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Veterinary Pathologist: Job Description and Education Requirements

Becoming a veterinary pathologist requires a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Essential Information

Veterinary pathologists perform research on animals in the pursuit of preventing, diagnosing, and treating disease. Prospective veterinary pathologists must earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine|(D.V.M.) or a Veterinaria Medicina Doctoris (VMD) before entering a required postdoctoral degree program in anatomical or clinical pathology. Once finished with postdoctoral studies, veterinary pathologists must also become certified through The American College of Veterinary Pathology.

Required EducationPostdoctoral Degree in Anatomical or Clinical Pathology
Other RequirementsCertification
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)12%*(all veterinarians)
Average Salary (2014)$98,230*(all veterinarians), $124,890* (veterinarians working in a scientific research setting)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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 ( 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 ( 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 2014 that the median annual salary earned by all veterinarians was $87,590. Those working in scientific research settings earned a salary averaging $124,890 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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