Veterinary diseases affect all types of animals. Some of these maladies, known as zoonotic diseases, can also be transferred between humans and animals. Learn how to enter the career field dealing with veterinary diseases, in addition to exploring job options, degrees and employment outlook.
Veterinarians deal with infectious diseases that affect companion animals, livestock and wildlife. They also study diseases that can be contracted by both animals and humans to find prevention and treatment methods. The study of veterinary diseases covers a number of topics, including large and small animal parasitology, virology, immunology, bacteriology and experimental design. Additional topics can include the effects of infectious diseases, disease intervention and studies of specific infectious diseases.
Many universities offer veterinary programs at the master's or doctoral level, such as pathology or public health that allow students to focus on the study of veterinary diseases. Graduates of master's or doctoral degree programs can seek careers in research or veterinary science. Some schools offer graduate-level training programs for doctoral students or veterinarians who wish to increase their knowledge of veterinary diseases.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for veterinarians was expected to grow by 12% from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). In addition, you will have strong career options with the government if you pursue the study of veterinary diseases, public health and epidemiology. In 2013, veterinarians earned a mean annual wage of $96,140. Those in the tenth percentile earned an annual salary of $53,270, while the 90th percentile pulled in an estimated $149,530.
A Master of Science (M.S.) degree in veterinary diseases would include core courses in medical statistics, the biological sciences, pathology and diagnostics. While working towards a thesis, you may also be required to participate in courses on veterinary clinical pathology, toxicology and parasitology. Most courses will involve the study of epidemiology and the practice of successful research methodology. Some programs may be interdisciplinary and involve the study of animal health policy as well. In some cases an oral and written presentation will be required to graduate, as well as a research project.
For a doctorate (Ph.D.) degree program in veterinary pathology or infectious diseases you can expect three years of study after earning your undergraduate degree. Required courses may include biochemistry, molecular cell biology and clinical trials. You must create a unique dissertation to earn a Ph.D. in this field. Another option would be to pursue a joint Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree with a Ph.D. degree in veterinary pathology. The Ph.D. option would allow you to conduct intensive independent research in an area such as immunobiology, clinical or anatomic pathology or interdepartmental toxicology.