Toxicological Chemist

The National Registry of Certified Chemists began a program for certification of Toxicological Chemists in 1987.

Education and Experience Standards for Toxicological Chemist Certification

Effective: September 1, 2019

Education Requirements

  1. Candidates with a PhD in chemical, physical, biological or clinical laboratory science from an accredited institution or MD/DO degree are eligible for Toxicological Chemist Certification by the NRCC. MD/DO candidates may apply only if they completed training in a clinical pathology program that is recognized by the American Board of Pathology or the American Osteopathic Board of Pathology.
  2. All candidates must have successfully completed a minimum 24 semester hours (36 quarter hours) of chemistry/biochemistry courses AND 8 semester hours (12 quarter hours) of additional natural science courses from an institution acceptable to the Board, at undergraduate and/or graduate level.

Acceptable institutions are institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada accredited by a regional accrediting association or whose pertinent program is accredited by a national accrediting agency.

Transcripts must be sent by institutions directly to NRCC.

Applicants with education obtained at institutions of higher education outside the United States or Canada must, at their expense, have credentials evaluated for equivalence by an acceptable evaluation agency for foreign transcript evaluations. The equivalency reports (degrees and courses) should be send to NRCC office and will be used to determine whether an applicant meets the NRCC standards for degrees and courses (education and training). A list of acceptable evaluation agencies will be provided by the Board.

Reports must show course titles and equivalent hours (“course-by-course evaluation”) and must be sent by evaluation agencies directly to NRCC.

Professional Experience Requirements

  1. At the time of application, candidates residing in the USA and Canada must have a minimum of 3 years of experience in broad clinical toxicological chemistry testing areas in an appropriately accredited high-complexity laboratory (CLIA), performing diagnostic and/or forensic toxicology testing. This experience should have been acquired within the last 5 years before application. The ideal candidate will have general laboratory experience that includes clinical chemistry assays, operation of a Quality Management System, staffing, acquiring new instrumentation, implementation of new assays, and familiarity with LIS/Clinical Laboratory Information Systems. The Board reserves the right to reject candidates with a limited range of experience in these areas.
  2. The Board will NOT consider research laboratory experience (academic research labs, veterinary labs, industry R&D labs, clinical trial laboratories, etc.) or experience acquired in non-clinical chemistry/toxicology laboratories (genetics, cytology, microbiology, etc.). A broad area of experience is expected, achieved in high complexity laboratory and in Pre-analytical/Analytical and Post Analytical processes. Please refer to the application form and the reference form.
  3. Applications must include a detailed statement (please refer to “Personal statement”) and describe the applicant’s experience and interest in toxicological chemistry/toxicology and reasons for seeking certification. See application form for details.

Candidates must fulfill BOTH the educational and professional experience requirements at the time of application.

Documents and Forms Required for Application for Certification

The following documents and forms must be submitted for consideration:

  1. Updated and detailed CV (curriculum vitae)
  2. Transcript from all applicable undergraduate and graduate work, as well as proof of professional training (e.g. letter or certificate confirming ComACC fellowship, CP residency, as applicable). Refer to Education Requirements section for more details
  3. Completed Application Form
  4. Detailed personal statement – see “Personal Statement” form
  5. Three reference letters (minimum 500 words each) by a current and/or former supervisor and other professional colleagues who can readily attest to your experience. References may be contacted by the Board credentials committee if more information is required to verify nature of experience.

All application materials (application form, statement, and reference forms) MUST be typed. Hand-written forms will be rejected.

Applications are considered complete only when all the above items have been received. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

The NRCC board reserves the right to request additional documents or information and to contact references providers.

Evaluation of candidates’ applications generally takes up to 4 weeks. Please check the status of your application by contacting NRCC.

The candidate should sit for examination within 6 months of the application approval to take the exam. Failure to do so may require re-application.

If the examinee fails to pass the exam on the first attempt, only one additional attempt is allowed without re-application. If even second attempt is unsuccessful, applicants must wait at least 12 months to re-apply. Only one re-application is permitted per candidate.

Applicants may not have more than one certification application pending concurrently.

Examination Standards

The Toxicological Chemist examination is a comprehensive exam, consisting of 150 multiple-choice questions covering the theoretical, fundamental, and practical aspects of toxicology.

The taxonomy method refers to knowledge at various levels: recall or memory; interpretation or comprehension; problem solving or reasoning.

Questions are concerned with Basic Science, Toxicology testing methodology, and Toxicology Laboratory Practice and will emphasize (1) Analysis and (2) Evaluation. The examinations will also include questions concerned with (3) Patient Preparation, Specimen Collection and Handling, and, to a lesser extent, (4) Toxicology laboratories management, regulation and administration.

Categories of questions may include, but are not limited to: calculations and statistics; toxicokinetics theory and calculations; fundamentals of pharmacogenetics, broad knowledge about drugs, drugs of abuse, volatiles, organophosphates, CO, lead and heavy metals intoxications and poisons (biochemistry, pathophysiology, poisoning/intoxications, toxidromes and approach to diagnosis of intoxication and exposure, etc.), broad knowledge on toxicology testing (e.g. photometric techniques, immunoassays, separation techniques/mass spec; POCT of drugs of abuse, etc); pain management and monitoring, other techniques (centrifugation, extraction, AA, electrodes, osmolality, radioactivity); TDM, UA testing or toxicology, evaluation/testing of alternative samples (saliva, sweat, hair, meconium, breast milk; interpretation of toxicology reports; basic knowledge of chemistry, genetics, biochemistry, physiology; nutrition/vitamins/trace elements; interference and artifacts, knowledge about toxicology laboratories management, legislation, chain of custody, expert court testimony, detox centers and compliance evaluation, etc.

Examinations are developed by the Toxicological Chemist Examination Committee, appointed by the President. The committee determines content areas and relative emphasis for each area. Questions may be solicited from practitioners from within and outside the Board. Questions are analyzed and edited periodically by each Examination Committee to ensure subject matter accuracy and relevancy. Questions are maintained in a database from which items are selected for each form of an examination.

Three hours are allowed for completion of the exam.

Once approved to sit for the examination, applicants may schedule the exam with a local proctor acceptable to NRCC at a time and location determined by the applicant. The candidate should sit for examination within 6 months of the application approval to take the exam. Failure to do so may require re-application.

All exams are computer-based, requiring an internet connection. Pass/fail results are reported immediately to the applicant and NRCC. Reports of scores, along with normative data, are reviewed by the Board of Directors which sets the passing score for examinations.

Continuing Education and Maintenance of Certification

Toxicological chemists certified by the NRCC board are required to maintain high professional standards and keep up with new developments in the field. To ensure this, NRCC board certified Toxicological Chemists are required to obtain a minimum of 20 contact hours of continuing education (CE) per year (January 1st-December 31st).

The requirement for CE is waived for the calendar year during which the NRCC Diplomate status is achieved. Newly certified Toxicological Chemists are required to begin earning CE the year following certification.

Clear, documented proof of CE requirements must be submitted together with the application for renewal of certification. If certification is renewed for a three year period, the NRCC certified Toxicological chemists must provide documentation for a total of 60 CE covering the period from the previous (re)certification to the current application for recertification. Recertification will be granted upon proof and fulfillment of CE requirement. (20 CE credits/year or 60 CE credits if renewed for 3 years).

A percentage of certified Toxicological Chemists will be randomly audited during the process of recertification to determine compliance with the CE requirements.

Continuing education requirements (20 CE credits/year) can be achieved in two ways:

  1. Traditional CE from an accredited provider: obtain a minimum of 10 CE by being involved in educational activities provided by various recognized professional organizations, such as (but not limited to): Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), American Association of Blood Banks (AABB), American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), American Academy of Forensic Science, American Board of Bioanalysts (ABB), American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science (ASCLS), the American Society of Clinical Pathologists (ASCP), California Association for Medical Laboratory Technology (CAMLT), California Association of Toxicologists, Canadian Society of Clinical Chemists (CSCC) , College of American Pathologists (CAP), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Clinical Laboratory Management Association (CLMA), Clinical Ligand Assay Society (CLAS), the Colorado Association for Continuing Medical Laboratory Education, Inc. (CACMLE), the International Association of Therapeutic Drug Monitoring and Clinical Toxicology (IATDMCT), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Royal College of Pathologists, The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, , and the Society of Forensic Toxicologists. A minimum of 10 CE per year are required under this category.
  2. Self-reported CE: a maximum of 10 hours CE can be obtained from various professional activities: non-accredited seminars, teaching, professionally-related publications (papers, books, abstracts) and publication reviews, self-evaluation (reading articles, consultation) in the field of toxicology. A maximum of 10 CE per year are accepted under this category.

All certified Toxicological Chemists are responsible for maintaining documentation (e.g. transcripts or attendance certificates) to support of their accredited-provider CE for minimum 4 years past attendance in order to comply with the audit if selected.

CE Audits

  1. A number of renewal applicants will be randomly selected for audit and will have 30 days to provide primary evidence (e.g. photocopies/scans) of CE obtained. Extensions from this term will be evaluated upon request on case-by-case basis.
  2. NRCC certified professionals who do not meet the CE standards will be put on probation. They will have an automatic audit the following year and will not be eligible for NRCC certification renewal for a 3 year term until completion of one year of CE probation. If the audited individual fails to provide evidence again in the second year, then a letter from the current NRCC President stating revocation of the NRCC credential/certification will be issued, unless they provide a reasonable explanation (e.g. extended illness, family leave etc.). After this he/she will have 30 days to respond with a detailed explanation. If no response or inadequate response then the revocation of their NRCC credential/certification is final and as such, an official letter from the NRCC Board of Directors will be issued. Explanations for failing to meet CE requirements will be considered on a case-by-case basis by a Board committee of at least two members.
  3. Audits will go back as far as the renewal term. E.g.: If applying for 3 years renewal, the audit will go back three years.
  4. CE audits will begin Jan 1, 2021 (renewal applications during 2020 and after).