How to Become a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian
Among the specialist positions in the field of Veterinary Medicine, the path of learning how to become a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian is arguably one of the hardest to complete. With a copious amount of secondary education and residency programs required to pass board certification, may people that make the decision to enter the field of Laboratory Animal Medicine are simply not prepared to achieve success in this competitive industry. However, with the proper tools, personal motivation and dedication, taking on a career in Laboratory Animal Medicine can be both lucrative and rewarding.
What is a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian?
It is the primary role of a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian to provide healthcare for research animals. Although this might to be a very simple career option for a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine to follow, the reality is that this specialty is among the more complex to navigate. A Laboratory Animal Veterinarian provides care to animals through a diverse series of activities including:
It's due to these expansive duties that challenges of becoming a successful laboratory animal veterinarian exist. Additionally, a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian tends to care for animal species that are not commonly treated in traditional veterinary practices. The unique physiological make up of these species, their prone to specific diseases along with their nutritional and environmental living requirements provides many challenges to Laboratory Animal Veterinarians.
In addition to providing veterinary care, specialists in laboratory animal medicine also provide additional services such as:
They are also occasionally called upon to provide education on animal research through media channels, classroom presentations, and lectures to national and local private and non-profit organizations.
What is the Educational Path of a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian?
The path to becoming a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian begins by receiving a Bachelor Degree. The candidate must then pass all requirements to become a licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. This process is completed when the qualified candidate takes the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) exam in order to practice in the United States. It's also critical to obtain individual state licensing and practice in the state of the candidate's choice.
Veterinarians who choose the Laboratory Animal Medicine career path must then complete a residency, which generally will take two to three years to complete. Laboratory Animal Medicine Residents generally receive training in medicine and surgery, animal husbandry, animal research guidelines, pathology, animal models of human diseases and formulating preventative medical programs and behavioral management for Laboratory Animals. These residents are also required to prepare a research thesis and may be given the option to apply their research toward a master's degree or Ph.D.
After completing the residency program, a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian may earn their board certification as administered by the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM). This board certification is approved for a period of eight years and is renewed by participating in professional development or continual educational credits.
Step by Step Educational Path of a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian
Complete a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian Residency Program
The residency program for becoming a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian is similar in many ways to other Veterinary specialties. The residency program typically lasts two to three years in length. During this program, the successful candidate will receive specific training in many veterinary science areas of study including:
Typically it is during the beginning phases of the residency program that the future Laboratory Animal Veterinarian is given the option to choose between specializing in primates or other types of laboratory animals. The residency program is completed when the candidate successfully prepares a research thesis and is often provided the opportunity to apply this thesis to receiving a Ph.D. or Master's Degree.
Certification Requirements of Laboratory Animal Veterinarian
Once the candidate has successfully navigated the residency program, they have the opportunity to earn board certification through the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine. This is where the career and educational path intertwine. Unlike other Veterinary specialties, the Laboratory Animal Medicine specialty awards 'credit' to individuals that complete traditional residency or in some cases practical work experience.
The Experience Option for Animal Laboratory Medical Professionals
A candidate may qualify to take the board certification examination if they complete a minimum of six-years of full time laboratory animal medicine experience. This experience is only accepted after the candidate successfully earns their full VMD and is licensed to practice Veterinary Medicine in a State. Some of the potential standards for relevant work experience include:
The minimum standards required to receive this experience will be when 20 percent of the activities completed annually are specifically focused on Laboratory Animal Medicine.
Understanding the Career Path of Becoming a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian
Career Options for Laboratory Animal Veterinarians
After becoming board certified as a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian, the career path typically forks into two options:
The majority of Laboratory Animal Veterinarians choose the private or government funded research option as the profession is rather stable with employment opportunities continuing to grow.
Average Salary for Laboratory Animal Veterinarian
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013, veterinarians in general earned an average annual salary of $96,140, with scientific research and development services paying the top average salary of $134,230, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). From 2012-2022, the BLS expected 12% employment growth for the field, which is about average, with excellent opportunities in government jobs.
The goal of any professional in medical science should be to ascertain the truth about disease and other medical conditions. This is precisely what a Laboratory Animal Veterinarian does on a daily basis. Thanks in part to expanding testing in both private and government research centers the career outlook for this profession is trending positively. For those that choose to embark on this career path, a solid background on scientific research combined with exceptional time management skills will help a candidate successfully become a very good Laboratory Animal Veterinarian.