What is Pharmacology?

Pharmacology is a subject that integrates knowledge of biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, physiology, and chemistry to study the relationship between biological processes and therapeutic agents. Pharmacologists investigate the active effects and mechanisms of drugs and chemical agents within living organisms. The areas of pharmacology are many and diverse, and include the therapeutic and toxicological actions of drugs on humans, animals and microorganisms; the influence of chemicals upon the environment and biological ecosystems and; the use of drugs as research tools for the elucidation of molecular and biochemical mechanisms.

In 1974, UCSB became the first campus in the nation to offer an undergraduate pharmacological sciences curriculum. In contrast to professional programs in medicine, nursing, and pharmacy, which emphasize the therapeutic principles and applications of pharmacology, UCSB emphasizes pharmacology as a basic science. UCSB's Pharmacology major is designed for students with research interests in all areas of the health sciences and is not related to pharmacy training.

General Major Information

How Can I Tell If I Would Like Pharmacology?

People who choose Pharmacology as a major have a preference for providing care for individuals as well as for participating in a role of the medical research in their field. These people enjoy helping others and receive a feeling of satisfaction from the knowledge that they have a positive impact in the lives of other people. Pharmacologists enjoy the sciences, especially biology and chemistry.

What Are Potential Topics Within This Major?

Although the following list can provide students with topics that may be covered in this major, look at the UCSB catalog and consult with the undergraduate advisor for more detailed information about requirements and course offerings.

Molecular Biology
Molecular Biology
Cellular Biology
Biochemical Pharmacology
Developmental Biology

To learn more about whether you might enjoy this major, check with a peer in the Career Resource Room for details on:

- Focus 2 to explore college majors and careers.

- The Strong Interest Inventory®, an assessment that compares your interests against six broad categories of work. This assessment helps match your interests and suggests potential careers to explore.

What Can I Do To Make My Major More Marketable?

  • Pursue relevant work, internship, volunteer, and/or research experience.
  • Choose a complementary minor.
  • Specialize in an area; take courses in related fields.
  • Develop your computer skills.
  • Learn a foreign language.
  • Study abroad.
  • Join professional associations.
  • Get involved in student clubs.
  • Participate in community organizations.
  • Seek out leadership positions.
  • Research specific prerequisites for different positions.
  • Network with others in fields that interest you.

General Career Information

What Are Some Possible Career Options?

Note: On its own, your major does not dictate what your job will be.  The following list provides only a handful of possibilities.  Pharmacology majors with strong liberal arts background may pursue career options in many fields.  Depending on experience, specialized coursework, and possible graduate study options include:

Behavioral pharmacologist
Cardiovascular pharmacologist
Biochemical and Cellular pharmacologist
Clinical pharmacologist
Drug Discovery, Drug Development, and Regulatory Affairs
To learn more about these and other occupations, please visit:
O*Net Online
Occupational Outlook Handbook
Come visit the Career Resource Room to see our vast collection of career books and resources.
See what other UCSB alumni are doing with their major on LinkedIn


Graduate and Professional Schools
This is a comprehensive website that provides information about where graduate programs are offered throughout the nation.

Click “Graduate School” for information on how to choose a grad school, how to pay for grad school, how to survive and flourish in grad school.

This is a database to help find where graduate programs are offered throughout the U.S.

Come to the Career Resources Room to view the CHOICES lab version of graduate schools.

Experience Search Strategies

New Scientist Jobs
All types of biology jobs categorized by field, location, government/private, etc.

Pharmaceutical Jobs
Good site for pharmaceutical sales jobs
Lists biotech jobs, biology teaching jobs and bioscience jobs

Jobs in pharmaceuticals, biology and research

Biotech Employment
Database of jobs in the biotech industry

UCSB Career Services “Job Links” section
Check out job links in the following categories: Local/CA, National, International, Industry Specific, UCSB Careers by Majors and Diversity

When you join LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, you get access to people, jobs, news, updates, and insights that help you be great at what you do.

Professional Associations

The American Institute of Biological Sciences
The American Institute of Biological Sciences is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) scientific association dedicated to advancing biological research and education for the welfare of society.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization
BIO is the world's largest biotechnology organization, providing advocacy, business development and communications services for more than 1,100 members worldwide. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.

American Pharmacists Association
The goal of this organization is to prepare pharmacists with training techniques and skills in order to provide quality patient care and improve medication use.

American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Members conduct basic and clinical pharmacological research and work for academia, government, large pharmaceutical companies, small biotech companies, and even non-profit organizations.

American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
The mission of AACP is to lead and partner with our members in advancing pharmacy education, research, scholarship, practice and service to improve societal health.

UCSB Resources