Animal lovers, who are dedicated to completing the schooling and certification needed to practice, should consider a career as a Veterinarian. This exciting field offers the opportunity to specialize and work with animals of every kind. In addition to working with companion animals in a private practice, Veterinarians also have the opportunity to work with animals in zoos, farms, racetracks, and laboratories. Veterinarians may also specialize in research and development, the sale and production of commercial products, as well as inspecting livestock.
Competitive salaries, coupled with an excellent job outlook, make the field of veterinary sciences an attractive one. Intensive schooling, board certification, and earning a license from the state, are required before beginning to practice. Today, nearly 80% of all vets work in private practices, with 77% treating household pets. 16% work in rural areas with farm animals, and 6% specialize in treating horses. In addition to working with animals, Veterinarians also work with pet owners, who are emotionally attached to their animal companions. Long hours, a noisy work environment, and the risk of injury are all realities of working as a Veterinarian. All vets must be able to euthanize animals, using humane practices. However, the ability to specialize and work with a variety of animals makes a career as a Veterinarian a very exciting and rewarding experience.
Veterinarians generally earn between $46,000 and $79,000 annually. Vets that are employed full-time, year round can expect to earn a salary of $133,200 at its highest, a median salary of $72,000, and $43,500 at the lowest end of the spectrum. Graduates fresh out of vet school that enter a year-long internship can expect higher paying opportunities in the future.*
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Veterinarians working exclusively with small animals can earn slightly more than those working exclusively with large animals. Those working with small animals can earn $64,744, while those working with large animals can earn $62,424. Those that specialize in a mixture of both small and large animals can earn an annual salary $58,522. Vets working with horses are at the lower end of the salary spectrum, earning $41,636. Vets working for the federal government are at the highest end of the salary spectrum, earning an average of $93,398 annually.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Veterinarians specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of animals, including vaccinations, performing surgeries, as well as offering counsel on nutrition, breeding, and animal behavior. Some vets also work in clinical research to help prevent the spread of diseases from animals to humans. There are employment opportunities in private practices, animal hospitals, laboratories, food and pharmaceutical companies, as well as the federal government. Government jobs can include food inspection and the inspection of imports and exports to make sure that animal food products meet standards for quality and safety.
The job outlook for veterinarians is excellent. College Grad.com reports an expected increase of jobs by 35% between 2008 and 2016. There is a great demand for employment due to the low number of accredited schools, and the competitive nature of the programs. 22,000 new jobs are expected before 2016. Job prospect for those treating household pets will continue to grow rapidly as more and more people become pet owners. The field of animal oncology is also growing rapidly. More pet owners are willing to pay for treatments for animals they consider to be members of the family.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
Becoming a Veterinarian requires intensive schooling. Veterinarians must obtain a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from an accredited institution. Classes focus heavily on the sciences, including social sciences and business management. Getting into vet school is a very competitive process. Vet schools prefer students who have some prior veterinary or animal experience.
Pre-veterinary courses include organic chemistry, physics, biochemistry, biology, animal nutrition, microbiology, and zoology, among other specialized sciences. Students studying veterinary sciences will also focus on English literature, humanities, and other social sciences. Business management is very important, as many Veterinarians need to know how to own and operate a business.
In addition to completing the required pre-vet courses, students applying to vet school must also pass the GRE, as well as the Veterinary College Admission Test, or VCAT. Depending on the school’s preference, some will require students to pass the MCAT instead of the VCAT.
Before a Veterinarian can begin their practice, they must obtain a license from the state in which they desire to work. A 3-4 year residency is common before becoming licensed. During their residency, aspiring vets will gain specialized training in a variety of disciplines, including preventative medicine, cardiology, radiology, dermatology, anesthesiology, internal medicine, dentistry, nutrition, surgery, and exotic animals, to name a few.
Licensing is controlled by the state, and requirements are state specific. All states require vets to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam, but some states also require a state jurisprudence exam, focusing on state laws and regulations.
The largest and oldest professional association for Veterinarians is the AVMA, founded in 1863, and represents over 80,000 vets. The AVMA provides standards for accreditation for veterinary schools in the United States. The Journal of the AVMA and the American Journal of Veterinary Research are both publication that AVMA members can subscribe to, to stay up to date with the latest in scientific and clinical information.
The American Animal Hospital Association is another association that provides information for practices operating as animal hospitals. They establish the accreditation standards for animal hospital operation and maintenance.
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