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Veterinarian Career Profile

Do you want to work as a veterinarian?

READ: This page helps you to read about the career and the info you need to decide on whether this is indeed the career you want to follow.

RESEARCH: ​Learn about the skills required and minimum subjects to enter this career, as well as the places where you can study further after school.

PREPARE: If you want to plan and prepare for your career, then join the OZT Community! Members have access to tools while chatting with other students and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!

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UPDATED:

31 May 2024

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What is a Veterinarian?

A veterinarian is a medical professional who specialises in the diagnosis, treatment, and care of animals. Veterinarians work with a variety of animals, including pets, livestock, wildlife, and zoo animals. Their duties can vary widely depending on their specialisation and work setting.

Alternative Names

A Veterinarian may also be known as:

  • Veterinary Scientist
  • Animal Doctors
  • Animal Health Practitioners

Differences in general Veterinary profiles:

In some countries, there is almost no distinction between a veterinary technologist, a veterinary technician, and sometimes even a veterinary nurse. Due to the different definitions and overlapping functions, here’s a comparison of the careers of veterinarian, veterinary technologist, veterinary technician, veterinary nurse, and veterinary assistant. It also gives you an idea of what to study for, especially regarding the level and length of study.

NB! Find out which profiles are actually found in your country, before starting your education!

Career Profile Comparison

1. Veterinarian

Description:

Veterinarians are medical professionals who diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries in animals. They may work with a variety of animals, including pets, livestock, and wildlife. Their duties include performing surgeries, prescribing medications, conducting routine check-ups, and advising pet owners on proper animal care.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from an accredited veterinary college.
  • Licencing: Must pass the North American Veterinary Licencing Examination (NAVLE) and obtain a state licence to practice.

2. Veterinary Technologist

Description:

Veterinary Technologists perform medical tests under the supervision of a licenced veterinarian to help diagnose the illnesses and injuries of animals. They often work in laboratories or research facilities, and their tasks may include conducting tests, preparing vaccines, and managing anaesthesia during surgeries.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: Bachelor’s degree in Veterinary Technology from an accredited programme.
  • Certification: Optional certification from the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB) as a Registered Veterinary Technologist (RVT).

3. Veterinary Technician

Description:

Veterinary Technicians assist veterinarians in clinical settings by performing a variety of tasks, such as taking medical histories, collecting samples, conducting lab tests, and administering medications. They are essential in both routine care and emergency situations.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: Associate degree in Veterinary Technology from an accredited programme.
  • Certification: Must pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) and obtain state-specific certification or licencing.

4. Veterinary Nurse

Description:

Veterinary Nurses provide nursing care to animals under the direction of a veterinarian. They are responsible for tasks such as monitoring vital signs, providing pre- and post-operative care, administering anaesthesia, and educating pet owners on animal care.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: Varies by region, but generally a diploma or degree in Veterinary Nursing.
  • Certification: Often required to pass an examination such as the VTNE or a region-specific certification exam.

5. Veterinary Assistant

Description:

Veterinary Assistants support veterinarians and veterinary technicians by performing basic care and administrative duties. Their responsibilities include feeding and bathing animals, cleaning cages, sterilising equipment, and assisting with handling animals during examinations.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • Education: High school diploma or equivalent. Some veterinary assistant programmes offer certificates or diplomas.
  • Certification: Certification is optional but can enhance job prospects. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) offers an Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation.

Kinds of Veterinarians

This profile looks more into the general veterinary career, where you will work mostly with some form of domesticated animal. Veterinarians who specialise in working with wildlife, zoo animals, or water-based animals are discussed separately, as they do have slightly different educational requirements.

Click on any of the links to visit their Pages:

Career Categories

The Veterinarian career can be found within the following OZT career categories:

  • Health
  • Business
  • Farming & Livestock Management

Years of study?

Veterinarians study at least 8 years before being able to work with animals

Market value?

The global veterinary medicine market size was estimated at USD 28.1 billion

What does a Veterinarian do?

Groups of animals a general Veterinarian works with

Cats List Icon
Cats
Dogs List Icon OZT
Dogs
Critters List Icon OZT
Critters
Farm Animals Icon OZT
Farm Animals
Mammals List Icon OZT
Mammals
Birds List Icon OZT
Birds
Fish List Icon OZT
Fish
Reptiles List Icon OZT
Reptiles
Amphibians List Icon OZT
Amphibians

A general veterinarian typically works with a variety of animals, primarily focusing on:

Companion Animals: These are pets that live with humans, including:

  • Dogs
  • Cats
  • Rabbits
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hamsters
  • Birds (such as parrots, canaries, and budgies)
  • Reptiles (such as turtles, snakes, and lizards)
  • Amphibians
  • Aquarium fish

Livestock: These are farm animals raised for food, fibre, and other products, including:

  • Cattle (both dairy and beef)
  • Pigs
  • Sheep
  • Goats
  • Chickens and other poultry
  • Horses, ponies, donkeys, and other equids.

Wildlife: Occasionally, general veterinarians may assist with wildlife, especially if they work in a rural or remote area, or in a veterinary practice that provides services for wildlife rehabilitation.

Exotic Pets: Some general veterinarians also see exotic pets, which can include:

  • Ferrets
  • Hedgehogs
  • Sugar Gliders

While general veterinarians have a broad scope of practice, they might refer more complex or specialised cases to veterinarians with advanced training or board certification in specific areas such as surgery, dermatology, internal medicine, or a specific species group.

What is the level of Interaction with the Animals?

With who does a Veterinarian work?

Besides working with all of the animals, Veterinarians will need to interact with other people while doing their daily tasks. The people might include fellow staff members or the public.

Fellow staff might include:

  • Supervisors/Managers if working in a large institution
  • Operational staff, such as Human Resources, Finance and Maintenance
  • Veterinary staff, such as assistants, nurses and technicians

What does a Veterinarian focus on?

They treat sick animals, but also do research to control animal diseases. They also advise owners on proper care of their pets and other animals. The veterinary profession is extremely competitive, but one of the most rewarding careers for those passionate about medicine and animals. If you’ve made up your mind to become a veterinarian, scour your community for opportunities to display your passion. Proving your commitment on paper isn’t easy, but having the right experience on a resume goes a long way towards demonstrating your drive and initiative as you begin moving towards your dream of becoming a veterinarian.

Different fields to specialize in:

There are different fields or specialities that general veterinarians can pursue. As a Vet you might decide to focus (or specialize) in fields such as:

  • Anesthesia – Management of pain associated with veterinary procedures
  • Animal Welfare – Education, certification, and scientific investigation
  • Behaviour – Study of behaviour in both healthy and sick animals
  • Dentistry – Animals’ teeth
  • Dermatology – Diseases and conditions of animals’ skin
  • Emergency and Critical Care – ‘ER’ and intensive care
  • Internal Medicine – Specialties including cardiology (heart and circulatory system), neurology (brain, spinal cord, and nervous system), and oncology (tumours and cancer)
  • Laboratory Animal Medicine – Research or practice specializing in laboratory animal species (rabbits, rats, mice, etc.)
  • Microbiology – Study of viruses and bacteria
  • Nutrition – Animal diets and required nutrients
  • Ophthalmology – Diseases and conditions of the eye
  • Pathology – Examination of organs, tissues, and body fluids to diagnose disease
  • Pharmacology – Study of effects of drugs on animals
  • Preventative Medicine – Study of how diseases are spread and how they can be prevented
  • Radiology – X-ray, ultrasound, CAT scan, MRI, and other imaging procedures to see ‘inside’ an animal’s body
  • Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation – Returning animals to normal function after injury, illness, or surgery
  • Surgery – Specialization in performing surgeries: orthopedics (bones, joints, ligaments of the body’s skeletal system); soft tissue surgery (internal organs, non-bone tissues)
  • Theriogenology – Animal reproduction
  • Toxicology – Study of the effects of toxins/poisons and how to treat animals affected by them
  • Zoological Medicine – Zoo animals, free-living wildlife, aquatic species, and companion zoological animals

Some of these fields or specialized careers are included in OZT. Have a look at the Animal Health Category to find the ones you are interested in. If it is not added yet, let us know!

What are the daily tasks of a Veterinarian?

These are some of the basic daily tasks of veterinarians. The different kinds of veterinarians will perform different tasks, such as:

  • Diagnoses animal health problems
  • Vaccinates against diseases, such as rabies
  • Medicates animals suffering from infections or illnesses
  • Treats and dresses wounds
  • Sets fractures
  • Performs minor to complex surgery, depending on training
  • Advises owners about animal feeding, behavior and breeding
  • Euthanizes animals when necessary
  • Provides preventive care to maintain the health of livestock
  • Performs diagnostic tests such as X-ray, EKG, ultrasound, blood, urine, and faeces

Working conditions of a Veterinarian?

Where does a Veterinarian work?

Environment –

Veterinarians work mainly indoors, within a clinic, but can be called out to farms, ranches or wildlife sanctuaries to perform procedures.

Places of Employment –

Most veterinarians work in their own private practice, called clinics. Vets may be employed or contracted by hospitals, government agencies, educational institutions, wildlife management groups, zoos, aquariums, ranches, farming-related businesses, or pharmaceutical companies.

What is the average annual salary of a Veterinarian?

The average yearly income for general veterinarians in the US is US$75,000. The salary in other countries will differ.

Specific Countries:

South Africa: Annual salary of R470,000
Australia: Annual salary of AU$65,000
UK: Annual salary of £30,000

Can a Veterinarian be promoted?

Generally most veterinarians have their own practice, so their isn’t much promotion required. But for those working within an institution, promotion will be linked to experience.

The levels of each promotion might differ from organization to organization, but generally are the following:

Junior Veterinarian -> Senior Veterinarian -> Manager or Head of Department

What kind of difficulties can a Veterinarian face?

Being a Veterinarian does have some difficult moments, and it’s good to know these things before you truly make a decision to pursue this career:

  • Most veterinarians are on call around the clock since emergencies can occur at any time. Schedules may include evenings, weekends, and holidays.
  • Dealing with sick animals and their distraught owners can be very stressful.
  • Vets may in certain circumstances need to put an animal to sleep, called euthanasia.
  • Sick or frightened animals may bite, kick, or otherwise injure those who are treating them.

​Future growth and Possibilities

Employment of veterinarians is projected to grow by 9% annually, one of the highest for an occupation, mainly due to the growth in wildlife veterinary sciences. Globally 5 out of every 6 Veterinarians work in their own practices. The rest are employed in government, universities and laboratories. Close to 65% of Vets are male.

Availability of Jobs

Good

Which Skills are required by a Veterinarian?

The skills required for a career as a veterinarian can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.

Life Skills

  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Decision making
  • Problem Solving
  • Effective communication
  • Interpersonal relationship
Life Skills
40%

Career Skills

  • ​handling animals
  • animal care
  • good customer service skills
  • good coordination to handle instruments
  • excellent physical health
  • computer literacy
  • basic business knowledge
Career Skills
60%

Which Subjects must I have at School to help prepare for this career?

The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.

OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!

What will I need to Study to become a Veterinarian?

Minimum Requirements

To become a Vet you will need to study towards a Doctorate Degree in Veterinary Sciences, starting out with a Bachelor’s in Veterinary Science (BVSc).

Study Focus

Major –

Majors that can be taken include biology, chemistry, biochemistry, maths.

Most veterinarians focus on working with small domesticated animals and will direct their studies accordingly. Those that want to work with exotic animal, birds, wildlife or even zoo animals, tend to specialize their studies in these directions by adding a year or two to their studies.

Short Courses –

There are plenty of short courses that you may even complete while still in school. Focus on those that teach on animal first aid, animal behaviour, animal care and business.

Study Duration

The duration of a Bachelor’s Degrees can be up to 4 years, and another 3 to 4 years for a Doctorate. Short Courses are usually between a few weeks and a year.

FREE Career Path Plan

If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.

Why is planning important?

​To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A preparation path is like a road map to where you want to be.

Possible Paths:

A high school student who wants to pursue a career as a veterinarian can follow a detailed career preparation path based on the points provided:

Attend Career Guidance Sessions:

Participate in career fairs and guidance counselling sessions to understand the role of a veterinarian and the different specialisations available.

Research All of the Possible Careers:

Investigate various veterinary career options, including small animal practice, large animal practice, wildlife conservation, research, and public health.

Explore Educational Paths:

Research veterinary schools and the prerequisites required for admission.
Understand the different degrees and certifications needed to become a licenced veterinarian.

Align High School Subjects with the Educational Path:

Focus on science courses such as biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics.
Take advanced placement (AP) or honours courses, if available.

Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent:

Ensure you complete high school with good grades, particularly in science subjects, to be competitive for college admissions.

Learn About Animals That You Will Work With:

Gain knowledge about different animal species through reading, documentaries, and hands-on experience.
Volunteer at local animal shelters, farms, or veterinary clinics.

Align Post-School Path with Either Entering a Career/Job Directly, Studying Further, or Starting a Business:

Plan to attend a college or university that offers pre-veterinary programmes or strong science majors.
Consider whether to pursue further education immediately or gain experience first.

Gain Experience Through Volunteering, Internship, Mentorship, etc.:

Seek volunteer opportunities at animal shelters, zoos, wildlife rehabilitation centres, or veterinary clinics.
Apply for internships or summer programmes related to veterinary science.

Pursue Extracurricular Activities:

Join clubs related to science, animals, or agriculture (e.g., 4-H, FFA).
Participate in sports, leadership programmes, and other extracurricular activities to develop a well-rounded profile.

Join Professional Associations:

Become a student member of associations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) or state veterinary associations. Attend conferences, seminars, and workshops to network and learn from professionals in the field.

Gain Specialised Skills:

Develop skills in animal handling, first aid, and basic veterinary procedures through hands-on experience and training.
Consider taking courses or certifications in animal care, CPR for animals, or wildlife management.
Network with Professionals:

Build relationships with veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and professors.
Seek mentorship from experienced professionals who can provide guidance and support.
Enter the Job Market, Finish Tertiary Studies, or Launch a Business:

Complete a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field (e.g., Animal Science, Biology) and then pursue a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree.
Consider internships or residencies to gain specialized experience.
After completing your DVM, decide whether to enter private practice, work in a specialized field, or start your own veterinary business.
Stay Updated and Pursue Continuing Education:

Continuously update your knowledge through continuing education courses, seminars, and professional development opportunities.
Stay informed about advancements in veterinary medicine, technology, and best practices.
By following these steps, a high school student can strategically prepare for a successful career as a veterinarian, ensuring they gain the necessary education, experience, and skills to thrive in this field.

Possible Combined Career Paths

It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.

Possible Alternatives (there are a lot more):

Training and apprenticeship

Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal careers, most of the skills you will need as a veterinarian will be acquired through practice. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.

Apprenticeship is also possible where you need to learn skills from a more senior veterinarian.

Join the Veterinarians Group in the OZT Community to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!

Average level of education of all the people who enter the career:

High School Certificate 0%
Diploma or Short Courses 0%
Degree or Higher Studies 0%

Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations

Certain animal careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.

Veterinarians are required by law in all countries to be fully certified before they are allowed to work with animals.

Learn more about specific requirements by joining the OZT Community.

Where can I study further?

All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.

See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards veterinary studies.

How do I start to prepare for this Career?

If you do decide on following this career, then OZT can assist you in figuring out a path to prepare, as well as help you to gain further knowledge about the career and the animals you will be working with. We do this by offering you FREE career development tools. There are almost a dozen free tools, but these are the three primary ones:

CAREER PATH PLAN

Use the career path plan above on this profile as an example to follow, or to work out your own path.

COST; Free

ACCESS: Open to visitors and Members 

SHORT COURSES

Access easy-to-use short courses to make your career preparation easier! The basic information in each course is free, but the rewards can only be unlocked as an OZT member!

COST; Free

ACCESS: Open to visitors and Members 

STUDY GUIDE

Get a supercharged study guide that fits into the career path plan! Now that's really upping your preparation game! Join us for free to gain access!

COST; Free

ACCESS: Members Only

But, if you are still uncertain about choosing this specific career, and even where to start, then have a look at our special series of WHAT NEXT courses (link below). They take you through all of the questions you might have on how to choose the right career, what to do while at and after school, and even how to start your own business.

Join the OZT community and career Group

Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a Veterinarian.

Members of the Platform have special access to:

  • Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
  • Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
  • Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
  • Make friends around the world and share knowledge
  • Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!

If you have decided on being a Veterinarian, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.

If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu, and search for something different.

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Contributions by expert members are always appreciated to allow the Students to make informed decisions. Please add your contribution through the attached Form:

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