Career Development

Veterinarian Job Description: Salary, Duties, & More

If you truly love animals, a career as a veterinarian might be the perfect choice for you. Veterinarians are responsible for checking the health of both pets and livestock, providing medical treatment when necessary, and ensuring overall animal welfare. They’re also often expected to educate clients about proper pet care and provide counseling on how to best maintain their health.

If you truly love animals, a career as a veterinarian might be the perfect choice for you. Veterinarians are responsible for checking the health of both pets and livestock, providing medical treatment when necessary, and ensuring overall animal welfare. They’re also often expected to educate clients about proper pet care and provide counseling on how to best maintain their health.

Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a veterinarian and what it takes to become one yourself.

Veterinarian Job Duties

Veterinarians perform the following duties:

  • Examining animals and performing diagnostic tests such as urinalysis, blood tests, and X-rays to determine the source of an illness or injury
  • Treating animals that are sick or injured using medication or surgery to diagnose and treat injuries or ailments that are causing them pain
  • Sterilizing surgical instruments prior to use in sterilizing wounds during medical procedures
  • Conducting surgery on animals including removing tumors, applying casts, removing cysts, repairing broken bones, sewing up lacerations, delivering babies, and more
  • Explaining treatment plans to owners of pets so they can take part in their pet’s care
  • Creating treatment plans based on scientific knowledge of animal anatomy and physiology for use with different species of animals
  • Reviewing scientific literature about topics such as genetics, immunology, oncology, nutrition science, microbiology, pharmacology, clinical research methodology on local journals or magazines
  • Consulting with other veterinarians about new medications being tested but not yet available to the public

Veterinarian Salary & Outlook

The median annual wage for veterinarians is $93,839. Those earning higher wages tend to work in private practice, and the top earners are bringing home more than $157,000 per year.

The employment of veterinarians is expected to grow much faster than average over the next decade. This is due to the growing pet population and increased public demand for veterinary services.

Veterinarian Job Requirements

Veterinarians need a combination of education, certifications, and skills to do their job.

Education: The minimum educational requirement is a four-year degree, but most employers prefer a doctoral degree. Specialized degrees also exist, including Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) for clinical veterinarians and Doctor of Veterinary Science (DVSc) for researchers.

Training: Most veterinarians receive on-the-job training after they finish their education. Most pets that come into a clinic are usually sick or injured, which provides new veterinarians with hands-on experience performing medical tests and procedures. They may also receive additional training from other veterinarians as part of a team.

On-the-job training programs vary from employer to employer, but it should encompass emergency procedures as well as preventative care. While not necessary for all veterinarians, those who want to specialize should take professional courses to learn about their individual fields of expertise.

Certifications: Some fields of veterinary medicine require specific certifications such as the American College of Veterinary Anesthesia and Analgesia (ACVAA).

Veterinarian Skills

The following skills are required for this job:

Interpersonal skills: Veterinarians must be able to communicate with clients and staff in a way that makes them feel comfortable. They need to be personable and friendly in order to establish a good rapport with their clients.

Research skills: Veterinarians must have the ability to research different treatments and medications before administering them to patients. They also need to understand the risks of using new treatments and medications. 

Empathy: Veterinarians must be compassionate and caring towards animals and their owners. They also need to be sensitive enough to recognize when an animal is suffering or experiencing pain.

Time management skills: Veterinarians must be able to organize their time well in order to see all their patients in a given day. They may need to re-organize their tasks if an emergency arises or a treatment takes more time than expected. 

Technical skills: Veterinarians must possess strong technical skills that allow them to use equipment and software tools effectively. For example, it is important for veterinarians to be able to accurately interpret x-rays and use laboratory equipment such as microscopes. 

Veterinarian Work Environment

Veterinarians work in clean, well-lit offices and clinics. They do a lot of writing and they must be able to stand for long periods of time. This work requires enough physical strength to move large animals.

Some veterinarians travel around the country visiting farms and ranches to care for animals. Some veterinarians don’t own their own practice but instead work as independent contractors for pet stores, breeders, and laboratories. 

Veterinarians typically work regular business hours, but their schedules are often irregular because of emergencies that occur. Veterinarians may be on-call after-hours or on holidays for emergencies. 

Veterinarian Career Advancement

Veterinarians who want to advance their careers should consider becoming a criticalist or a specialist. As a criticalist, your job is to diagnose and treat the most difficult and perplexing cases. You may also supervise other veterinarians and animal care specialists.

Specialists, on the other hand, work with a subset of animals. They might focus on a specific breed or a specific animal group. They may also work with a specific animal’s body part, such as the respiratory or digestive systems, or a specific organ, such as the heart or brain.

Veterinarian Trends

Here are three trends influencing how veterinarians work. Veterinarians will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Increasing Demand for Specialized Care

Increasingly, pet owners are looking for specialized care when it comes to their furry friends. This means that veterinarians will need to develop the skills and knowledge needed to keep up with growing demand for services like veterinary acupuncture, therapeutic laser therapy, and cryotherapy treatments.

Expanding Importance of Social Media

The importance of social media for veterinary professionals is also increasing as more pet owners look to the internet for guidance on health care. 

For example, one survey found that 40% of pet owners use the internet to research a potential veterinarian before bringing their pets in for treatment, while another found that 46% of pet owners will ask their vet about potential causes for health problems online prior to making an appointment.

In addition, veterinarians are increasingly using social media as a means of educating consumers about common medical issues and encouraging them to seek early treatment if they suspect a problem with their pets.

Big Data

Big data refers to massive amounts of information that can be analyzed for trends and used to improve the health of animals, as well as reduce the amount of time needed to develop new medications.

For example, a study of more than 10 million pet insurance claims found that certain dog breeds have a higher risk of developing cancer, which could help veterinarians identify at-risk patients and start treatment sooner. 

How to Become a Veterinarian

1. Planning Your Career Path

If you’re interested in becoming a veterinarian, it’s important to understand the rigorous academic and professional requirements that come with this career. You should be comfortable with science-based subjects such as biology and chemistry.

You must also complete an accredited veterinary degree program, which usually takes between four and six years of full-time study. Those interested in this career path should begin planning early. The sooner you can secure a spot in a veterinary school, the better your chances of getting accepted as it is highly competitive.

Once you have your degree, you will need to pass a licensing exam administered by the state where you plan to practice. While some veterinarians choose to work for themselves in private practices, others choose to work for larger companies that employ several veterinarians. Some veterinary schools offer students the opportunity to do clinical rotations at these organizations before graduation. This way, they can gain some real-world experience prior to entering the workforce.

2. Writing a Resume

For this position, it’s important that you emphasize your knowledge of animal health, animal behavior, and how they relate to the care of animals in a veterinary clinic. The best resumes for veterinarians will highlight their skill set in detail. This means listing all relevant skills, certifications, licenses, training courses, and continuing education courses.

In addition to your technical skills, you should also write about how you have demonstrated these abilities through previous work experience. For example, if you are an experienced veterinarian with years of experience working in a clinic with other medical staff members you can describe your interpersonal skills by describing instances where you were able to work effectively with different types of personalities or challenges that arose at the clinic. If there are significant hardships that they overcame at their previous job including times they were able to calm aggressive animals or prevent them from further injuring themselves.

3. Applying for Jobs

The best way to find a job as a veterinarian is to start looking for opportunities while you’re still in school. Check the websites of local veterinary clinics and ask your professors about their contacts and networks; it can be especially helpful to join groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that connect people in the industry. Once you’ve found some potential leads, consider following up with an email explaining why you’d be a good fit and asking if there are any open positions available. Also, it’s important to be active in the community by attending seminars and conferences about veterinary medicine.

4. Ace the Interview

Your interview will most likely consist of several questions about your education and past work experience.

In order to ensure that you are prepared for any question an interviewer throws at you, do your research ahead of time. Talk with people who either currently or previously worked for the company that is interviewing you. Also, search online to learn about the company’s values and mission statement.

Do your best to be responsive and enthusiastic during the interview. You’ll want to appear knowledgeable, organized, and comfortable with the type of work you would be doing as a veterinarian.


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