Master in Drug Discovery and Safety


Program Description

Master in Drug Discovery and Safety

In the Master’s program in Drug Discovery and Safety, you will examine the interaction between molecules and the human body from a range of perspectives: chemical, medical, toxicological, pharmacological and genetic. You will focus on a specialization that suits your specific interests while working in a multidisciplinary environment where you will be challenged to address key questions about the medicines of the future. Sixty percent of diseases are still incurable, so there are still a great many challenges for researchers to tackle.

The program in a nutshell

The Master's program in Drug Discovery and Safety is a two-year program worth 120 ECs. During this time, you will take compulsory courses in your chosen specialization, plus a number of optional courses. Your own laboratory research is an important part of the program, which you perform in one of the participating research groups. Moreover, you write a literature thesis on a subject within Drug Discovery and Safety research and you acquire general academic skills.


  • Biomarkers and Clinical Chemical Analysis
  • Computational Medical Chemistry and Toxicology
  • Drug Design and Synthesis
  • Drug Discovery and Target Finding
  • Drug Disposition and Safety Assessment

Career prospects

Graduates in Drug Discovery and Safety have excellent employment prospects and can generally expect to earn a good salary. This Master’s program opens up a whole range of career opportunities. The most obvious ones are in medicinal research, the pharmaceuticals industry, and hospital laboratories, but there are also plenty of opportunities within research institutes and government inspection agencies.


About 50% of the graduates pursue a career in research. Within the university or a research institute, you can be employed as a Ph.D. student. For four years you work on your own research, which will be awarded a Ph.D. degree. You can obtain a Ph.D. degree on various topics, such as the application of the immune system against cancer or the influence of enzymes in neglected diseases like African sleeping sickness. After obtaining their Ph.D., many graduates continue their career in research or find themselves in leadership positions at universities, pharmaceutical companies or in governmental agencies.

Naturally, you do not have to pursue a Ph.D. degree. With your Master's degree, you can also work as a researcher at a pharmaceutical company. Employers in the pharmaceutical industry include:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Novartis
  • Merck
  • Pfizer
  • Johnson & Johnson

Admission requirements

The requirements are split up into Masters’ specialization specific requirements and general requirements.

Specific requirements Master’s program Drug Discovery and Safety

  • Students with a Dutch preliminary education
    The Master’s program in Drug Discovery and Safety is open to students:
    • with a Bachelor's degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences / Pharmacochemistry;
    • with a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry;
    • with a Bachelor's degree in Medical Natural sciences;
    • who have followed a similar program at another university;
    • with a Bachelor's degree in a relevant Dutch HBO education;
    • with sufficient knowledge of the English language (level of Dutch VWO-examination).

  • HLO students

  • Premaster assessment for HBO graduates
    If you are an HBO graduate, you do not have to take a premaster assessment to get admission to the Master's program in Drug Discovery and Safety. Instead, the Master's coordinator of the specialization you chose will hold an intake interview with you. If you fulfill all requirements, the Master's coordinator will give you a declaration stating that you do not need to take the premaster assessment. Send in this declaration with your application form.

  • Students with an international preliminary education
    You can gain direct admission to the Master's program Drug Discovery and Safety with a Bachelor's degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences or Chemistry. If you hold a Bachelor's degree in a related subject like Biomedical Sciences, it is possible that you will first be required to first bring your knowledge up to standard in a number of areas, depending on both the specialization in your Bachelor's and the Drug Discovery and Satefy specialization you apply for. The decision on how you should compensate for any gaps in your knowledge will be taken in consultation with the Master's coordinator of your specialization.
  • General language proficiency requirements
    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam requires international applicants to take an English language test and to submit their scores as a part of the application. Exceptions are made for students who have completed their education in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand or Australia or who have obtained an International Baccalaureate or a European Baccalaureate diploma.
Last updated November 2019

About the School

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (‘VU Amsterdam’) is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 170 English-taught programmes... Read More