If you have
great people skills, in addition to a love for all creatures great
and small, the field of veterinary medicine could be calling your
name. And now’s a great time to start. Most vets work in small,
private practices that specialize in family pets or farm animals or
both. Others work in disease and pharmaceutical research. And there
are government jobs overseeing food-production safety — like the
raising and processing of livestock for human consumption — or
educating the public about health concerns, such as salmonella in
chicken. Some vets even work in large corporations doing product
development on pet foods, medications or surgical instruments for
The first step
toward a veterinary career is deciding that veterinary medicine is
the right path for you. Some come to that decision at a young age,
the first time they take a family pet to a veterinarian or a
veterinarian visits their family farm. Some decide to become a
veterinarian after reading about the achievements of prominent
veterinarians. For others, the decision comes later in life,
sometimes as a second career.
On a typical day
most Veterinarians diagnose and treat ailments, and advise owners on
proper care for the pets. Companion-animal veterinarians (who care
for family pets) are often on call for nighttime emergencies. Most
veterinarians work 50 or more hours a week; however, about a fifth
work 40 hours a week. Although those in private practice may work
nights and weekends, the increased number of emergency clinics has
reduced the amount of time private practitioners must be on call.
Large animal practitioners tend to work more irregular hours than do
those in small animal practice, industry, or government.
Veterinarians who are just starting a practice tend to work longer
get into veterinary school is steep. The field is small and there are
not many schools. You’ve got to have a lot of determination to make
it through school and also handle the tuition debt. And remember
that, at its core, veterinary medicine is a science. You need to love
biology and chemistry as much as you do horses, birds, pigs and dogs.
(companion animals, large livestock): $51K – $64K. But owners can
earn double or triple this amount and specialists can make even more.
Research (universities): $64K. Tenured professors can make three
figures. Government (food inspection, public-health education): $60K
Corporate (product development): $94K
The pluses and
minuses of a veterinary career vary. They depend on the stage of a
veterinarian’s career, the type of practice, and the veterinarian’s
likes and dislikes. The primary reward for all veterinarians is the
personal satisfaction in knowing that they are improving the quality
of life for animals and people.
veterinarians work in private clinical practice, which has its own
set of advantages and disadvantages. Veterinarians in private
clinical practice gain satisfaction from helping owners keep their
animals well and from treating sick and injured animals.
Veterinarians in private practice serve a variety of animals. This is
especially true in companion animal practice because of the increased
popularity of pet birds, small mammals (hamsters & gerbils), and
fish. Today, a veterinarian may be treating llamas, catfish, or
ostriches as well as cats, dogs, horses, cows, hogs, sheep, and
goats. Veterinarians usually treat companion and food animals in
hospitals and clinics. Those in large animal practice also work out
of well-equipped trucks or cars, and may drive considerable distances
to farms and ranches. They may work outdoors in all kinds of weather.
never too late to make the choice, it’s never too early to begin to
prepare for this challenging career. To help you make a career
decision, you should know what a veterinarian does and what personal
attributes a good veterinarian needs.