So You Want To Be A Vet?

[I was just recently assigned a research paper on a career path of my choice. I chose veterinary science. I found a lot of helpful information, so I compiled it with knowledge I already had. I’m sharing this because there may be someone curious about the profession and I feel that they can learn from the information I gathered. So, enjoy. Also, if you have any questions, feel free to send me a message.]

So, You Want to be a Vet?

Overview of a veterinary career

A veterinarian is someone that is trained in animal medicine, surgery, and behavior. It is one thing to love animals and want to help them, but it is another to dedicate one’s life to schooling in order to help them. Four years of undergraduate schooling and four years of a doctorate program. That is what a veterinary student has ahead of them when they decide to become a vet. It is in no way easy, but in the long run, it is worth it. A veterinarian has many options when it comes to the medical field. There are multiple specialties to choose from, each of them offering an abundance of work opportunities. The job of a veterinarian is to work with an animal’s owner to quickly assess an animal’s health and proceed with a treatment to give it a better quality of life.

Qualities a vet should possess

A veterinarian should possess certain qualities, such as, patience, respect, integrity, learnability, resilience, and self-awareness. Patience is an important quality to have. A veterinarian will have patience with their clients and their coworkers. Respect is also very important. It is critical to respect others and to gain their respect in return. Giving respect to another can include listening to them intently, not judging them too quickly, and giving them the benefit of the doubt. Integrity plays a big role in the life of a veterinarian. One must own up to a mistake when the wrong thing is done. Others should be able to trust what the veterinarian says because they have integrity. One of the most important traits for a veterinarian to possess is learnability. Having a great debt of knowledge with skills and experiences, but also being able to admit to not knowing everything is a wonderful quality. To be resilient is to be able to withstand difficult conditions. In the field of veterinary medicine, one will constantly be in difficult situations and will experience stress. To cope with this, to be resilient, is key. Lastly, self-awareness is another important quality to have. Being able to assess and determine if one has the qualities that are listed above, as well as knowing which ones to work on and make stronger, will benefit a veterinarian in the long run. While there are many other traits that are important for a good veterinarian, these are the standout qualities (Qualities of a Good).


To become a vet, one must complete a Doctor of Medicine program, as well as undergraduate school. A veterinarian also requires a license to practice. Before entering vet school, a student must obtain their bachelor’s degree. While having a degree in the sciences is not necessary, it is helpful to those wishing to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. When it comes to applying to vet school, the applicant must have completed a series of pre-requisite classes. These may vary depending on the school, but the important classes are: general chemistry and organic chemistry with labs, biology, microbiology with a lab, biochemistry, physics, mathematics, and English (Veterinary Education Requirements). Some other classes that vary depending on the school are: physiology, animal science, genetics, nutrition, public speaking, and social and behavioral science. In terms of grades, the higher the better. Vet schools look for students that do not guard their GPA. They look for students that are willing to take on a heavy work load and take hard classes, and are still able to maintain a steady GPA. On top of this, 600+ hours of work in a veterinary hospital, clinic, shelter, or some form of animal care is needed. When it comes to application time, an applicant will need two letters of recommendation from a certified veterinary doctor. In the United States, there are thirty veterinary schools. There are five Canadian schools, and fourteen international schools (Media FAQ’s). Competition is tough due to the small amount of universities.

Myths about vets

There are many myths that circulate about the veterinary profession. Just a few of them being that vets make a lot of money, you have to be a pre-vet major to apply to vet school, veterinarians are not real doctors, and veterinary medicine is primarily focused on cats and dogs. Salary wise, veterinarians make a decent amount of money, but it is not close to what they could be making as a human doctor. Coming out of veterinarian school with debt often in the six-figure range, their salaries are not ideal. On the other hand, salary does depend on what the vet decides to do. Earning can vary greatly based on the type pf medicine they practice, their experience, as well as if they become board certified specialists. Another myth is that to apply to vet school, you must be a pre-vet major. A vet school applicant does not need to have a pre-vet, animal science, or biology major to be accepted. Although, the prerequisites that are needed are found in these majors. It is not necessary to major in these, but it is helpful. If an applicant has completed all of the prerequisite classes, they are eligible to apply. Thirdly, the myth that a veterinarian is not a real doctor is completely false. A veterinarian completes a four-year medical school program to earn their Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM). A veterinarian is as much of a doctor as the ones in a hospital, only they studied animals instead of humans. Lastly, a big misconception in the field of veterinary medicine is that it is primarily focused on cats and dogs. This could not be further from the truth. Yes, vet students learn to work with small animals, this is not what the profession is limited to. Other areas in the field include large animal medicine, exotic animal medicine, mixed practice medicine, equine medicine, and a variety of board certification specialty areas. There are many other options for veterinarians including teaching, research, government regulatory work, military service, consulting, and corporate employment. So, while working with small animals such as cats and dogs may be a popular option, it is not the only option (Kramer).

Specialties of veterinary science

While thinking of the term “veterinarian”, one might think solely of the person that gives your pet a checkup. This is not the case, there are so many different specialties and jobs for a certified veterinarian. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has a list of multiple specialties that are available for veterinarians. These are: anesthesia, animal welfare, behavior, dentistry, dermatology, emergency and critical care, internal medicine: (cardiology, neurology, oncology), laboratory animal medicine, microbiology, nutrition, ophthalmology, pathology, pharmacology, poultry veterinarians, preventive medicine, radiology, sports medicine and rehabilitation, surgery: (orthopedics, soft tissue surgery, etc.), theriogenology, toxicology, veterinary practitioners: (avian practice, equine practice, beef cattle practice, feline practice, canine/feline practice, exotic companion mammal practice, food animal practice, dairy practice, reptile and amphibian practice, swine health management), and zoological medicine: (veterinarians who work with zoo collection animals, free-living wildlife, aquatic species and companion zoological animals) (About Veterinarian Specialists). The options are extensive.

Large animal practice

A large animal veterinarian is a licensed animal health professional and is trained to diagnose and treat illnesses that affect livestock species. Usual animals to treat for a large animal veterinarian to treat include cattle, horses, sheep, goats, and pigs. Unlike a small animal private practice, a large animal veterinarian will make house calls, or “farm calls”. They travel to the farm of their patients in a specially equipped truck that carries all of the tools and medical equipment they may need. “The usual routine for a large animal vet includes conducting health exams, giving vaccinations, drawing blood, prescribing medications, cleaning, and suturing wounds, taking ultrasounds, taking x-rays, and performing surgeries. Other duties may include monitoring the reproductive health of breeding stock, performing artificial inseminations, assisting with problem births, and conducting pre-purchase exams” (Kramer).

Food animal practice

A veterinarian’s job is to protect the world’s food supply from the farm to the dinner table. The veterinary community involved in Food Supply Veterinary Medicine helps to protect the health and welfare of animals that produce eggs, milk, meat, wool, and other protein and fiber products (What is Food Supply). As with humans, animals are prone to diseases, and these can pose risks to the health of a herd. A food animal practice veterinarian works by promoting public health and protecting animals’ health and welfare.  Veterinarians give care to food animals such as cattle, pigs, and other food animals found on farms. To have a healthy product, there must be a healthy animal. A veterinarian that is in a food animal practice will provide guidance to clients and sure that the animals are in good health and are taken care of.


Small animal surgery works with performing surgical procedures on animals to help them with a health problem or condition. It is similar to a surgical procedure that a human doctor might do, except that it is on small animals. Small animals include cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other small and furry pets. There are different kinds of surgery in different areas, such as large animal, zoo animals, exotic animals, aquatic animals, and others.


According to the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology (ABVT), board certified veterinary toxicologists are a vital link in human and animal health. Veterinary toxicology ranges from biotoxins (natural chemicals produced by plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, and phytoplankton) to the toxic effects of pharmaceuticals, feed additives, radiation, and environmental agents on animals and humans. The job of a toxicologist is to evaluate toxicosis and deficiencies, identify characterization of toxins and determine their fate in the body, as well as a treatment of toxicosis. Toxicosis is a pathological condition caused by the action of a poison or toxin (American Board).


The term theriogenology is derived from the Greek words, “Therio”, which means beast or animal, “gen”, which means creation, and “ology”, meaning the study of (What is Theriogenology?). A theriogenologist works with all aspects of veterinary reproductive medicine and surgery. This includes anatomy, physiology, pathology, and pharmacology. Theriogenology also works with clinical practices that are relevant to male and female animal reproduction, obstetrics and neonatology. A theriogenologist is educated in the field of artificial insemination (AI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). This education is beneficial because it allows the theriogenologist to be able to find work in a human setting as well as an animal one. IVF and AI are used in humans to help women have babies, and to have this knowledge, it allows one to have a greater option when finding a job.

Financial aspects

The price of attending veterinary school varies depending on the school, a student’s residence, and the type of university it is. A rough estimate “for those entering veterinary school in the Fall of 2016, the estimated total cost of attendance (tuition + fees + average living expenses, assuming a 4% increase each year) for four years ranges from $147,000 to $250,000 for in-state resident tuition at a public institution. Non-resident tuition at public institutions ranges from $191,000 to $338,000. At private institutions, the total estimated cost ranges from $264,000 to $393,000” (Q&A). With an average salary for new graduates in private practice ranging from $50,000 to $70,000, the costs of a veterinarian education far outweigh the starting salaries. A usual time period to pay back student loans for veterinary students is around 20 to 30 years.


About Veterinary Specialists. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2017, from   

American Board of Veterinary Toxicology (ABVT). (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2017, from   

Kramer, M. H. (n.d.). 7 Myths about Veterinary Careers. Retrieved April 5, 2017, from

Kramer, M. H. (n.d.). Large Animal Vet – Animal Health Careers. Retrieved April 11, 2017,           from

Media FAQs. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2017, from

Overview of Toxicology – Toxicology. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2017, from       toxicology

Q&A. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2017, from

Qualities of a Good Veterinary Technician. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2017, from

Veterinarian Education Requirements and Career Info. (n.d.). Retrieved April 5, 2017, from

What is Theriogenology? (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2017, from

What is Food Supply Veterinary Medicine (FSVM). (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2017, from       Medicine-what-is-it.aspx

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