Veterinarian Job Description

Veterinarians diagnose and treat sick or injured animals by providing medical care that includes performing surgery, prescribing medication, dressing wounds, and setting bones.

There are many different types of veterinarians, each with their own areas of expertise. Here are a few of the most common types:

Companion animal veterinarians treat pets. These vets typically work in private clinics, and commonly treat household pets like cats and dogs. Some also treat more uncommon types of pets like rabbits, reptiles, and birds.

Equine veterinarians treat horses. They are sometimes employed directly by a stable or racetrack, but may also run their own office and travel to provide treatment.

Livestock veterinarians treat farm animals like cows, pigs, and sheep. They help to vaccinate the animals against diseases, and recommend ways that the owners can improve the overall health and well-being of their animals.

Research veterinarians work in laboratories, where they research health problems in animals. Depending on the research they're doing, they may explore the effects of drugs on animals, try new surgical procedures, or any number of other things that may improve the treatments available to animals.

Work Environment and Schedule

Most veterinarians work in private veterinary clinics, but there are opportunities in other areas as well. Laboratories, zoos, racetracks, colleges and universities, and government agencies all employ veterinarians.

Some veterinarians spend all of their time working in a clinic, while others (like those who treat livestock) split their time between their office and ranches or farms. Vets who work with farm animals often need to spend large parts of their days working outside, sometimes in bad weather.

Working as a veterinarian can be emotionally challenging. Seeing animals sick can be difficult, and veterinarians also provide a lot of support to grieving families.

Veterinarians suffer a lot of injuries on the job, often from bites and scratches. These types of injuries are impossible to avoid entirely, but developing good handling techniques can help keep them to a minimum.

Many veterinary offices provide emergency care, meaning that the vets need to be available on nights and weekends. Working significant overtime is very common for people in this occupation. In fact, nearly 25% of all veterinarians work more than 50 hours per week.

Because it can be so demanding, you should think about the impact that the schedule would have on your personal life as you consider a career in this occupation. Being a veterinarian can be very rewarding, but it's not a career for everyone.

How to Become a Veterinarian

To become a veterinarian, you will need to attend an accredited college of veterinary medicine and earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. There are currently only 28 accredited colleges that offer veterinary medicine programs. With such a short supply of schools, getting accepted can be extremely competitive.

You can find the complete list of accredited veterinary colleges here.

Veterinary schools put a lot of weight on academic performance, they normally also favor applicants who have real world work experience. If you're able to get a job or internship in a veterinary office during high school or college, that can make it easier to get accepted.

Though it isn't always required, most people get a bachelor's degree before they apply to a veterinary medicine program. Veterinarians come from many different academic backgrounds, but most concentrate heavily in science. Biology, chemistry, zoology, and anatomy all have real life applications for veterinarians, and are often required by veterinary medicine schools.

After graduating from a veterinary medicine program, many graduates choose to enter an internship. These internships normally last one year, and provide graduates with the opportunity to work under an experienced veterinarian in a real world setting. An internship can help make veterinarians more attractive to potential employers, and is worthwhile if you have the opportunity to pursue one.

All states require veterinarians to be licensed. The licensing requirements vary from state to state, but all have two things in common: graduating from an accredited college, and passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam.

Some states also require veterinarians to pass an additional exam administered by the state that covers that particular state's laws and regulations. Licenses rarely transfer from one state to another, so a new license will have to be obtained before moving to another state.

Related Occupations

Employment Outlook

There are currently 61,400 veterinarians in the United States, with 3,420 new veterinarian job openings created each year.

Veterinarian jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.

Veterinarian Salaries

Salaries by State

Hover over your state to get an idea of what Veterinarians make in your area.

How to use this salary data.

Job seekers can use it while negotiating a salary.

Employers can use it to help set appropriate wage levels while writing job descriptions.

Overall Salaries

Veterinarian salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most veterinarians make between $65,400 - $106,400 per year, or $31.47 - $51.16 per hour.

Salaries for Related Careers

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Veterinarian Video Job Description

Salary and statistical data provided by the BLS.