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About Veterinarian Jobs

In the case of veterinarian jobs, the outlook predicts a rapid growth of up to 18% over the next 10 years. It’s no wonder animal lovers are considering it as a future career choice. This job requires a strong love for animals and a desire to care for them by helping their owners make the right choices for their pets. But the job opportunities for veterinarians don’t end there. With a wide variety of options—including working with wild animals, shelter pets, farm animals, and much more—there are plenty of opportunities for growth.

There are many new veterinary careers becoming available as more veterinary offices open. This is no surprise considering the growing number of health-conscious pet owners looking for professional guidance and treatment for their much-loved pets.

As a veterinarian, you’ll be the go-to person for zoos, pet owners, animal shelters, farmers, and other individuals seeking assistance for everything from proper care to a variety of treatments for different animals. This is a dynamic and rewarding career choice with many new opportunities to help animals. With a pay averaging just over $45 an hour, it’s a financially rewarding career path as well.

The job of a veterinarian is to care for the health of a variety of animals, from traditional house pets to exotic animals, farm animals, zoo animals, and many more. They work not only to heal and protect animals but also to protect public health overall.

A veterinarian diagnoses, treats, and continuously researches a variety of medical conditions and diseases in a wide array of pets, livestock, exotic animals, and other animals. The most crucial part of becoming a veterinarian is a strong love for animals and a desire to help and treat them.

Veterinarian Job Description 

The duties of a veterinarian go beyond just loving animals. This career path requires a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, and you must be licensed to work in the US. Just like doctors, they’re responsible for the lives of their patients and must continue their education to regularly keep up with the dynamic veterinary advances to aid their patients.

Choosing a career as a veterinarian, you must not only be able to work with animals but their owners as well. Excellent communication and even a pinch of psychology may be necessary for the ongoing treatment of animals.

Veterinary Job Duties

Veterinarians do a lot more than just treating animals. Their tasks are similar to what doctors and physicians do for humans, but on a broader scale, as they must specialize in many aspects of animal diagnosis and treatment. Below are only a fraction of the many duties a veterinarian has:

  • Examining animals to assess their overall health and diagnosing and detecting the nature of their injury or disease
  • Treating injured or sick animals via medicine prescriptions, setting bones, dressing wounds, or performing minor and major surgeries
  • Testing animals for potential diseases and inoculating them against distemper, rabies, and other diseases potentially dangerous to both humans and animals
  • Vet jobs require the use of a variety of tools to collect blood, body tissues, urine, feces, and other fluids for analysis and testing
  • Operating different types of equipment for diagnostics such as ultrasound machines and radiographs and being able to read and interpret the images
  • Providing animal owners with expert and professional advice about general health, sanitary care, feeding, and much more to promote overall pet health
  • Educating the general public about animal care in addition to the diseases that could potentially be spread from animals to humans
  • The veterinarian job duties also include supervising and training new veterinarians in equipment use, animal handling, and care
  • Providing healthcare and treatment to a wide variety of animals or specializing in a specific species such as exotic birds, horses, etc. 
  • Euthanizing animals when needed and providing the necessary support and information to pet owners if applicable
  • Establishing the necessity of quarantine and testing animals for the prevention of diseases that could spread to humans and other animals based on the applicable government regulations
  • A veterinarian job also requires conducting analyses and studies on animals postmortem to determine the cause of death
  • Continuing education to specialize in a particular treatment type such as nutrition, pathology, surgery, dentistry, internal medicine, or microbiology
  • Determining the effects of a variety of treatments, including therapy, antibiotics, medication, and other treatment techniques through testing
  • Prescribing medication and other treatments based on an animal’s diagnosis

Although there are veterinary technicians and assistants for many of the duties listed above, a veterinarian must be able to conduct several additional tasks when necessary. The vet job description may require them to take on new patients, organize appointments, make diagnoses, run tests, read them, determine treatment for the animal, and do follow-ups to test the results from the treatments. 

Additional potential duties involve offering consultations for animal owners and the community. Veterinarians often have to deliver devastating news about animals, and they must do so with sympathy and sensitivity. Empathy and strong communication skills are essential parts of being a veterinarian.

Types of Veterinarian Jobs

There are a variety of jobs for veterinarians as they can continue to specialize in particular treatments or animal types. Below are just a few of the most popular ones:

Companion Animal Veterinarians

These types of veterinarians are the most common. They’re the ones treating pets in animal hospitals and private clinics. Although many specialize in more exotic pets, most treat dogs and cats. The other pets they generally treat are rabbits, ferrets, small rodents, and a variety of birds. 

These types of veterinarians’ jobs require the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of health problems for these animals, consultation services to owners about preventive healthcare, and any necessary surgical and medical procedures. These procedures may include but are not limited to setting fractures, providing dental work, delivering vaccinations, and performing procedures to neuter pets.

Food Animal Veterinarians

These vets focus their work on farm animals such as sheep, pigs, cattle, and chickens raised for food. Their job requires them to visit ranches and farms to diagnose, treat, and follow up on injured and ill animals. This veterinarian career path also requires that they perform the necessary testing and vaccinations to prevent diseases from spreading, while also advising owners and caretakers about general health practices and the feeding, housing, and care of these animals. 

Food Safety and Inspection Veterinarians

Veterinarians specializing in food safety and inspection inspect and run tests on livestock and products from animals for a variety of major diseases. They’re also responsible for providing vaccines, working toward enhancing animal welfare, enforcing government food-safety regulations, and doing continuous research on the improvement of animal health. These types of veterinary jobs also include designing and administering public and animal health programs for the prevention and control of diseases that can be transmitted between different animals and from animals to people.

Research Veterinarians

Research veterinarians concentrate their work in laboratories to conduct research on health problems concerning humans and animals. This may include but is not limited to testing therapies and medication on animals to identify their effects, the medical testing of new techniques, and conducting research to prevent, eliminate, or control a variety of food and animal-borne diseases and illnesses. 

In addition to the above types of veterinary career options for growth, there are many more ways a veterinarian can specialize based on additional education and certifications. 

The Work Environment for Veterinarians

As per the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2018, approximately 84,500 jobs were held by veterinarians. About 78% of them worked in veterinary services, and 14% were self-employed. Only around 1% worked for social advocacy organizations and private, local, and state educational services. 

For the most part, veterinarians generally work in vet clinics and hospitals, whether their own or for somebody else. Different types of veterinarian jobs, such as research veterinarians, work in laboratory-like settings. Many veterinarians work on-site exclusively in farms or zoos, while others have taken their knowledge and experience to the classroom. 

There’s a lot of variety, and frequently they may find themselves traveling between their veterinary clinic or hospital to a farm. This is especially the case with food or horse veterinarians. This may require them to work in remote areas and in different weather conditions. 

Those who’ve chosen to work as food safety inspectors regularly have to travel to food-processing plants, slaughterhouses, and farms to inspect the health of the animals and the animal products. This type of vet job ensures that the inspected facility follows all the necessary safety protocols and, thus, requires excellent attention to detail.

The job of a veterinarian can be both gratifying, as well as very emotionally stressful. Many veterinarians care for abused animals, they often have to offer support and consultations to anxious or grieving pet owners, and they inevitably will have to euthanize very ill or dangerous animals. For the types of veterinarians who travel to ranches, processing facilities, and slaughterhouses or those who treat wild animals in zoos, the job can be physically demanding and emotionally draining. 

Injuries and Illnesses in Veterinarian Jobs

Working with animals is unpredictable, as in many cases, these creatures are frightened or in pain. This means veterinarians expose themselves to the risk of being bitten, scratched, stomped on, or kicked. Also, as they work with diseased animals, meaning they run the risk of being infected by the disease they’re treating. 

Other potential risks include exposure to X-rays and chemicals, as well as certain ergonomic hazards. The possible chemicals that veterinarians may be exposed to include, but are not limited to, agricultural dust, surgical smoke, insecticides, disinfectants, hazardous drugs, and anesthetic gasses. As per a 2012 study by the Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences, approximately 37% of veterinarians were accidentally exposed to X-rays. Wildlife veterinarian jobs have their own risks as well, both physical and emotional.

Veterinarian Work Schedules

Most veterinarians who work in clinics or animal hospitals have regular full-time work schedules. However, depending on emergencies and whether their clinic or hospital offers 24-hour services, they may work well over the regular 40 hours or standard 9–5 work times. 

Also, since many veterinarians work on-call, they may be called in for animal emergencies at any time, day or night. Veterinary industry jobs may also require work over the weekends and even holidays to accommodate working pet owners or respond to emergency situations. 

How to Become a Veterinarian

To become a veterinarian, a high level of dedication to studies and a love for animals is required. If someone wants to become a veterinarian, they must first study at an accredited veterinary college and get a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Then, based on their location, they must pass a state examination to receive their state license before they can practice.

The Right Qualities to Become a Veterinarian

Before looking through schools and veterinary job postings it’s crucial to determine if you possess the necessary attributes for a veterinarian. There’s a lot more to it than just a love for animals. 

Physical Traits

Veterinarians must be in good health and have plenty of energy and stamina. This is necessary both for the training they will go through as well as the work they will do once they’re licensed. A veterinarian will need to be healthy both physically and emotionally, as well as very courageous because the job entails working with animals that wouldn’t think twice to bite, scratch, or kick when scared or in pain. Every veterinary job requires a lot of work on your feet and enough physical strength to work with large animals. For surgeries, a veterinarian needs a steady hand and a strong back. 

Academic Traits

Loving animals is one thing, but learning about the in-depth biology of them is a whole different ball game. Future veterinarians must have an understanding of science and biology, combined with a pinch of psychology. Veterinary school admission is very competitive, and prerequisites in physics, organic chemistry, biology, and math are a must.

Work Ethic

To succeed, future veterinarians must have a strong work ethic. This is demanded throughout their education, as well as once they’re on the job. It may not be specifically mentioned in the zoo veterinarian job description, but veterinarians are on call at all times in case of emergency, and not only at zoos. Just like doctors, they’re a lifeline for their patients, and they must act fast in emergencies and be ready to treat them any time they need them. 

Management Traits

Although most veterinarians have secretaries and assistants that focus on organization and appointments, veterinarians must also be able to stay organized on their own. This is not only required to maintain their business if they have a private practice, but it’s also necessary when it comes to making decisions on diagnoses and treatments. They must have leadership abilities to organize those assisting them and cooperative skills to communicate with laboratories. And when entry level veterinary jobs are filled, they must also become teachers and train the newcomers. 

Personality Traits

Veterinarians must be able to understand both animals and the people around them to better help them and find solutions. They must be compassionate and exhibit kindness to both the animal that’s suffering and its owner. Having excellent communication skills and the ability to build strong relationships is crucial to becoming a veterinarian because often it will be necessary to consult owners on difficult decisions such as euthanasia or operations. 

Decision-Making Skills

The veterinarian job responsibilities include making difficult decisions, from choosing the right treatment for a particular illness or injury to how to consult pet owners regarding the options available in more complex situations.

As is clear from above, loving animals is just a small part of the needed traits for a veterinarian as the job entails a lot more. In addition to what veterinarians learn in school, they must continue their education throughout their career to stay informed and educated on the latest treatment technologies and advances, so determination is a crucial trait as well.

Education

Further veterinarian job requirements include completion of a DVM or VMD, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, which takes approximately four years. The program consists of clinical, laboratory, and classroom components and must be done through an accredited veterinary college. 

As getting admitted to a veterinary program can be very competitive, it’s best to consider all your prerequisite classes, experience, and requirements to increase the chances of admission. Most veterinary school applicants already have a bachelor’s degree at the time of application. 

Although different veterinary medical colleges have different application requirements, most look for applicants that have taken several science classes, which should include animal science, chemistry, and biology. Further veterinarian career information reveals that additional required courses may include classes in the social sciences, humanities, and math.

In addition to education, many colleges that specialize in veterinary studies prefer candidates with experience with animals. This can include working with veterinarians in clinics, aiding in animal shelters, or working in stables or farms.

If accepted into a veterinary medicine program, a student will take courses on the physiology and anatomy of animals as well as the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases. Most veterinary programs will include three years of clinical, laboratory, and classroom work. Veterinary job info further reveals that the last year of the four-year veterinary program is usually rotations in veterinary hospitals or medical centers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Regulations

For a veterinarian who has completed their education to practice, they must be licensed to work in the United States. Every state has its own licensing requirements and procedures, but all veterinarians in all states have to complete their accredited veterinary education and back it by passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination.

Once they’ve passed the national examination, the majority of states in the US require that they also pass a state licensing exam before they can start looking for entry level vet jobs. The only veterinarians who are exempt from state licensing are those working for the federal or state government as they have different requirements. 

The state exams cover the laws and regulations for that particular state. There are a few states that do accept licenses from different states, but generally, if a veterinarian moves, they must take the exam for the particular state they’re relocating to. 

Foreign veterinary graduates may fulfill their educational prerequisites to get licensed through the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG) certification program by The American Veterinary Medical Association

Advancement as a Veterinarian

There are many veterinarian job growth opportunities once licensed. A veterinarian can further specialize based on additional experience, education, and examinations. From a general practitioner working with pets, they may focus more on a particular species or exotic animals. Here are some common species-specific examples:

  • Exotic companion mammals
  • Reptiles
  • Equine
  • Beef cattle
  • Dairy cattle
  • Swine
  • Poultry
  • Food animals
  • Canines
  • Felines
  • Wild animals (zoological medicine)
  • Lab animals
  • Shelter animals

Another route to go would be specializing in a particular type of disease, illness, or treatment such as the following:

  • Anesthesiology
  • Behavior
  • Emergency and critical care
  • Dentistry
  • Dermatology
  • Epidemiology
  • Internal medicine
  • Oncology
  • Neurology
  • Large or small animal internal medicine
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition
  • Ophthalmology
  • Pathology
  • Preventive medicine
  • Reproductive medicine
  • Surgery
  • Toxicology

As you can see, the veterinarian career outlook is comprehensive and offers many growth opportunities. Furthermore, veterinarians can also either purchase a private practice or start their own. The growth opportunities are endless. However, most require additional education, licensing, and time.

Veterinarian Pay

As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage that veterinarians made annually as of May 2018 was $93,830. This is approximately what the average pay an experienced veterinarian could make annually. Most entry jobs and the lowest-paid veterinarians in the lowest 10% made less than $56,540 annually, while the veterinarian job salary for the top 10% was above $162,450 annually.

Businesses offering veterinary services paid most in 2018 at $94,130 annually. The other industry that had the highest-paying median wages for veterinarians was social advocacy organizations at $93,900. Working for the government as a veterinarian came in third at $90,000, while working in the education sector as a veterinarian only paid $80,410 in median annual wages.

In general, veterinarians with their own private practice are among the highest-paid 10%. However, this comes with its own drawbacks, including incurred debts and other expenses. It also requires a lot more organization and more working hours. 

Veterinarian Job Outlook

The demand for veterinarians will continue to grow dramatically faster than most other occupations. As more consumers spend more on their pets, more veterinarians will be needed, especially as veterinary care for domestic animals is the leader in the industry. Currently, projections covering the employment and demand for veterinarians from 2018 to 2028 is expected to grow by 18%. 

Over the years, there’ve been considerable advancements in veterinary medicine. Today, veterinarians can offer a variety of advanced services that can easily be compared to the healthcare provided for humans. Animals can get complicated procedures that weren’t available just years ago, such as kidney transplants and even cancer treatment. 

This opens up additional jobs for vets as more people realize that they don’t have to say goodbye to their favorite pet due to a disease or illness that had no available treatment in the past. With pets being an integral part of the family, pet owners are frequently willing to agree to any necessary procedures and treatments to save them. 

Job Prospects

New veterinarians can easily find the highest paying veterinary jobs through additional experience, education, and licensing to narrow their specialty and advance into higher-paying brackets and job opportunities

As per the BLS, prospects for a just-licensed veterinarian are excellent due to the continuous growth in demand for veterinarians and their employment. Of course, as an entry-level veterinarian, there may be many job opportunities, though they might not be in the location you desire or the prestigious clinic or hospital of your choice. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What jobs are in the veterinary field?

This list really is quite long, especially when it comes to further specializations in the veterinary field. Some common examples are vet technician, veterinary assistant, specialized species veterinarian, nutritionist, anesthetist, and many more.

Is a vet a good job to have?

A recent poll revealed that veterinarians are very satisfied with their job, with 75% sharing that they are happy with their career choice. With the job outlook and overall continuous growth, it seems working with animals is very rewarding.

What is the highest paying vet job?

Commercial vets have the highest annual salary of up to $160,000 a year. Veterinarians making this kind of salary are specialized and work in for-profit practices. 

Is it worth it to be a vet?

This depends on you entirely and your outlook on life in general. As noted above, with the proper determination, motivation, and hard work, a veterinarian has excellent prospects for a high-paying salary. This, combined with the further reward of helping animals, makes it worth it for many practicing veterinarians. 

Do you have to be good at math to be a vet?

To be a veterinarian, you have to have skills in mathematics to get through veterinary school. The classes veterinarians are expected to take include statistics, calculus, and algebra. Math will also be necessary on the job as you’ll be required to determine doses according to animal weight and make other vital calculations that impact animal health. 

Are veterinarian jobs in demand?

Yes, very much so, and they will continue to be as more job opportunities continue to become available. More people are becoming aware of the advancement of veterinary medicine and the impact this will have on their animal’s welfare. 

Do you need a PhD to be a vet?

To become a veterinarian, you can either pursue a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM), also known as a PhD, or you can pursue a doctorate degree independently from the DVM if your program and school allow it.

A veterinary career is very gratifying, both financially and emotionally, but it requires a lot of studying and work to achieve. It’s a career path that’s high in demand and will continue to be in the future as more people understand the importance of turning to their veterinarian for the health of their pets. 

There are many growth opportunities when it comes to veterinarian jobs with a variety of options for specialization and advancement. Whether you’re already a veterinarian or are looking to start your veterinary studies, you’ve made the right choice. It’s a rewarding and enjoyable career that has a lot of potential.