Veterinary Pathologist Career Information

Veterinary pathologists are very similar to medical pathologists in their work. Veterinary pathology is an important part of both human and animal health. The basic work encompasses the testing and analysis of animal health-related materials. It can be extremely complex work, including analysis of tissues, structural effects of diseases and equally difficult situations regarding testing for previously unknown diseases like new viruses.

Pathology literally means the entire track of a disease or related medical condition. The study involves important science, and sometimes piecing together information from multiple sources. It overlaps with epidemiology in many areas. Sources of infection are as important to pathologists as epidemiologists, and in some cases the two sciences have to interact to prevent major outbreaks of disease.

Sectors and Social Issues

As well as the multi billion dollar domestic animal sector, veterinary pathology serves many major industries and some big social issues:

  • Agriculture: Diseases can decimate livestock and poultry.
  • Horse breeding and racing: The horse industry depends on vets and veterinary pathologists to protect its very expensive stock.
  • Zoos: Animals in zoos require constant monitoring to check for diseases, particularly diseases to which they may not have natural immunity.
  • Animal conservation: Invasive organisms often also bring their diseases, which can destroy native populations.
  • Human epidemiology: Transgenic diseases like avian flu and swine flu are among the most recent cases of potential pandemic diseases in the human population.
  • Food industry: Food contamination often starts at the food chain level, with contaminated animals or fish.

The Work Environment

The work environment is usually a combination of lab work and field work. Veterinary pathologists are also part detectives. Common diseases and infections are easy enough to find in a lab, but it can be hard to figure out how an animal got a disease which was previously on the other side of the world, or how a cow got a disease from a bird or fish.

Veterinary pathologists often do some of the primary studies of emerging diseases. The importance of this work cannot be overstated. In recent times, diseases have decimated natural populations of birds, fish and animals, and their studies are frequently the starting point of remedial measures.

Salary and Hours

Pathologists earn between $75,000 to $114,000 per year, depending on experience, location, and type of employment. The hours can vary considerably, depending on the nature of the work. They are usually required to travel a a substantial amount of time.

The Career Environment

Career advancement tends to be a matter of preference and specialization. In all career streams, career progression can benefit considerably from demand for services. The major industries, in particular, need more assistance with emerging diseases and prevention issues. The academic side of veterinary pathology is also creating considerable demand for advanced pathology, and therefore more career options.