diseases of unknown cause in animals (most often domestic or zoo species).

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2018
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

Toxicologists work in offices, labs, industrial facilities, and outdoors. Testing new products often involves experiments on animals. It sometimes means studies on “in vitro” (in petrie dishes) preparations (including isolated cells). Toxicologists often use state-of-the-art equipment. This includes:

  • atomic absorption spectrometers
  • mass spectrometers
  • electron microscopes
  • flow cytometers
  • chromatography systems.

Toxicologists often handle toxic materials and substances of unknown toxic potential. They must pay careful attention to safety procedures. Depending on the task and hazard, safety precautions could require use of personal protective equipment or an isolated room.

Toxicologists may work on their own or in teams. They may work overtime to meet strict time schedules. They may travel to:

  • collect field samples
  • testify at hearings or in court
  • respond to emergencies or crisis situations
  • attend scientific meetings.
Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Toxicologists need to possess:

  • perseverance
  • critical thinking
  • patience and an eye for detail
  • the skills to answer complex questions
  • the skills to be organized
  • the ability to take a step-by-step approach to their work
  • the skills to work well on their own or as part of a team
  • technical and analytical skills
  • the ability to translate, study, and understand data
  • an understanding of why live animals are sometimes used for testing.

They should enjoy:

  • putting together pieces of information
  • solving problems
  • working with instruments and equipment at precise tasks
  • directing others’ work.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2011 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Biologists and related scientists

2011 NOC: 2121

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 11 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Oct 29, 2021 and Sep 26, 2022.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Personal Suitability: Team player
Teleworking Information: Remote work available
Personal Suitability: Effective interpersonal skills
Personal Suitability: Excellent oral communication
Personal Suitability: Excellent written communication
Personal Suitability: Client focus
Business Equipment and Computer Applications: MS Excel
Business Equipment and Computer Applications: MS PowerPoint
Business Equipment and Computer Applications: MS Word
Business Equipment and Computer Applications: MS Outlook
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2018
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary

The minimum requirement for toxicologists is an appropriate bachelor’s degree. Most toxicologists have advanced (master’s or doctoral) degrees in toxicology or a related area. In general, a doctoral (PhD) degree is required to direct and administer research programs. It’s also needed to teach at colleges or universities.

Different specializations require different academic backgrounds. Medical or veterinary toxicologists may need to become physicians or veterinarians first. After that, they can take advanced training in toxicology. To learn more about related education programs, see the Family Physician and Veterinarian occupational profiles.

Toxicology is an interdisciplinary science. It draws from diverse fields. These include biology, chemistry, biochemistry, pharmacology, mathematics, physiology, pathology, immunology, and genetics.

In Canada, degree programs in toxicology are often interdisciplinary programs. They may be offered jointly by more than one faculty or department at the same post-secondary school. Admission requirements for bachelor’s degree programs therefore vary. In general, they include a high school diploma with 30-level courses in English, chemistry, biology, and math.

Some post-secondary schools base admission to their toxicology programs on students’ GPAs in a previous year of university studies. Prior to enrolling in any program, prospective students are strongly advised to discuss their academic qualifications and career plans with faculty members at the post-secondary school(s) of their choice.

Toxicology is not regulated by governments in Canada. However, many toxicologists pursue professional certification like that of the American Board of Toxicology.

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2018
  • Certification Not Regulated

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Toxicologists work for:

  • manufacturers of agricultural chemicals
  • pharmaceutical companies
  • biotechnology companies
  • governments
  • universities
  • hospitals
  • research centres
  • consulting firms.

A few work in the chemical and petrochemical industries. Some positions are temporary, funded by grants.

In general, advancement comes in the form of salary increases and growing research and advisory duties. There are relatively few positions as administrators and supervisors.

Toxicologists are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 2121: Biologists and related scientists. In Alberta, 80% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events that affect overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities that come up when people leave existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities that come up when new positions are created)
  • size of the occupation.

In Alberta, the 2121: Biologists and related scientists occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.1% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 58 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Note
NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Employment growth is best for environmental toxicologists and environmental risk assessment toxicologists.

Related Alberta Job Postings
Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Toxicologists’ salaries vary depending on their qualifications and the nature of their work.

 

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Biologists and related scientists

2016 NOC: 2121
Average Wage
$46.17
Per Hour
Average Salary
$91,023.00
Per Year
Average Hours
38.1
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
12
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

Source
2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 2121 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production), and other forms of compensation.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

A: High Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

High Reliability, represents a CV of less than or equal to 6.00% and 30 survey observations and/or represents 50% or more of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $22.00 $55.00 $34.71 $33.00
Overall $24.00 $70.91 $46.17 $46.86
Top $26.00 $101.09 $60.62 $58.00

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

Health Care & Social Assistance
Public Administration
ALL INDUSTRIES
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
32%
32%)
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
47%
47%
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
19%
19%
Vacancy Rate
N/A
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Agriculture and Related Technologies
  • Environment, Forestry and Related Studies
  • Health Care and Medical Sciences
  • Human Ecology, Fashion and Food Sciences
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Alberta Society of Human Toxicology (ASHT) website: www.asht.ca

Society of Toxicology of Canada (STC) website: www.stcweb.ca

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2018. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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