Veterinarians are licensed medical professionals who protect the health and wellbeing of animals and people. They do this by diagnosing and treating the injuries and illnesses of a range of animals, including domestic pets, livestock and other animals.
- Diagnose and treat sick and injured animals
- Perform surgery, including managing anaesthesia
- Advise owners on the proper care of their pets and livestock
- Carry out tests such as X-rays, ultrasound scans and blood analyses
- Test for and vaccinate against illnesses such as distemper and rabies
- Advise herd and flock owners on issues such as breeding and nutrition
- Diagnose and prevent the transmission of animal diseases to people
- Prescribe medication
- Euthanise severely injured, old or terminally ill animals
- Supervise veterinary nurses and support staff
Skills and qualities
Many veterinarians progress to set up their own veterinary practice or become a partner in an existing one. Others choose to move into teaching or research roles at universities, research institutes or pharmaceutical companies.
You could also specialise in a particular field of veterinary medicine such as anaesthesiology, toxicology, cardiology or dentistry. Additional training is required for specialisations, which typically takes three to four years to complete.
On call for emergencies
Most veterinarians work in private practice. Others work in laboratories, classrooms or zoos.
You may be required to travel to farms, ranches and customers’ homes to treat animals. This may involve working outdoors in all kinds of weather to perform surgery.
Working with animals carries certain risks such as bites, kicks, scratches and infections.
The work can be emotionally demanding, as you may care for abused animals, euthanise sick ones and support anxious owners from time to time.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Qualifications and training
DVM / VMD degree
To become a veterinarian, you must complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD) degree at an accredited college of veterinary medicine, which typically takes four years to complete.
Competition to get onto a course is fierce. Although not required for admission, most applicants to veterinary school hold a bachelor’s degree in pre-veterinary medicine or in a related subject like animal science, biology or zoology. Work experience or volunteering with a veterinarian, at a local kennel or at an animal charity can also be useful.
Once you’ve graduated from veterinary school, you’ll need to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) to become a licensed veterinarian. Do note that some states have additional licensing requirements
SourcesBureau of Labor Statistics International Council for Veterinary Assessment (ICVA) O*NET Online Oxford Martin School
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022