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Veterinary Pathologist: Job Outlook & Career Info

Veterinary pathologists treat diseases in companion or zoo animals and wildlife and may be employed in research, private practice, public health or wildlife conservation. Continue reading to learn more about degree requirements, professional skills, compensation and job growth for veterinary pathologists.

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Career Definition

Veterinary pathologists are specialized veterinarians who diagnose and treat diseases in domesticated and wild animals. According to the American College of Veterinary Pathologists, their responsibilities include examining fluid and tissue samples for signs of disease and determining if food-producing animals pose any risks to people who may eat or handle their milk or meat products (www.avcp.org). Veterinary pathologists may also develop pharmaceuticals or belong to research teams. Potential employers can include clinics, universities, laboratories and government agencies.

How to Become a Veterinary Pathologist

Required Education

Veterinary pathologists must complete a 4-year Veterinary Medicine Doctorate (V.M.D.) program, pass a certifying veterinary pathology exam and work as clinical residents for a minimum of three years. Requirements for veterinary medical school include a bachelor's degree in one of the life sciences, excellent school records and high test scores on the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT) or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

Skills Required

Veterinary pathologists usually have previous experience working with animals before being admitted to a veterinary medical school. Keen analytical skills and the ability to solve problems are also required. Some communications skills may be needed to explain diagnoses to patient owners.

Career and Salary Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that veterinarians, including veterinary pathologists, earned annual median salaries of $84,460 in 2012. According to the BLS, employment of veterinarians is expected to grow by 12%, or as fast as average, between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Agriculture and Food Scientists

Agriculture and food scientists conduct experimental and research-based studies that are designed to improve the efficiency and quality of agricultural processes and products. They typically specialize in soil and plant, animal or food science. Minimum educational requirements include a bachelor's or master's degree in agricultural science; completion of a doctoral or professional program is usually needed to work as an animal scientist. A 9%, or fast-as average, growth in jobs nationwide is expected for agriculture and food scientists from 2012-2022, as reported by the BLS. Agricultural and food scientists who were employed in May 2012 received median annual wages of $58,610 (www.bls.gov).

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animal behaviors and characteristics, including their relationships to their physical environments. Entry-level jobs require a bachelor's degree in wildlife biology or zoology; students interested in advanced, research or teaching positions will need a master's or a doctoral degree. Nationwide, the BLS has projected a slower-than-average increase of just 5% in jobs for zoologists and wildlife biologists from 2012-2022. As reported by the BLS, zoologists and biologists earned median annual salaries of $57,710 in May 2012 (www.bls.gov).

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