How do I Become a Veterinary Pathologist?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2019
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A veterinary pathologist is a specially-trained veterinarian who researches various diseases by analyzing body tissue and fluid samples. Many professionals work in veterinary clinics and hospitals to aid in the diagnosis of various conditions. Others specialize in developing new medicines and vaccines, teaching, or conducting independent research to learn more about animal diseases. In order to become a veterinary pathologist, an individual must earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and complete an internship, and assume a residency position for at least three years. In addition, a new professional must pass an extensive licensing exam before working independently in the field.

A person who wants to become a veterinary pathologist is first required to complete a four-year bachelor's degree program at an accredited university. Most hopeful veterinarians choose to major in premedical studies, biology, animal science, or a related discipline. Undergraduates attend classroom lectures and participate in laboratory courses to become familiar with fundamentals of research. An individual can learn more about veterinary science by taking a paid or volunteer position at a local animal clinic, farm, or shelter. Experience in such jobs can be very influential when applying for doctoral programs.


Near the end of a bachelor's degree program, a student can begin researching veterinary schools to learn about admissions requirements. Most schools require applicants to pass entrance exams in order to be considered for admittance. In addition to exam scores, schools review students' grades, letters of recommendation, relevant experience, and personal essays to make admissions choices.

Once accepted to a doctoral school, a person who wants to become a veterinary pathologist can meet with advisers and professors to design a degree plan that will best prepare him or her for the specialty. Most veterinary school programs last for four years and include both classroom studies and practical research opportunities. Students take highly-detailed courses in cellular biology, pathology, research design, and practical medicine. In order to earn a degree, an individual is usually required to complete a dissertation based on original research.

After earning a DVM, a person can become a veterinary pathologist intern at a clinic or animal hospital. An internship usually lasts about one year and allows a new veterinarian to receive hands-on training from experienced professionals in the field. A successful intern can apply for a three- to four-year residency program, during which time he or she gets to work under the supervision of established pathologists. A professional who wants to become a veterinary pathologist in clinical practice usually works at a clinic, while a prospective researcher completes training in laboratory settings.

In most countries, a new veterinary pathologist must pass a licensing test before he or she can practice without supervision. In the United States, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the American College of Veterinary Pathologists (ACVP) provides credentials to new specialists. Most other countries feature boards similar to the AVMA and the ACVP to certify professionals in the field.


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