Become a Veterinary Pharmacologist: Education and Career Roadmap

Jan 02, 2019

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.

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  • 0:03 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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Veterinary Pharmacologist Overview

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 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 might include evenings, nights, and weekends.

Let's look at the education and career path for veterinary pharmacologists:

Career Requirements at a Glance

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 (2015)* $99,000 per year (mean salary for all veterinarians)

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

Earn a Degree & Take the GRE

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 should take a science-heavy schedule of pre-veterinary classes including animal science, biology, chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology, physics, physiology, and zoology. Classes in mathematics, English, and social sciences might also be needed. Undergraduates need to earn a high GPA to gain admission to most veterinary schools.

Additionally, veterinary schools might 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 a Graduate Admissions Test

Veterinary medicine schools use scores from standardized tests as one of the factors in deciding which students get in. The majority of vet schools require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), which 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, and a few programs accept the Medical College Admission Test.

Earn a DVM

Step 3: Earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

Aspiring animal pharmacologists need to attend an accredited veterinary school and earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). 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. States have varying licensing qualifications; however, all require that candidates hold a degree from an accredited veterinary school and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Some states require that candidates also pass a state test.

Step 5: Complete Residency Training

After finishing veterinary school, prospective pharmacologists must obtain additional training through a residency program in the specialty. Residency training in veterinary pharmacology typically takes three years to complete. Coursework might 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.

Get Certified

Step 6: Get Certified 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. Those who successfully meet all 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 be 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.

In summary, becoming a veterinary pharmacologist requires earning a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, getting state licensure, and completing a residency. Voluntary certification is available.

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