Outstanding Aquatic Veterinary Programs


Aquatic veterinary medicine is emerging as a niche field of study within veterinary schools, but as the International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine (IAAAM) points out, “No veterinary college has a comprehensive program for specializing in aquatic or marine mammal medicine.” That’s because the typical veterinary college is built around a generalized four-year program focusing on cats, dogs, cows, and horse medicine. Still, some may have elective or specialized training available in non-domestic species, such as amphibians, fish, reptiles, pet birds, and poultry, according to the IAAAM.

Students interested in aquatic medicine can turn to fellowships in aquatic or fish medicine to gain more skills in the field. They can also seek employment opportunities in aquatic medicine, although these positions are typically hard to come by, especially fresh out of school, according to the IAAAM. An alternative suggested by the IAAAM includes gaining private practice experience and applying for an aquatic medicine internship at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Florida Aquarium, or another similar site.

Students interested in the aquatic veterinary medicine field may want to consider certification offered through the American Fisheries Society. Two certifications are available: the Certified Fish Pathologist and Certified Aquatic Animal Health Inspector. DVM graduates may also be interested in joining the World Aquatic Veterinary Medicine Association and eventually becoming eligible to seek board certification through the American College of Zoological Medicine.

The demand for veterinary technologists and technicians nationwide continues to grow in aquatic care and beyond. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2024), there is expected to be a 21 percent increase in openings for veterinary technologists and technicians nationwide between 2022 and 2032. That’s much faster growth than the anticipated average for all occupations during that same period (3 percent). With the anticipated addition of 25,200 positions around the country, there is convincing evidence that this field will continue to have a bright outlook in the future.

According to the IAAAM, education, practical experience, and volunteering can go a long way in all opportunities in veterinary science. To that end, we have compiled a list of outstanding aquatic veterinary programs. These are noteworthy for the aquatic animal health programs and services they offer.

Cornell University – College of Veterinary Medicine

Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine has an aquatic animal health program known as AQUAVET, which offers immersion training in aquatic medicine.

The program, co-sponsored by Cornell and the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, began in 1977 and focuses on diseases in cultured fish, the development of fish vaccines, fish health management in aquaculture systems, and the pathology of wild fish, especially where it may relate to environmental contamination. Two research laboratories are available to support research into aquatic toxicology, bacteriology, immunology, pathology, and virology.

The program also oversees the school’s wet lab facilities, which have been designed to maintain aquatic animals and are capable of containing serious pathogens while managing water quality control. These wet labs are considered some of the best for undertaking aquatic animal health research.

This AQUAVET program currently comprises three courses (AQUAVET I-III): an introduction to aquatic veterinary medicine, a comparative pathology of aquatic animals, and a practicum experience. The latter course provides specific training in aquariums and captive aquatic animal medicine. It is presented at the Georgia Aquarium, the University of Georgia, and Dolphinaris in Cancun, Mexico.

  • Location: Ithaca, New York
  • Accreditation: AVMA Council on Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: AQUAVET I (four weeks); AQUAVET II (two weeks); AQUAVET III (five weeks)

University of Florida – College of Veterinary Medicine

The University of Florida offers an aquatic animal health (AAH) program through its College of Veterinary Medicine. The program includes a research component focusing on aquaculture medicine, emerging diseases, the Florida manatee, sea turtle pathology, and viral diseases. Additionally, a hands-on clinical component is operated by Mike Walsh, DVM, co-director of the aquatic animal health program.

The clinical work involves handling several contracts in the area as well as responding to requests for help with stranded marine mammals. The school also features an internship program and a residency in aquatic animal medicine.

Diagnostic services are also available to aquaculture clients. Since specialization in aquatic science requires training beyond four years of veterinary school, the university offers an aquatic animal medicine certificate. The certificate comprises 15 credits, including nine required in a core curriculum and the remainder in elective classes.

Finally, the university offers various short-term training activities such as distance education and summer courses.

  • Location: Gainesville, Florida
  • Accreditation: AVMA Council on Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Residency in aquatic animal medicine (three years); aquatic animal medicine certificate (four years)

University of California, Davis – School of Veterinary Medicine

The University of California, Davis offers two programs that may interest students who want to learn more about aquatic medicine. First, it recently opened its Aquatic Animal Health Service through the school’s teaching hospital, which raises awareness about fish and provides services to breeders, commercial aquaculture, hobbyists, retailers, wildlife conservation agencies, and others.

The hospital also offers various procedures for fish, including skin and scale scrapings, biopsy, endoscopy, surgery, water testing, cultures, physical examination, fish virology and microbiology, necropsy, histopathology, koi herpes virus testing, and imaging services (such as ultrasound, radiography, MRI, and CT).

The school also boasts a Wildlife and Aquatic Animal Medicine Club (WAAM), for those interested in pursuing a career in aquatic, zoo, or wildlife animal medicine. The club often arranges for experts to educate students about the varied areas of aquatic, zoo, or wildlife medicine. Students learn through field trips, internships, and unique events, and participate in an annual symposium providing them with hands-on experience. WAAM also helps students connect with different organizations and zoos so that they can further their careers in aquatic, wildlife, and zoo medicine.

  • Location: Davis, California
  • Accreditation: AVMA Council on Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies

Ohio State University – College of Veterinary Medicine

The doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree offered by Ohio State University is a rigorous professional program that requires three to four years of pre-professional study. This DVM degree provides advanced knowledge of veterinary medicine, encourages analytical and critical thinking, and prepares them for professional growth and lifelong learning.

At Ohio State University, students in the fourth year of their DVM program can specialize in a field of study through electives and field experience. The school has numerous options available for those who want to gain off-site aquatic experiences in this final year.

The program, which comprises 167 credits, includes courses such as veterinary preventive medicine, respiratory system, clinical veterinary parasitology, veterinary emergency and critical care medicine, introduction to veterinary anesthesia, and surgery.

  • Location: Columbus, Ohio
  • Accreditation: AVMA Council on Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Four years

Oregon State University – Hatfield Marine Science Center

Oregon State University has an aquatic animal health program available through the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, Oregon. The program provides education, outreach, and services to the ornamental fish industry and trains veterinary students to become well-versed in aquatic medicine.

This AAHP (aquatic animal health program) supports various captive aquatic animal stakeholders, including aquaculture, research enterprises, the aquarium fish industry, and educational institutions in domestic and international settings. The primary role of the program is to provide training, so these aquatic animal stakeholders can strive to maintain the highest quality of animal health, husbandry, and welfare.

One of the program’s greatest successes has been showing how basic fish management techniques can significantly reduce the chances of disease and death during ornamental fish importation. The Center also works with national and international marine ornamental organizations to address health issues and research species’ safe collection and transportation.

  • Location: Newport, Oregon
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Expected Time to Completion: Varies

World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association

The World Aquatic Veterinary Medical Association (WAVMA) offers an aquatic veterinarian certification program identifying the core competencies or subject matter areas required for practicing aquatic veterinary medicine.

The program recognizes those vets who have acquired the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience from several sources in the following nine core areas: aquatic environment and life support systems; husbandry and industries; taxonomy, anatomy, and physiology; principles of aquatic animal welfare; legislation, regulations, and policies; public health, zoonotics, and seafood safety; clinical veterinary experience and client communications; diagnostics and treatment of aquatic animal diseases; and pathobiology and epidemiology of aquatic animal diseases.

Applicants will work with mentors for two years to provide evidence of basic understanding and competency in the nine core areas. After being evaluated and approved, applicants can use the “CertAqV” honorific to identify their competency.

To be credentialed by WAVMA as Certified Aquatic Veterinarians and utilize the CertAqV honorific, candidates must be WAVMA members, have a veterinary degree from a nationally recognized veterinary college, university, or school, and have demonstrated competency and general knowledge in core subject areas noted above. Students of a nationally recognized veterinary institution of higher education can register for this program but will not be certified or entitled to utilize this honorific until they graduate.

  • Location: Conifer, CO
  • Accreditation: NA
  • Expected Time to Completion: 24 months

The University Of Florida (SeaVet Intensive Course) – College Of Veterinary Medicine

This SeaVet Clinical Training is an intensive ten-day course that is designed to teach veterinarians and veterinary medical students through didactic lectures, case-based problem-solving, and practical experiences. This three-credit professional class is through the University of Florida.

This SeaVet Clinical Training course will be held as a hybrid event to make participation available for as many people as possible. Academic credit will only be for veterinary students of the University of Florida. Veterinarians may earn CE credits.

Course topics include environments-water and air quality, design; wild dolphin conservation; fish medicine; pathology; aquatic birds; invertebrates; phage therapy and antibiotic resistance; ophthalmology; pinnipeds including walrus; and amphibians.

  • Location: Gainesville, FL
  • Accreditation: AVMA Council on Education
  • Expected Time to Completion: Ten days


VetTechColleges used the following criteria while weighing which programs to include on this list:

  1. Accreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Council on Education ensures that specific veterinary medical education standards are being met.
  2. Led by experienced professionals, professors, and specialists who are trained in aquatic medicine, have completed fellowships in the field, or offer expertise in aquatic life.
  3. Variety of opportunities for hands-on learning, both in the United States and abroad
Farheen Gani (Writer)

Farheen Gani is a freelance writer, marketer, and researcher. She writes about technology, education, and marketing. Her work has appeared on websites such as Tech in Asia and Foundr, as well as top SaaS blogs such as Zapier and InVision. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter (@FarheenGani).