Toxicology MSc

Start date
MSc – 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught

£11,340 FT (UK students)
£5,265 PT (UK students)

£29,340 FT (International Students)
More detail


Here at Birmingham we are home to the only Toxicology MSc course in the UK. The School of Biosciences is internationally recognised as a major centre for toxicology, offering integrated research-led teaching within a highly interactive teaching environment.

This programme provides vocational training in the theoretical, clinical and laboratory aspects of toxicology.

You will learn about the nature and mechanism of adverse effects of chemicals such as those found in industry, in the household, in agriculture, in medicine and those that occur naturally in the environment. We give particular emphasis to molecular and cellular mechanisms of toxicity and to risk assessment.

Our Toxicology programmes are designed to meet the future needs of the sector, with contributions by international experts from the pharmaceutical industries, contract research companies, government and external toxicology centres.

The MSc Toxicology programme provides training in theoretical, clinical and laboratory aspects of toxicology and acts as a conversion course, taking students from a variety of backgrounds and giving them new skills to enable them to move into research and employment in the field of toxicology and related disciplines.

Scholarships for 2024 entry

The University of Birmingham is proud to offer a range of scholarships for our postgraduate programmes. With a scholarship pot worth over £2 million, we are committed to alleviating financial barriers to support you in taking your next steps.

Each scholarship has its own specific deadlines and eligibility criteria. Please familiarise yourself with the information on individual scholarship webpages prior to submitting an application.

Explore our scholarships

Specific programme aims

The MSc in Toxicology programme aims to:

  • provide a broad, modern training in the theoretical and practical aspects of toxicology
  • prepare individuals to collate, interpret and communicate toxicological information
  • provide an opportunity to study at the cutting edge of research in a chosen specialist field of toxicology in clinical practice, industry or academia
  • develop student awareness of the importance of toxicology to industry, health, the environment and society

Skills gained

As well as specialist disciplinary knowledge, graduates of the MSc Toxicology programme will also acquire many transferable skills such as the ability to design experiments using a variety of research techniques, collate and interpret the data, use of specialist computer software packages to predict metabolism and toxicity, communication and interpersonal skills, which will all provide an appropriate grounding for employment or further study.

The University itself has a fantastic research and teaching reputation. The campus is beautiful and the facilities and student services are very good. Finally, the reputation of the MSc Toxicology course here at Birmingham is excellent and very well-established. The course develops all aspects of your skills as a scientist through different communication tasks, workshops and laboratory experiences. The skills I learned during my MSc have been vital to starting a PhD and continuing to develop as a scientist.

Alastair Grainger, MSc Toxicology alumnus


tox-comet-medium-damageDamaged DNA fragments stream out from a cell nucleus in a Comet assay but how can chemicals damage DNA?

The MSc is of 12 months duration commencing late September and can be take either full-time over one year or part-time over two years. It comprises six 20 credit taught modules and a 60 credit research project. There are two taught modules in both semester 1 and 2 that run in parallel and are taught on Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday respectively making the course suitable for part-time students who can take one module each semester over a 2-year period:

Semester 1

  • Metabolism and Mechanisms of Toxicity
  • Forensic, Clinical and Occupational Toxicology
  • Practical Skills for Toxicologists

Semester 2

  • Assessing Toxic Potential
  • Regulatory Science and Toxicology for the 21st Century
  • Integrated Toxicology

Twenty credits of generic and specific training is embedded throughout the taught modules reinforcing teaching and providing a wide variety of transferable skills. A final synoptic exam encourages the development of an integrated view of the subject. During the year you will make several site visits to establishments involved in toxicological research and development. International experts from outside the university make a substantial contribution to the taught modules and the material covered is driven by the needs of industry for toxicology training.

tox-nucleusNanoparticles (red) surround the nucleus (blue) of a lung cancer cell — how do nanoparticles enter cells and how are they toxic?

Metabolism and Mechanisms of Toxicity

This module describes the disposition of foreign compounds within the body of living organisms. It covers the methods used to study xenobiotic metabolism – their absorption, distribution and excretion and includes the application of molecular biology techniques to study drug metabolism of pharmacogenetics. The major metabolism pathways are discussed including phase 1, 2 and 3 reactions. The effect of species, age, sex and nutrition on these reactions is also discussed. Aspects of enzyme kinetics and pharmacokinetics are covered as are the role of receptors and cell signalling pathways. The cellular basis of cell toxicity and death are also introduced and discussed with the use of examples (e.g. reactive oxygen species). Other aspects covered include an introduction to the role of drug metabolism in the drug development process and an introduction to safety pharmacology. In addition there is a series of lectures introducing clinical toxicology where the effects of poisoning with a range of pharmaceutical drugs are discussed in detail along with aspects of their clinical management; this is taught by clinical staff from City Road Hospital.

Forensic Clinical and Occupational Toxicology

This module introduces students to occupational and forensic toxicology (e.g. drugs of abuse) and further develops the clinical aspects of toxicology introduced in Metabolism and Mechanisms of Toxicity. Aspects of chemical poisoning and management are discussed with the use of occupationally and environmentally relevant chemicals (e.g. metals, pesticides, insecticides). Features of environmental toxicology and occupational health are also covered with specific examples of occupational carcinogens as are the role of biological monitoring and epidemiology studies and how these data are used to set effective exposure limits.

Other specialist examples such as respiratory sensitizers, immunotoxicity and skin toxicity are also reviewed. An overview of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis is also discussed including aspects of cell cycle control, regulation of gap junctions and the roles of cell signalling and epigenetics.

tox-metal-toxicity-stainedCells in the vicinity of this metal fragment have been destroyed by apoptosis — how and why did it happen?

Assessing Toxic Potential

This module describes the methodology for testing chemicals for toxic potential using both in vitro and in vivo techniques as well as high-throughput test systems such as cDNA microarrays, proteomics, metabolomics and transgenic animal technologies. Alternative approaches such as in silico testing are also discussed as is the limit of current in vitro approaches and the need for in vivo studies.  Students will learn how to detect acute and chronic toxicity in animal studies with emphasis being placed on the pathological responses to toxic substances in different key organ systems (e.g. liver/kidney/heart/lung). They will be taught how to recognise acute and chronic inflammation, necrosis, neoplasia, hypertrophy and other cellular changes as demonstrated by histology. The choice of experimental species to demonstrate general and reproductive toxicity is also considered. 

Regulatory Science and Toxicology for the 21st Century

This module focuses on big data-driven science in environmental and toxicological genomics. This module will review current regulatory toxicological and risk assessment practices using the US National Research Council (NRC) publication “Toxicity-testing for the 21st Century” and the UK/EU policy guidelines as points of reference to discuss the proposed changes that incorporate 21st Century innovations in context of their scientific underpinnings, the promises they offer and challenges they present. It will draw from the fields of molecular biology, genomics, genetics, evolutionary biology, computational biology, toxicology, and risk assessment –though these are not prerequisites for enrolment. Theory and concepts will be highlighted by real world applications drawn from the scientific literature. By involving instructions from industry, government agency and NGO scientists, it means to offers a variety of dynamically evolving career paths to students.

tox-dna-sequenceGene sequence analysis, but how can changes in DNA sequence explain individual responses to drugs and toxic chemicals?

Skills Module

This module is aimed at improving the communication, data handling, team working, essay and report writing, presentation and laboratory skills of students and is embedded throughout the other modules of the MSc Toxicology programme (5 credits per module). Students are taught to develop their communication and presentation skills which they develop independently by undertaking exercises in literature searching/information retrieval and communication of their findings in written reports. Students also learn how to design experiments and to apply statistical analysis to toxicological data. There are also more specialised IT skills training involving structure activity relationshipsand metabolism prediction, pharmacokinetics computer simulations as well as data handling workshops and practical classes.

Integrated Toxicology

This is a module based on student-centred learning. Students are given time to work through all the topics covered in earlier modules on their own and to raise any areas of concern with the members of staff responsible, who give additional guidance as necessary.

Research project

This takes place over 12 weeks from May to August and is an opportunity for the student to select a research topic from their area of interest. Projects can be based in the University, a research institute, a hospital, an environmental agency or in industry in this country or overseas. They can be laboratory based, computer based or literature/survey based. So a wide variety of exciting opportunities are available but in all cases students will investigate a toxicological problem in depth and write a detailed report of their findings for submission.

Collaborating organisations have included:

  • Cancer Research Campaign laboratories
  • the Regional Toxicology Unit
  • AstraZeneca
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Unilever
  • the Health Protection Agency
  • the MRC Toxicology Unit
  • the MRC Institute for Environment and Health
  • the National Center for Toxicological research, Jefferson, USA.

There is an industry sponsored prize awarded annually for the best project dissertation

Recent project titles offered to MSc Toxicology students

  • Molecular pathology of radiation‐induced mammary tumours
  • Does x-ray damaged DNA persist in tissues long after their initial irradiation?
  • In vitro alternatives to determine skin sensitization of agrochemical products
  • Identification and characterization of novel regulators modulating programmed cell deathand tissue recovery
  • Target Safety Review of PI3 Kinase Inhibition
  • Cellular responses and resistance to histone deacetylase inhibitor treatment in Burkitt'sLymphoma
  • Endocrine disruptors: over‐hyped or serious risk to human health?
  • Phytoestrogens: beneficial or hazardous to human health?
  • Analysis of phospho‐proteomic datasets from human breast cancer cells addicted to FGFRsignaling
  • The role of MCL1 in Breast Cancer Cell survival
  • Do supramolecular iron cylinders inhibt DNA repair
  • Utility of In vitro models of the respiratory tract to replace animal models for agrochemicalsafety testing
  • Indentification of novel anti‐tumour agents from marine sediments
  • Characterisation of nitroreductase‐ an enzyme proposed for use in cancer gene therapy
  • The cellular role(s) of the enzymes NQO1 (cytosolic NAD(P)H: quinone acceptoroxidoreductase 1) and NQO2 (NRH: quinone oxidoreductase 2)
  • Bacterial Toxins: structures, mechanisms, use and abuse
  • The role of Dynasore in intracellular membrane trafficking
  • Cracking the code of suspended animation
  • Structure‐activity and safety assessment of chloroacetanilide pesticides and theirenvironmental metabolites
  • An assessment of the health effects from addition of fluroide to drinking water
  • Effect of topoisomerase II inhibitors on genome stability
  • Toxicity of novel ferrocene analogues
  • ZnO nanoparticle mediated toxicity and perturbation of algae‐Daphnia kairomone signalling
  • Optimisation and validation of a high‐throughput imaging system for Daphnia toxicity tests;automating the measure of key phenotypic endpoints for use in environmental riskassessment (ERA) and in the context of adverse outcome pathways (AOPs).
  • Crystallographic structure determination of E. coli nitroreductases.
  • Epigenetics effects of vitamin B12 in clones
  • Epigenetic key players in sex determination for toxicological model organism

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.


Standard fees apply - This programme is in Fee Band 3a (Laboratory) for International students

2024/25 fees

  • Code 0322:UK students £11,340 FT
  • Code 0324:UK students £5,265 PT
  • Code 0322: International students £29,340 FT only 

Learn more about fees and funding.

Are you an international applicant?

All international applicants to this course will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £2,000 on receipt of an offer, to secure their place.

Find out more about the deposit >>.

Scholarships and studentships

Birmingham Masters Scholarship

We are offering over 200 awards of £2,000 to support the brightest and best applicants wishing to undertake Masters study at the University during 2024-2025.

Find out more and apply now  

Postgraduate Progression Award

Our Postgraduate Progression Awards offer final year undergraduates at the University of Birmingham a fee discount of £1,500 for postgraduate taught study.

Find out more and apply now  

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government. 

Find out about scholarships for international students.

Global Masters Scholarship

This £2,000 award is available to all international students from a selection of countries who are seeking to study a taught Masters degree at Birmingham in the 2024-25 academic year.

Apply now

For further information contact the School directly or get in touch with the Funding, Graduation & Awards via the online enquiries system.

How To Apply

International students requiring visas

26th July 2024 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2024 made after this date; a new application will need to be made for September 2025.

UK students

31 August 2024 is the application deadline for UK students. We are not able to consider applications for 2024 made after this date; a new application will need to be made for September 2025.

Making your application

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate taught programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the taught programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

A good second class Honours degree, or equivalent for EU/overseas degrees, in Biochemistry, Biology, Human Biology, Microbiology, Zoology/Animal Biology, Chemistry, Pharmacology, Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Science, Physiology, Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science, Medical Science. Graduates not fully meeting the criteria but with at least two years approved postgraduate experience may also be considered.

Learn more about entry requirements.

International Requirements

International Students

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

  • IELTS 6.0 with no less than 5.5 in any band
  • TOEFL: 80 overall with no less than 19 in Reading, 19 in Listening, 21 in Speaking and 19 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) including online: Academic 64 with no less than 59 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced – minimum overall score of 169, with no less than 162 in any component

The School of Biosciences is recognised internationally as a major centre for teaching and research in toxicology. We provide a lively, highly interactive teaching environment, with integrated teaching by well established centres of bioscience, pathology, clinical pharmacology and toxicology, occupational health and environmental and eco-toxicology. You will be taught through a combination of lectures, practical classes, workshops, tutorials and a research project all supported by directed reading and course work.

Most of the teaching takes place at the University but there are important contributions from external experts working in the pharmaceutical and other industries, contract research companies and government establishments as well as visits to external centres of toxicology. These external contacts are very important in relation to the provision of resources, specialist applied aspects of the training and future employment.

NJ Hodges PhD, Programme Director
"Toxicology is an exciting multidisciplinary subject drawing from areas including biochemistry, molecular biology and chemistry that aims to understand the basis of chemical toxicity at the cellular and molecular level"

Assessment Methods

The taught components of the programme are assessed by a combination of examinations and coursework including essays, practical reports, data handling and computer workshops and the research project is assessed by a written report, laboratory performance and a short oral viva examination.

Professor Mike Coleman, external examiner 
"Birmingham University's Toxicology Masters Courses are world class in terms of their depth, relevance, cutting edge standard, quality of teaching and student engagement. I am very proud to be associated with these courses as their former external examiner."

What can I do with an MSc in Toxicology?

The success rate of students on the MSc in Toxicology programme is approximately 95% and the career opportunities are excellent. Even in times of economic hardship toxicology remains a necessary and important area for funding. The current concern over environmental safety adds to these opportunities.

Those completing the programme in recent years have been employed, for example, in:

  • the pharmaceutical industries
  • contract research laboratories
  • government bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive, Health Protection Agency, Food Standards Agency
  • NHS Poisons Units
  • water research establishments in pollution control
  • hospital and research laboratories

Dr J D Kilgour, MSc in Toxicology graduate. Now working as a Product Toxicologist. 
"In my experience, the course is well recognised and held in high regard throughout the Industry."

Approximately 30% of our students have gone on to study for a PhD in a specialist area of toxicology. It is encouraging that almost all of our graduates stay in the general field of toxicology.

The high involvement of external contributors in the delivery and planning of the programme ensures that the content is always relevant to employers’ needs and that students make contacts with potential employers.


Toxicology relates to many aspects of our everyday activities, so a career in this field promises to provide a variety of opportunities aimed at improving the standard of life and the environment. Career opportunities are excellent, as even in times of economic hardship toxicology remains a necessary and important area for funding.