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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

Biochemical Toxicologist, Biological Scientist, Clinical Toxicologist, Forensic Toxicologist, Pharmaceutical Toxicologist, 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

  • 2121.2: Microbiologists and Cell and Molecular Biologists

2006 NOC-S

  • C021: Biologists and Related Scientists

2011 NOC

  • 2121: Biologists and related scientists

2016 NOC

  • 2121: Biologists and related scientists

2021 NOC

  • 21110: Biologists and related scientists

2023 OaSIS

  • 21110.01: Biologists
Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2024

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 potentially harmful substances, such as drugs, food additives, solvents, and herbicides, or with high energy services such as radiation
  • Determine the effects of these substances on lab animals, plants, and human tissues
  • 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 peer-reviewed 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, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and the environment (land-based, aquatic, and airborne)
  • Inform and advise policy and program developers on the health and legal aspects of chemical use
  • Supervise and coordinate technologists, technicians, or trainees (students)
  • Share findings through publications such as journals and the media

Analytical toxicologists specialize in using detection methods for identifying and characterizing harmful compounds. This includes analyzing:

  • Toxins (poisons that passively enter the body by being absorbed, swallowed or inhaled)
  • Venoms (poisons that actively enter the body through a bite, spray, stab or sting)
  • Toxicants (toxic substances produced by humans, directly or as a by-product of producing another substance) and environmental chemicals
  • Poisonings or overdoses with pharmaceutical or illicit substances
  • Versions of toxins, toxicants, or other poisons that have been transformed by the body’s metabolism

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 determine levels of toxicants in the environment. They study humans and other organisms that have been exposed to those agents through food, air, water, or soil. This helps them establish background or naturally occurring levels. They then identify acceptable guidelines.

Forensic toxicologists examine post-mortem body fluids and tissues for drugs and poisons. In general, they are called upon when deaths are suspicious, unexpected, or have no clear anatomical cause. They are concerned with the medical and legal aspects of impairment or death. These may relate to drugs, including alcohol. They often testify in court. They may help train police to use breath-testing equipment. Forensic toxicology also includes workplace drug testing. Some forensic toxicologists also perform sport-related testing for performance-enhancing drugs.

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 establish 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 safe use for consumers.

Regulatory toxicologists develop controls for safe uses of new chemical products. These can include industrial and agricultural chemicals and pharmaceuticals (prescription drugs).

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

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

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2024
  • 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 preparations (samples in petrie dishes, which can include isolated cells).

Toxicologists often use state-of-the-art equipment such as:

  • Atomic absorption spectrometers
  • Mass spectrometers
  • Electron microscopes
  • Flow cytometers
  • Chromatography systems

They may 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 (PPE) or work in a sealed room.

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

  • Collect field samples
  • Testify at hearings or in court
  • Respond to emergencies or crisis situations
  • Attend scientific meetings
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

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 31, 2024

Toxicologists need:

  • Perseverance
  • Critical thinking
  • Patience
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Organizational skills
  • The ability to work independently or as part of a team
  • Technical and analytical skills
  • The ability to understand and study data, and translate it into plain language for those with less technical knowledge
  • An understanding and comfort level with use of animals for testing

They should enjoy:

  • Putting together pieces of information
  • Finding the answers to puzzles and questions
  • Taking a methodical approach to their work
  • Working with instruments and equipment at precise tasks
  • Directing others’ 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.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Biologists and related scientists

2016 NOC: 2121

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 30 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Oct 29, 2021 and May 22, 2024.

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.
Construction Specialization: Team player
Construction Specialization: Excellent written communication
Construction Specialization: Accurate
Attention to detail
Construction Specialization: Excellent oral communication
Tasks: Produce reports
Tasks: Monitor and compile research results
Work under pressure
Tasks: Deliver presentations at conferences, workshops or symposia
Health benefits: Paramedical services coverage
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2024
  • 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 such as chemistry. In general, a doctoral (PhD) degree is required to direct and administer research programs. It’s also needed to direct large toxicology laboratories or 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. This means 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’ GPA 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.

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, 2024
  • Certification Not Regulated

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

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2024

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

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.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 2121: Biologists and related scientists occupational group, 79.3% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 2121: Biologists and related scientists occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.6% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 44 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: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

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

Related Alberta Job Postings
Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2024

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

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

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, 2024

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

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

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

Updated Mar 31, 2024. 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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