Background: Pharmacology is a biomedical discipline taught in basic science and professional degree programs. In order to provide information that would facilitate pharmacology curricula to be refined and developed, and approaches to teaching to be updated, a national survey was undertaken in Australia that investigated pharmacology course content, teaching and summative assessment methods. Methods. Twenty-two institutions participated in a purpose-built online questionnaire, which enabled an evaluation of 147 courses taught in 10 different degrees. To enable comparison, degrees were grouped into four major degree programs, namely science, pharmacy, medicine and nursing. The pharmacology content was then classified into 16 lecture themes, with 2-21 lecture topics identified per theme. The resultant data were analysed for similarities and differences in pharmacology curricula across the degree programs. Results: While all lecture themes were taught across degree programs, curriculum content differed with respect to the breadth and hours of coverage. Overall, lecture themes were taught most broadly in medicine and with greatest coverage in pharmacy. Reflecting a more traditional approach, lectures were a dominant teaching method (at least 90% of courses). Sixty-three percent of science courses provided practical classes but such sessions occurred much less frequently in other degree programs, while tutorials were much more common in pharmacy degree programs (70%). Notably, problem-based learning was common across medical programs. Considerable diversity was found in the types of summative assessment tasks employed. In science courses the most common form of in-semester assessment was practical reports, whereas in other programs pen-and-paper quizzes predominated. End-of-semester assessment contributed 50-80% to overall assessment across degree programs. Conclusion: The similarity in lecture themes taught across the four different degree programs shows that common knowledge-and competency-based learning outcomes can be defined for pharmacology. The authors contend that it is the differences in breadth and coverage of material for each lecture theme, and the differing teaching modes and assessment that characterise particular degree programs. Adoption of pharmacology knowledge-based learning outcomes that could be tailored to suit individual degree programs would better facilitate the sharing of expertise and teaching practice than the current model where pharmacology curricula are degree-specific. © 2013 Lloyd et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.