How to Become a Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologist
People love their pets. And nothing best articulates this than the fact that in 2014, American pet owners spent in excess of $50 billion on caring for their animal friends. The interesting fact is that nearly one-third of the money spent in the US on pet care was targeted to over-the-counter or prescription medication. The hard working people who research and develop this medication for household pets and livestock are known as Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologists.
What is a Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologist?
Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologists are specially trained and certified Veterinarians that focus on the development, proper usage and physiological effects of drug therapy for the treatment of animals. This vocation requires extensive education and training in both pharmacology and veterinary science. They must have a solid knowledge of several phases of pharmacology including:
- Development of drugs for animals
- The drug interaction with specific animal species
- The therapeutic use of drugs for animals
- Clinical trials and the approval process that is managed by the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologists are often required to complete drug trials, examine drug samples, evaluate and document the physiological effects on live subjects, use laboratory equipment, along with writing and publishing extensive reports and articles in scientific journals. It’s also common for Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologists to contribute to the development of drugs for animals and consult with private or government agencies on how drugs impact livestock.
The Educational Requirements for Becoming a Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologist
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The educational path to becoming a Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologist begins by completing a Bachelor Degree then obtaining a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Additional training, including a three year residency program and passing a specialty certification exam is required to become board certified. The American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology both certifies and administers the exam in the United States.
There are two phases of the Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologist exam:
- Phase One: This phase includes a multiple choice examination that will test the candidate’s knowledge of basic pharmacology. In order to become eligible to take the phase I exam, the candidate must be enrolled in an ACVCP residency program that has been approved by the ACVCP committee of education.
- Phase Two: This includes a written examination that will test the specific skill set of the candidate in the specialty of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology. In order to become eligible to take Phase II the candidate must have completed an ACVCP residency by the time the exam is taken.
In order to become Board Certified, the candidate must pass both phases of the examination with a five year period.
Step by Step Educational Path of a Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologist
Pre-Graduate School Bachelor Degree
In order to successfully become a Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologist a Bachelor’s Degree is first required. Primary course study includes a focus on biological sciences, mathematics, chemistry and physics. Due to the fact that each post-graduate Veterinary medical college requires difference core classes, it’s suggested that a candidate for Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology contacts the veterinary college they’d like to attend to receive a specific course outline that will help expedite their educational path.
Earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
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After receiving a Bachelor Degree, the education path then advances to becoming a licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. This is a four-year program where in the first two years the outline is focused on general animal anatomy, physiology, virology and nutrition. The third year shifts towards clinical studies, where the Veterinarian student has the chance to apply into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom. The last year is spent applying these experiences onsite – typically at specialist hospitals that are associated with many Veterinary colleges in the United States.
This is also where the licensing exam is taken. In order to practice Veterinary medicine a candidate must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Most states require additional certification to practice in each state.
Complete a Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologist Residency Program
The residency program for becoming a Clinical Pharmacologist in Veterinary science is the final educational phase. During this program a successful candidate for becoming a Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologist will complete (3) years of specialty training that includes the residency program administered by an accredited Veterinary College at a veterinary hospital.
The residency often includes:
- Pharmacokinetics, regulatory pharmacology, toxicology, and analytical chemistry.
- Additionally, residents will receive advanced clinical training during externships completed at drug companies, government agencies, animal welfare organizations and additional residency programs.
Understanding the Career Path of Becoming a Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologist
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Career Options for Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologists
Typically a Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologist is employed in the private industry with organizations that include research laboratories, pharmaceutical companies and diagnostic laboratories. Employment opportunities are also available in some governmental agencies, such as the FDA. They also can matriculate to educational opportunities, taking teaching positions at colleges and universities which requires additional education.
Based on research completed in 2007 by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Clinical Pharmacology was the third highest paid specialty with average incomes that approaches $160,000 annually. The two Veterinarian specialties that eclipse this average are Veterinarian Nutrition and Surgery. The salary base for a Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologist is high due to the fact that most employment opportunities are found in the private sector.
One of the drawbacks for this profession is early salary obtained during residency. It’s estimated that the majority of clinical pharmacologists in the veterinary industry early roughly $30,000 per year. However, the earning potential post-residency is much greater.
This profession is extremely detailed with rigorous training and residency programs. It’s due to the complexity and dedication required to complete board certification examinations that there are a limited number of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologists active in the United States. However it’s also due to these facts – and the rapid growth of medical treatment of animals through advanced drug research that this career path has exceptional growth potential.
- Society of Veterinary Hospital Pharmacists
- International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine
- Animal Pharmaceuticals (AHI)
- New Animal Drug Applications
- The Role and Education of the Veterinary Pharmacist (National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine)