How To Become A Veterinarian
Career Video: Veterinarian
Veterinarians, or vets, are responsible for preventing and treating illnesses and injuries in animals. Vets may choose to specialize in a particular field of medicine, such as surgery, or they may work with a particular species or group of animals (i.e. horses, marine life, farm animals, etc.). Vets provide a wide range of services to animals, including surgery, vaccinations, routine exams, and other healthcare needs. Some vets conduct research for the continued development of the field.
Why Become A Veterinarian
A vet should have a great love for and appreciation of animals. Vets work in a variety of settings, so they can work within their desired field. A vet is someone who has excellent communication skills, including being an attentive listener and detail-oriented reader. They should be able to make difficult and swift decisions in cases of emergencies, and they must be good at solving problems. Above all, vets are compassionate and should also be able act empathetically toward humans as well.
Veterinarian Work Environment
Vets can work in a variety of settings, but most likely you will find them in a small animal clinic or hospital. They may work as a group or in a private practice, working independently. Their hours are often long, and they must be available to the public during extended day hours and on the weekends. Some vets may work on site, caring for animals in farms, ranches, zoos aquariums, and racetracks. Vets that conduct research typically work in a clinical laboratory facility.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a veterinarian was $96,140, in 2013, with annual salaries ranging from $50,480 to $141,680 in 2011. Salaries may vary depending on specialty and location of work.
Veterinarian Career Outlook
The projected job growth for vets, from 2012 to 2022, is 12% above other professions.
A doctorate degree and license is required to practice veterinarian medicine. Below is a list of steps that vets typically take to obtain their training and credentials.
Step 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree program. Aspiring vets will eventually need to study at a school of veterinary medicine, and most require this important step first. Although there is not one major or area of study that is required, it is recommended to have a degree in biological science. Courses that a student should make sure to complete include general biology, chemistry, physics, and math. Some veterinary institutions require other specialty courses, such as mammalogy, biochemistry, and animal behavior.
During their studies, it is a good idea for students to find volunteer or internship programs to acquire some experience. Many pre-veterinary clubs exist as well that can provide practical education about shadowing programs, career topics, and other helpful advice. Students will most likely have to take and pass the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) to enter graduate school.
Step 2: Earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. The curriculum of each year of study will build upon the knowledge and skills acquired in each previous year of study. In the first two years, a student can expect to take science courses, such as animal anatomy, physiology, nutrition, and virology. During this time, students may also take courses in a specialization more pertinent to their career aspirations. After receiving a foundational education in veterinary medicine, the third year mostly consists of clinical work and training. This training will give students hands-on experience working with live animals to apply their knowledge about illnesses, injuries, treatments, and general care. The fourth or final year of study typically consists of a practicum or externship.
During their studies, students may want to get involved in research opportunities. These experiences are helpful in understanding various aspects of veterinary medicine and niche specialties.
Step 3: Obtain licensure. Each graduate of a veterinary medicine program must take and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Some states have additional requirements to work as a vet.
Additional suggestions for vets are to become certified in a specialty, join professional associations, and complete internship programs to obtain more practical experiences before applying for a fulltime position.