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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).

  • Avg. Salary $84,998.00
  • Avg. Wage $41.93
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed 1,600
  • In Demand Medium
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) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

18%
18%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Interest Codes
The Toxicologist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Microbiologists and Cell and Molecular Biologists
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

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 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 More

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

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.
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
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.
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2018

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.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2018

Certification is not required, as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation.

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.

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.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2018

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

 

Biologists and related scientists

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $25.72 $48.08 $30.69 $25.72
Overall $31.46 $63.82 $41.93 $37.73
Top $41.28 $64.10 $54.40 $55.21

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.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


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

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

49%
49%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

18%
18%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

8%
8%

Vacancy Rate

3%
Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
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

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

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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