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Become a Veterinary Pharmacologist: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a veterinary pharmacologist. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in veterinary pharmacology. View article »

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  • 0:04 Veterinary…
  • 1:16 Earn a Degree & Take the GRE
  • 2:51 Earn a DVM
  • 3:27 Get a Veterinary License
  • 3:48 Complete Residency Training
  • 4:24 Get Certified

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Veterinary Pharmacologist?

Veterinary pharmacologists are veterinarians who specialize in treating animals with drug therapy. They diagnose an ailment and then select the most effective medication, the appropriate dosage, and the best method to administer a drug to the animal patient. Veterinary pharmacologists have expertise in how drugs for animals are developed, tested, and regulated.

The majority of veterinarians, including some veterinary pharmacologists, work in private animal medical care facilities, though some pharmacologists will work in laboratory settings developing new medicines for pets and other animals. The job carries a small amount of risk for veterinarians, whether they work with sick and scared animals or handle potentially hazardous materials in a lab. Vets usually work at least full-time, though longer hours are common and may include evenings, nights, and weekends.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level Professional
Degree Field Veterinary Medicine
Licensure and Certification State license required; certification is optional
Key Skills Diagnostic abilities, communications, manual agility, compassion; computer and technological skills
Salary (2014) $98,230 per year (Mean salary of all veterinarians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O NET Online.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most students earn a bachelor's degree before applying to veterinary school. Veterinary medicine programs typically don't require a particular undergraduate major, as long as prerequisite courses needed for admissions are completed. Undergraduates take a science-heavy schedule of pre-veterinary classes required by vet schools, including animal science, biology, chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, physics, physiology and zoology. Classes in mathematics, English and social sciences might also be needed for admission to a veterinary medicine program. Undergraduates need to earn a high GPA to gain admission to veterinary school.

Success Tip:

  • Get experience working with animals. The admissions process for veterinary school is very competitive. Schools may show preference to students with experience working with or job shadowing vets or scientists in areas including veterinary medicine, agribusiness or research. Prospective veterinary students can also gain helpful experience working or volunteering at animal shelters and farms. Participation in organizations including Future Farmers of America or 4-H might boost an applicant's chances of getting admitted to a veterinary medicine program.

Step 2: Take Standardized Testing

Veterinary medicine schools use scores from standardized tests as one of the factors in deciding which students to admit. The majority of vet schools require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Students can register online at www.ets.org or by phone or mail to take GRE at testing centers across the nation. GRE gauges skills in verbal and quantitative thinking. The test also includes a section involving analytical writing.

Some veterinary medicine schools also use the Biology GRE. A few vet programs accept the Medical College Admission Test.

Step 3: Earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree

Aspiring animal pharmacologists need to attend an accredited veterinary school and earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Veterinary school is typically a 4-year program. Students spend the first three years studying in classrooms and labs and honing clinical skills. During the last year, students focus on performing clinical rotations at veterinary medical facilities. Students typically take courses including clinical pharmacology, physical exam techniques, medical ethics, surgery, nutrition, physiology and toxicology.

Step 4: Get a Veterinary License

Veterinarians need a state license to practice. The states have varying licensing qualifications. All states, however, demand that candidates hold a degree from an accredited veterinary school and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Some states require that candidates also successfully complete a state test in addition to the national test.

Step 5: Complete Residency Training

After finishing veterinary school, prospective pharmacologists must obtain additional training with a residency program in the specialty. Residency training in veterinary pharmacology typically takes three years to complete. Coursework may include pharmacokinetics, toxicology, regulatory pharmacology and analytical chemistry. In addition to classes, residents receive clinical training and complete a research project. Residents often serve externships at government agencies, drug companies, animal welfare organizations and other sites during their training.

Step 6: Obtain Certification in Veterinary Pharmacology

Board certification is optional for veterinary pharmacologists. Candidates must have graduated from a vet school accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association and hold a veterinarian license. Candidates who have successfully met all the certification requirements set by the American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology (ACVCP) are called diplomates.

Candidates should register their intent to seek certification with the ACVCP shortly after starting residency training. The registration process for certification includes filling out an ACVCP form online, paying a fee, supplying references and choosing an ACVCP diplomate to act as a mentor. To be eligible to take the first part of the certification exam, applicants must be enrolled in a residency program approved by the ACVCP.

Applicants must have graduated from residency training and passed the first part of the certifying exam to become eligible to proceed to the second part. Other eligibility requirements to take the second part of the certifying exam include filling out a credentials review application online, supplying course transcripts from residency training, paying a fee and meeting publication requirements for professional literature in the field.

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