Veterinary Pathologist: Job Description and Education Requirements
Veterinary pathologists are veterinarians who specialize in various scientific fields, such as pathology (the study of diseases), toxicology (the study of poisons), or molecular biology (the study of biology relating to genetic matter). Read on to learn about the diverse roles of pathologists in animal research, as well as the clinical training involved in becoming a veterinary pathologist.
Veterinary Pathologist Job Description
While veterinarians provide general healthcare for animals, veterinary pathologists perform research on animals to help prevent, diagnose, and treat disease. Duties of a veterinary pathologist might include analyzing animal tissue, studying the causes of various diseases, and monitoring and finding cures for diseases.
Some research done by veterinary pathologists also benefits humans. For example, studies might lead to the creation of drugs, vaccinations, and medical products to combat bioterrorism or infectious diseases. Veterinary pathologists also might conduct tests on chemical, medical, and pharmaceutical products and issue public reports on their findings. In this way, they can help create safe and effective consumer products.
Veterinary pathologists can work with animals in their natural habitat, zoos, or wildlife conservatories. Alternatively, they might conduct research and teach in an academic setting or perform research in the laboratories of government agencies or chemical and pharmaceutical corporations.
Education Requirements for Veterinary Pathologists
Aspiring veterinary pathologists must earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) or a Veterinaria Medicina Doctoris (VMD). Interested students might begin working with animals and taking science and math courses as early as junior high school and may further prepare by earning a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as animal or premedical studies.
Upon finishing a doctorate program in veterinary medicine, prospective veterinary pathologists should complete a postdoctoral degree program in anatomical or clinical pathology at a veterinary research facility or teaching hospital. These programs, which generally include a residency experience, usually take a minimum of three years to complete and might lead to a master's or doctoral degree. Typically, Ph.D. programs in anatomical or clinical pathology require students to write a dissertation, whereas master's programs and residencies typically do not. Students might conduct research in pulmonary, reproductive, cardiovascular, immune, or nervous system pathology. They also might explore cancer biology, viral pathogenesis, infectious diseases, or toxicological pathology.
Certification and Licensure Requirements for Veterinary Pathologists
The American College of Veterinary Pathology offers voluntary certification in anatomic or clinical pathology (www.acvp.org). Practicing veterinarians who have completed a minimum of three years of clinical training are eligible to sit for these exams, which might cover topics like necropsy and surgical pathology for anatomic pathologists or cytology, clinical biochemistry, and hematology for clinical pathologists.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that all veterinarians, including veterinary pathologists, must be licensed, with the exception of employees in certain federal and state agencies (www.bls.gov). Licensure requirements vary by state but often include an exam that's specific to state regulations.
Salary Info and Job Outlook
Although the BLS does not provide information specific to veterinary pathologists, it did report in May 2013 that the median annual salary earned by all veterinarians was $86,640. Those working in scientific research settings earned a salary averaging $134,230 a year. Job opportunities for veterinarians are expected to increase by 12% between 2012 and 2022, per the BLS, which is about average.
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