How To Become A Veterinarian

Veterinarians are responsible for preventing and treating illnesses and injuries in animals. They 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.).

Veterinarians provide a wide range of services to animals, including surgery, vaccinations, routine exams, and other healthcare needs. Some 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. Veterinarians 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, they are compassionate and should also be able act empathetically toward humans as well.

Veterinarian Work Environment

Veterinarians 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 may work on site, caring for animals in farms, ranches, zoos aquariums, and racetracks. Veterinarians that conduct research typically work in a clinical laboratory facility.

Veterinarian Salary

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for a veterinarian was $88,770, in 2016. Salaries may vary depending on specialty and location of work.

Average Veterinarian Annual Salary


The average annual salary for veterinarians is $101,530 a year. Salaries start at $53,980 a year and go up to $159,320 a year.

Average Veterinarian Hourly Wage


The average hourly wage for a veterinarian is $48.81. Hourly wages are between $25.95 and $76.60 an hour.

Stats were based out of 69,370 employed veterinarians in the United States.

Highest Paying States For Veterinarians

Top Paying Cities For Veterinarians

Data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Veterinarian Career Outlook

The projected job growth for veterinarians from 2012 to 2022, is 12% above other professions.

Veterinarian Degree

A doctorate degree and license is required to practice veterinarian medicine. Below is a list of steps that veterinarians typically take to obtain their training and credentials.

Step 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree program. Aspiring veterinarians 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 veterinarians are to become certified in a specialty, join professional associations, and complete internship programs to obtain more practical experiences before applying for a full-time position.

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