Our Disease Investigations team offer unfunded student externships for self-motivated, energetic, third and fourth year veterinary students. We run a high volume diagnostic service with a caseload of approximately 1,800 necropsies, 360 surgical biopsies, and 700 cytologies per year. Externships offer an opportunity for students to gain exposure to the study of diseases of wildlife utilizing material from the collections of the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, as well as our field conservation programs.

Students will spend the majority of their time performing necropsies and developing gross descriptive skills. There are also opportunities for study of histologic sections, examination of clinical laboratory specimens (including cytology), and research projects. Students will participate in daily, weekly, and monthly pathology rounds in collaboration with area pathologists, animal care staff, and clinical veterinarians.

Externships are for a minimum of three weeks. Students are expected to participate in departmental activities during standard work hours, Monday through Saturday, and are encouraged to utilize facilities during extended hours when staff is present. To qualify, interested students should have completed a rotation in pathology (or similar experience) and be familiar with a standard necropsy protocols. Students are expected to provide rubber boots and appropriate clothing (e.g., coveralls and/or scrubs). A negative tuberculin test within one year prior to arrival is required and vaccination against rabies is recommended.

Due to US visa restrictions related to hands-on veterinary experience, SDZWA cannot accommodate international student externs unless they are US citizens or are attending/sponsored by a US veterinary school.

To apply, submit a CV and a letter stating why you wish to participate in the program, your career goals, and how this externship will enhance your future plans. Include preferred dates of participation and names and addresses of two references. We accept third- and fourth-year veterinary student externs from September through November and January through early May each academic year. For full consideration, students should apply by September 1 of the academic year prior to that in which the externship is desired, e.g. by September 1, 2023 for the 2024-25 academic year. We begin reviewing applications in September and final decisions are made by October 1. Applications received after the deadline may be considered depending on space availability.

Application materials and questions should be emailed to pathology@sandiegozoo.org or submitted to:

Student Externship Coordinator
Disease Investigations, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance
​P.O. Box 120551, San Diego, CA 92112-0551