Veterinary epidemiologists are specialized veterinarians who focus on disease outbreaks in animal populations. They have advanced training in monitoring, controlling, and preventing disease in animals.
Veterinary epidemiologists may find jobs with a variety of employers such as research laboratories, academic institutions, and private corporations (such as pharmaceutical companies). Government organizations such as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration also employ many epidemiologists to monitor disease transmission in livestock species and to maintain public health.
Veterinary Epidemiologist Duties & Responsibilities
This job generally requires the ability to do the following tasks:
- Study disease transmission and patterns of occurrence.
- Determine the vector by which a disease is spread.
- Determine how to treat and control the disease.
- Monitor the effectiveness of vaccination programs.
- Study patterns of pathogenic drug resistance.
- Evaluate public health concerns connected to meat, poultry, fish, and other animal-derived food products.
Veterinary epidemiologists often rely on veterinarians and their staff to obtain data on disease outbreaks. They analyze the data to draw conclusions about the disease and how it is spread. They then devise a plan to effectively treat and contain the spread of the disease. They may also conduct research and contribute to the scientific literature in their field.
Veterinary Epidemiologist Salary
Veterinary epidemiologists generally make more money than a veterinarian without this advanced specialization. The following figures are for veterinarians in general. The hourly figures are calculated based on a 40-hour workweek.
- Median Annual Salary: $93,830 ($45.11/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $162,450 ($78.10/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $56,540 ($27.18/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
Education, Training, & Certification
Epidemiology is one of the many specialties in which veterinarians are able to achieve board certification. In this case, certification comes through the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine (ACVPM).
- Veterinary (DVM) degree: Veterinary epidemiologists must achieve a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree. After becoming licensed to practice medicine, a vet can begin to fulfill the requirements that will lead to board certification in the specialty field of epidemiology, if they are interested in pursuing this avenue. Options outside of board certification include special training programs with government agencies or advanced degrees such as a master's in public health or doctorate in epidemiology.
- Board certification: To be eligible to take the board certification exam from the ACVPM, a candidate must be legally licensed to practice veterinary medicine. According to the ACVPM website, they must have four years of experience in the field of epidemiology in at least three areas of veterinary preventative medicine, have "a history of unquestionable moral character and professional behavior," and be sponsored by someone who already has an epidemiology diplomate from the organization. After passing this exam, the candidate is granted diplomate status in the specialty of epidemiology.
- Continuing education: The Association for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine (AVEPM) is a professional membership organization for those involved in the field of veterinary epidemiology. The AVEPM distributes educational information and coordinates events for its members that help them maintain their continuing education requirement.
Veterinary Epidemiologist Skills & Competencies
There are certain qualities and skills a veterinary epidemiologist must have beyond the already substantial ones required of a veterinarian:
- Keen analytical and problem-solving skills: Veterinary epidemiologists draw conclusions and create solutions after sifting through lots of data.
- Compassion for animals and humans: They prevent suffering in animals and in humans who might become infected by a disease that is transmittable from animals.
- Courageous and careful: Veterinary epidemiologists may be around diseased animals and exposed to pathogens that can harm them. They must take the correct preventative measures to avoid infection.
The number of veterinarians generally, which includes this particular specialty, is expected to grow 19% from 2016 to 2026, according to the BLS. That's much faster than the average for all occupations and reflects continued growth in Americans' interest in and spending on their pets.
Veterinary epidemiologists are often in the field or a laboratory. They also work at a desk when requesting or compiling data.
Most epidemiologists work regular office hours unless an outbreak of disease requires immediate attention.
How to Get the Job
Search the job openings at the ACVPM Career Center.
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Comparing Similar Jobs
People who are interested in becoming veterinary epidemiologists might also consider the following careers. The figures provided are median annual salaries:
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018