Veterinary Nutritionist Career Profile

Veterinarian during medical exam of a horse
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Veterinary nutritionists are specialists with advanced training in the field of animal nutrition.

Duties

Veterinary nutritionists are veterinarians that have been board certified to practice medicine with a focus on the specialty area of animal nutrition. Routine duties for a veterinary nutritionist may include tasks such as evaluating body condition, formulating diets for healthy animals, creating special diets to prevent and manage diseases, balancing complete rations for animals involved in performance or production, overseeing veterinary nutrition technicians or other staff members, and providing specialty consultations at the request of general veterinary practitioners.

Veterinary nutritionists may have additional teaching and advisory duties if they work as lecturers at a veterinary college. Corporate researchers also will have additional duties related to product development, nutritional analysis, and clinical trials. Veterinary nutritionists may also give lectures for professional continuing education credits or to educate members of the public about nutritional topics.

Career Options

Nutrition is one of the specialties in which veterinarians can become board certified diplomates. Veterinary nutritionists may choose to specialize even further by working with one particular species or a specific category (such as small animals or large animals).

Veterinary nutritionists may work in corporate positions with animal feed or supplement manufacturers, in clinical practice, in research laboratories, or in academia.

Education & Training

Veterinary nutritionists must first be accepted into an accredited veterinary college to complete their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.

After completing their DVM and becoming a licensed practitioner, a vet is able to begin the path to board certification in the specialty field of nutrition.

In order to be eligible to take the board certification exam in the specialty of nutrition, a veterinarian must fulfill all prerequisites. The candidate must have completed at least 3 years of training under the supervision of a board certified nutrition diplomate and submit three detailed case study reports for evaluation.

The 3 years of training must consist of at least 1 year of internship or clinical experience and 2 more years of residency (consisting of a combination of teaching, research, and clinical practice of veterinary nutrition).

After passing the comprehensive board certification exam administered by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN), a veterinarian will be granted diplomate status in the specialty of nutrition. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there were 71 ACVN diplomates in the 2014 veterinary specialty census.

Diplomates must also complete continuing education credits each year to maintain their board certified status. These credits can be satisfied through attendance at lectures or specialty conventions.

Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median annual wage of $84,460 for the category of all veterinarians in their survey from May of 2012. The bottom ten percent of all veterinarians earned a salary of under $51,530 per year while the highest ten percent of all veterinarians earned a salary of over $144,100 annually. The BLS does not separate specific salary data for the individual veterinary specialties, but board certified specialists earn top salaries due to their extensive experience and qualifications.

DVM Newsmagazine reported that the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Biennial Economic Survey of 2007 found that nutritionists earned one of the highest average salaries among the veterinary specialties, pulling in about $202,368 per year. Veterinary nutrition is often amongst the top paying specialties due to the fact that many diplomats command top salaries from corporate entities such as feed and supplement manufacturers.

Aspiring veterinary nutritionists do earn a salary while completing their residencies, though this compensation is generally much less than a veterinarian can expect to earn in clinical practice. Residency salaries usually range from $25,000 to $35,000 per year.

Career Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys indicates that the veterinary profession will grow at about the same rate as the average for all professions (approximately 12 percent) over the decade from 2012 to 2022.

Veterinarians who achieve board certification should continue to have particularly strong job prospects and a high earning potential in their field of expertise.

The demanding nature of specialist training programs and the difficulty of board certification examinations ensure that only a handful of professionals are able to achieve board certification each year. Demand for veterinary nutritionists will only be enhanced by the scarcity of board-certified professionals in this particular veterinary specialty.