A veterinary pharmacist is an animal health professional with a doctoral degree and advanced training related to the use of pharmaceutical products. The duties may vary depending on the specific nature of their employment (i.e. whether they work in academia, for a corporation, for a veterinary related business, or for a regulatory agency).
Veterinary pharmacists may be involved with dispensing medications that have been prescribed by a veterinarian, providing consultations on dosage and side effects, providing compounding services, ensuring that all regulatory directives are properly followed, taking inventory, and supervising pharmacy technicians or other support staff members. Those working in academic settings may be involved with teaching classes for veterinary students. Those working in regulatory roles may be involved with testing, research, education, and enforcement.
Veterinary pharmacists must be well versed in proper safety protocols and disposal methods when working with hazardous drugs or compounding materials. They must also be extremely detail oriented, making sure that all labels are accurate with regard to contents and dosage. Work is generally conducted in an office or lab setting. Veterinary pharmacists do not usually have a high level of direct contact with animals, though this can vary depending on the specific nature of their work.
Veterinary pharmacists may find employment with veterinary schools, pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers, and a variety of regulatory agencies (such as the FDA). They may also readily make the transition back to human pharmacy work if they should encounter any difficulties finding desirable job opportunities in the veterinary field.
Education & Training
A significant commitment to education is required to become a veterinary pharmacist. The candidate must first obtain their undergraduate degree (3 to 4 years) before going on to an accredited school of pharmacy to pursue a PharmD degree (another 4 years). Some schools offer courses in veterinary pharmacy as a part of their PharmD program, though it is also possible to pursue postdoctoral residencies in the field if they do not. After achieving the PharmD degree, a pharmacist must also pass the state licensing exam to become eligible to practice.
Several universities offer residencies in the field of veterinary pharmacy to those who have completed their general pharmacy degree. The University of California, Davis offers a well known postdoctoral program in veterinary pharmacy. The program can be completed in two years and a resident salary is ~$40,000 per year. Harper Adams University (in the United Kingdom) offers another two-year veterinary pharmacy program.
Veterinary pharmacists may seek diplomate certification status with the International College of Veterinary Pharmacy (ICVP). Candidates must be members of the Society of Veterinary Hospital Pharmacists (SVHP), have a current pharmacy license, have at least five years of experience in the field (or an advanced degree in veterinary pharmacy practice), and pass a comprehensive exam.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have a category for veterinary pharmacists, but it does include them in the more general category of all pharmacists. The median annual salary for pharmacists was $116,670 ($56.09 per hour) in the most recent survey results (May 2012). The lowest paid 10 percent of pharmacists earned less than $89,000 per year ($42.79 per hour) while the highest-paid 10 percent of pharmacists earned more than $147,350 per year ($70.84 per hour).
The field of veterinary pharmacy is relatively new and is continuing to expand each year. The BLS reports that job growth for the category of all pharmacists is expected to grow at a rate of 14 percent over the decade from 2012 to 2022. This rate of growth is approximately the same as the average for all professions surveyed. Veterinary pharmacists with significant education and experience will continue to enjoy the best job prospects in the field.