Veterinarians work to both prevent and treat injuries and illnesses in animals. Some vets specialize in a particular area of veterinary medicine, such as emergency care. Others specialize in a particular species or group of animals, such as farm animals, dogs, or horses. Some of the most common duties of a working veterinarian include assessing and diagnosing patients, prescribing treatment and/or medication, performing surgeries, giving vaccinations, and providing animal care recommendations to people. Some vets also conduct research within biomedical or veterinary science.
Are you thinking of a career in veterinary medicine? Many vets are required to work long and/or unpredictable hours. Like doctors, vets may have scheduled on-call hours, during which they need to be available in case of an emergency.
Careers in Veterinary Medicine
In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that vets make a median salary of $88,490 per year. Becoming a vet takes years of study, including a doctorate degree in veterinary medicine. In order to practice, prospective vets must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. In addition, they may face additional requirements depending on the state they would like to practice in. Finally, employers of veterinarians may identify specific experience requirements.
Vets need to hone and develop certain skills. These include the ability to quickly assess and tackle problems, critical thinking and decision-making skills, and the ability to communicate both verbally and non-verbally. Most veterinarians are required to use scientific equipment and software, as well as medical tools, technology and equipment such as surgical tools, lab equipment, and x-ray machines.
Prospective veterinarians must complete a bachelor’s degree program in a related field before applying to vet college. Many students choose to major in biological or biomedical sciences, though veterinary colleges don’t usually specify a major. Science courses are usually preferred, though, and some schools may indicate requirements for courses such as animal behavior, biochemistry, zoology, or mammology. Before applying to vet college, it’s a good idea to get experience in the field by volunteering, participating in an internship, or joining a pre-professional club. In addition, you may need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and submit your scores in order to apply for vet college.
Once accepted into a doctorate program in veterinary medicine at an accredited college, you will spend the first one or two years of your studies developing a foundation of knowledge of subjects such as virology, physiology, nutrition, and animal anatomy. In third and fourth year, students are usually given the opportunity to apply their knowledge through practice scenarios with living animals as well as through practicums and/or internships.
Veterinary technicians provide assistance to veterinarians in much the same way that nurses provide assistance to doctors. This includes conducting examinations, providing healthcare, and assisting in the diagnosis of illnesses. Vet technicians may choose to complete a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree program in veterinary technology. Following their education, most vet techs need to pass a competency exam with oral, written, and demonstrative sections in order to acquire a license to practice.