Studying for a post-graduate degree

Many careers in pharmacology require at least a BSc degree.  If you have enjoyed your pharmacology degree and want to study the subject further, then a postgraduate degree could be for you. 

Masters degrees

There are three types of Masters degree: 

  • MSc or MA: This usually takes one year to complete and is mainly a taught course with some research elements. 
  • MRes: usually courses that include a large or multiple research projects 
  • MPhil: awarded to candidates who have completed a substantial research project that is insufficient to be awarded a PhD

A Masters degree can provide you with practical experience in a lab setting, which can help you be more competitive when applying for research jobs. It can also help you work out whether you would like to pursue a PhD, and which scientific area you may wish to study further in.

Dr Aisah Aubdool

Dr-Aisah-Aubdool.pngAisah is a postdoctoral researcher at the William Harvey Research Institute, Queen Mary University of London. She completed an undergraduate degree in pharmacology at King’s College London in 2009, with a final year research project working with sensory neurons. From this she embarked on a four-year BBSRC PhD studentship, which consisted of an MRes in the first year.

“If you have a passion for science, like drug discovery and want to understand how drugs work, pharmacology is a fascinating undergraduate subject to study. A four-year PhD studentship with an MRes in the first year is very rewarding, especially if you did not take a year out in industry or had a summer studentship in your final year. Spending a few weeks/summer working in your mentor’s lab will help you choose the correct lab and/or area of interest.” 

Read more about Aisah’s career path

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD or DPhil)

A PhD is essential for a career in academic research and desirable for many research roles in industry. To study for a PhD you will usually need a BSc at 2:1 or higher. For PhDs in Europe, most students will also have a Masters Degree. During a PhD you will: 

  • Spend 3-4 years developing a substantial piece of original research
  • Write up the work in a thesis, which is examined during a viva (an oral examination)

PhDs are long-term commitments that can be very rewarding. They require you to immerse yourself in a specific research area for 3-4 years. Because this is such a commitment, there are several factors to consider, to ensure you choose a PhD that is right for you.  

For more information, see our Choosing a PhD page.

Dr Dave Smith​

Dave-Smith.jpgDave Smith is a Principal Scientist at AstraZeneca on the Cambridge Science Park with experience in both academia and industry. After several years in academia, he now leads part of AstraZeneca’s Open Innovation programme where the company shares sharing its compound screening collections to start new projects in drug discovery.

“Although my original expertise was in the biochemistry and pharmacology of cardiovascular and metabolic targets I now cover all disease areas of relevance to the company ; oncology, respiratory, neuroscience and cardiovascular/metabolism. If you are keen on pursuing a scientific career in the life sciences industry, studying for a PhD is a good way to get a grounding in research and a subject specialism from which to build upon.”

Read more about Dave’s career path


Laura Ajram

Dr-Laura-Ajram.jpgLaura Ajram completed her PhD  at Kings College London . After a four-year BSc in pharmacology at Kings College London she chose to specialise in neuropharmacology and went on to a PhD at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN) in ‘The Neuropharmacology of Autism Spectrum Disorders’. Her PhD was CASE-funded, which means she received funding to do research in both an academic research group (at the IoPPN), and a pharmaceutical company – in her case Eli Lilly and Company.

“A PhD really is a labour of love, especially when it gets to the end and you’re writing your thesis! Having a passion for your area of research helps to keep you motivated
  ... It’s also really important to know that it’s completely normal for things to not go perfectly in your research and that’s fine!​”

Read more about Laura’s career path

Find more information about current postgraduate degree opportunities here.