University of South Florida
College of Public Health
Environmental and Occupational Health
12901 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33612
Toxicology and Risk Assessment
What is toxicology?
Toxicology is the study of adverse affects of chemicals in people, animals and the environment. These chemicals include food additives, pesticides and chemicals in the medicines people take every day! Anything that is used by people or animals - from the medication you take for your headache to the dye that makes M&Ms colorful – must be tested.
How do toxicologists learn which chemicals are safe and which ones aren’t?
Information on how chemicals impact our lives and our environment is gathered through laboratory research on small animals. Toxicologists can then make conclusions on how these chemicals may affect humans. Once a chemical is determined to be harmful, toxicologists can help individuals and companies reduce the risk of harm by limiting or eliminating the use of the chemical.
Can you give me an example of a significant discovery made by a toxicologist?
One of the most significant discoveries of a harmful substance was found in the drug Thalidomide. This drug, primarily prescribed during the 1950s and 1960s to pregnant women to alleviate morning sickness and help with sleep, turned out to cause serious problems. In the years the drug was prescribed, about 10,000 children were born with serious deformities resulting from their mothers’ use of thalidomide while pregnant. As a result, in 1962 Congress enacted laws requiring drugs to be tested to determine if they were safe to be used during pregnancy before they would be approved for sale in the U.S.
What types of fields are graduates of the toxicology program working in?
Some students will go on for further schooling – medical school or to get their PhD. Possible job sites include: state and federal government, testing labs, pharmaceutical companies, chemical manufacturers, academia or private industry. Toxicology graduates may also work as consultants.
How much money do toxicologists make?
Depending on whether you work for the government or in the private sector, salaries for toxicologists can vary greatly. Those just starting out can earn anywhere from the mid-thirties up to the low sixties. PhDs with 10 years’ experience can earn $70,000 to $100,000. If you’re very experienced in the field and can get a job working for a large corporation, you might be able to make $200,000 or more.
What should my educational background be if I’m interested in going into this program?
The ideal candidate for the toxicology program will have majored in chemistry or biological science. He/she will have taken courses in biology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics and math.
What will I learn as a student in USF’s toxicology program?
You’ll get an overview of principles and practices of toxicology and you’ll gain a strong understanding of the sciences behind them. You’ll also learn about toxicology in the context of risk assessment and you’ll learn how to determine the level of potential risk in chemicals that may impact people, animals and the environment. Toxicology is so important in public health that every student in the Environmental and Occupational Health program must take at least one course on the subject. It’s also required for certain types of engineering students, including those studying civil or environmental engineering.
How do I get started?
Follow this link to access application materials
These links contain course sequences for the MPH, MSPH and PhD programs in Toxicology. For more about the Toxicology and Risk Assessment program at USF visit:
Toxicology and Risk Assessment (MPH)
Toxicology and Risk Assessment (MSPH)
Toxicology and Risk Assessment (Graduate Certificate)
For additional questions or information, contact Dr. Ira Richards 813.974.6630