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Occupational Profile

Toxicologist

Toxicologists investigate the possible harmful effects on living things of chemical agents (for example, drugs, pesticides, food additives, industrial chemicals), biological agents (for example, plant and animal toxins) and physical agents (for example, ionizing and electro-magnetic radiation).

  • Avg. Salary $84,973.00
  • Avg. Wage $45.86
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed 2,600
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

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

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

43%
43%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Toxicologist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Microbiologists and Cell and Molecular Biologists
NOC code: 2121.2
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 19, 2015

Toxicologists investigate the hazards of chemical, biological and physical agents at different levels of exposure. Their goal is to improve industrial safety, and public and environmental protection through a better understanding of the nature of the hazards over a wide range of levels, including those to which living species are exposed.

In general, toxicologists:

  • conduct laboratory studies on substances (for example, drugs, food additives, solvents, herbicides) or on energy (for example, radiation) to determine their effects on laboratory animals, plants and human tissue and cells
  • conduct research to develop new tests for use in toxicological studies
  • evaluate potential risks based on levels and periods of exposure
  • analyze and evaluate data gathered from studies and reliable scientific publications to determine appropriate controls for various chemical and physical hazards
  • develop standards or guidelines for safe levels of chemical and physical agents in workplaces, air, food or drinking water
  • provide advice and scientific information to policy and program developers concerning the health and legal aspects of chemical use
  • supervise and co-ordinate the activities of technologists and technicians.

Analytical toxicologists specialize in detecting natural products such as toxins, venoms or plant poisons, toxic man-made chemicals and the metabolites of ingested substances.

Clinical (biomedical) toxicologists work in medical environments or pharmaceutical companies investigating 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 who have certain types of diseases (for example, epilepsy or asthma).

Environmental toxicologists study the effects of chemical, physical and biological agents on humans and other organisms exposed to those agents through food, air, water and soil, and determine levels of toxicants in the environment.

Forensic toxicologists examine post-mortem tissues for drugs and poisons in deaths that are suspicious, unexpected or for which there is no anatomical cause. They are concerned with the medical and legal aspects of impairment or deaths related to drugs, including alcohol, and often testify in court. Techniques may include the use of genetic DNA analysis. Forensic toxicologists also may assist in training police in the operation of breath testing equipment.

Industrial toxicologists test new products (for example, pesticides, drugs) for manufacturers to determine a product's toxicity during production (to protect industrial workers) and establish safe uses (for consumers and the general public).

Nutritional toxicologists test food additives and new food products, and investigate interactions of additives with nutrients in foods to determine their safety for consumers.

Regulatory toxicologists develop appropriate controls for safe uses of new chemical products such as industrial chemicals, agricultural chemicals, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

Risk assessment toxicologists study the possible consequences of exposure to toxicants and develop guidelines for safe exposure levels.

Veterinary toxicologists investigate health problems or non-infectious diseases of unknown cause in animals, usually domestic or zoo species.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 19, 2015

Toxicologists work in offices, laboratories, industrial facilities and outdoors. Testing new products often involves conducting experiments on animals or studies on "in vitro" preparations (including isolated cells), and using sophisticated equipment such as atomic absorption spectrometers, mass spectrometers, electron microscopes, flow cytometers and chromatography systems. Toxicologists must pay careful attention to safety procedures when handling toxic materials and substances of unknown toxic potential. Safety procedures vary with the task and may require simple protection (gloves and mask) to full body suit and the use of an isolated room.

Toxicologists may work alone or in teams. Some overtime may be necessary for work that requires strict time schedules. Travel may be required to collect field samples, testify at hearings or in court, respond to emergencies or crisis situations, or attend scientific meetings.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 19, 2015

Toxicologists need the following characteristics:

  • the perseverance and intellectual ability required to think critically and answer complex questions
  • patience and an eye for detail
  • the ability to be organized and methodical in their work
  • the ability to work well alone or as part of a team
  • an understanding of why live animals are sometimes used for testing.

They should enjoy synthesizing information and solving problems, working with instruments and equipment at tasks requiring precision, and directing the work of others.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 19, 2015

The minimum education requirement for toxicologists is an appropriate bachelor's degree. Most toxicologists have advanced (master's or doctoral) degrees in toxicology or a related area. A doctoral (PhD) degree usually is required to direct and administer research programs or to teach at the college or university level.

Different specializations require different academic backgrounds. For example, medical or veterinary toxicologists may need to become physicians or veterinarians first, then take advanced training in toxicology. For more information about related education programs, see the Physician and Veterinarian occupational profiles. 

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

In Canada, degree programs in toxicology are often interdisciplinary programs which 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 but generally 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' grade point averages 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.

Although not regulated by governments in Canada, many toxicologists pursue professional certification like that of the American Board of Toxicology. A toxicologist can also be certified as an expert witness by the judicial system.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 19, 2015

Toxicologists are employed by agricultural chemical, pharmaceutical and food manufacturers, biotechnology companies, governments, universities, hospitals, research centres and consulting firms. A few work in the chemical and petrochemical industries. Some positions are temporary, funded by grants.

Salary increases and growing research and advisory responsibilities are the most tangible forms of advancement in this occupation. There are relatively few administrative and supervisory positions.

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 in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • locationin Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • 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 19, 2015

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

 

Biologists and related scientists
NOC code: 2121

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 $19.50 $54.74 $33.14 $31.25
Overall $27.99 $68.42 $45.86 $43.04
Top $33.00 $106.05 $61.02 $56.29

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.

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.


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

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

43%
43%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

33%
33%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

16%
16%

2015 Vacancy Rate

5%
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 19, 2015

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

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 31, 2014. 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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