Pharmacology is the branch of medicine dealing with the preparation, uses, modes of action, and effects of drugs. In this discipline, a drug is a chemical substance, typically of known structure, that produces a biological effect when administered to a living organism.
Learners interested in Pharmacology can explore its two major branches. The Pharmacokinetics branch deals with the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of drugs. The other major branch, Pharmacodynamics, refers to the molecular, biomechanical, and physiological effects of drugs.
This is a very important subject to learn for those interested in how medication alters the chemistry within our bodies. When the reasons for these alterations are understood, it’s possible to develop better drugs.
Pharmacology learners gain scientific knowledge and skills that enable them to seek a range of opportunities. Jobs directly related to a degree in Pharmacology include Academic Researcher, Analytical Chemist, Biomedical Scientist, Clinical Research Associate, Clinical Scientist in Biochemistry or Immunology, Medicinal Chemist, and of course, Pharmacologist.
Jobs where a Pharmacology degree would be useful include Higher-Education Lecturer, Medical Sales Representative, Medical Science Liaison, Neuroscientist, Patent Attorney, Regulatory Affairs Officer, Science Writer, and Toxicologist.
Pharmacology courses offered through Coursera provide lectures, featuring experts in the field, that cover the pharmaceutical and biotechnology market; major aspects of the drug discovery process; different stages of clinical development; and other important facets of Pharmacology.
Any experience you have with drugs or medication can be useful when learning about pharmacology. You can gain this experience by working in a pharmacy as a technician or clerk. Even working a retail position as a cashier or salesperson in a drug store can be helpful. Otherwise, if you have a medical background at all, you may better understand any pharmacology courses you take. For example, maybe you worked as a nurse, patient technician, paramedic, or physician's assistant. You may have worked or volunteered in a doctor's office, clinic, hospital, nursing home, or rehabilitation center—anywhere that distributes medication to those who need it.
Because it involves working with exact measurements of medications and understanding how they interact with each other and with patients and diseases, a person who is precise and pays close attention to detail is well-suited for a role in pharmacology. You'll need to be good at math and counting, as well as proofreading. Being good at research and committed to a lifetime of learning are also traits needed to be successful in the field. You'll also need good written and verbal communication skills so you can record your findings and share them with your colleagues.
Pharmacology may be right for you if you're interested in the human body and finding the right medications to cure various diseases and conditions. Some pharmacologists also work in the veterinary field to help determine which drugs work best for animals. The job requires endless amounts of research and study, as well as some investigation and experimentation, so you must be curious and ready to learn, even when you're at the top of your field. Many pharmacologists or people who work within the field of pharmacology work at universities, in laboratories, for pharmaceutical companies, in hospitals, or for research institutions, so you'll need to make sure you're suited for these types of environments.
This FAQ content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.