Veterinarians, also known as doctors of veterinary medicine, diagnose and treat diseases and dysfunction of animals. They also perform surgeries, set fractures and dress wounds. They help pets, zoo animals, racetrack horses, livestock and animals living in laboratories. The American Medical Veterinary Association has reported that 77 percent of the veterinarians that work in private medical practice provide treatments to pets.
Pet veterinarians mostly treat cats and dogs, however they also provide treatments for reptiles, birds, ferrets, rabbits and other types of pets. Some veterinarians specialize in horses. Those that treat livestock and horses provide vaccinations and test for diseases. Farm animal veterinarians offer advice to farmers and ranchers regarding feeding animals, animal production and housing.
Some doctors of veterinary medicine are involved in research. Some veterinarians contribute to the health of humans by working with doctors and scientists to find preventive measures and treatments for a variety of human health problems. A number of veterinarians are involved in food safety and inspection. Some work as livestock inspectors and evaluate animals for transmissible diseases.
Some sample job titles are veterinary medicine doctor, emergency veterinarian, small animal veterinarian, doctor of veterinary medicine, staff veterinarian, large animal veterinarian, companion animal practitioner and veterinary surgeon.
- Examine animals in order to detect and determine the nature of injuries and illnesses
- Treat injured and sick animals
- Prescribe medications for animals
- Vaccinate animals against diseases
- Perform surgeries
- Advise animal owners about feeding, breeding, behavior and other issues
- Euthanize animals when necessary
- Attend lectures, continuing education courses and conferences
Veterinarians that treat pets primarily work in a clinic and often work more than 40 hours a week. Those working in a group practice may have to take turns being on call during the evenings, nights and weekends. Pet veterinarians risk being bitten, scratched or kicked. Those that treat horses and livestock typically travel to ranches and farms to provide veterinary services. They often work outdoors. Those involved in research work in laboratories or offices.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected an employment increase of 33 percent for veterinarians during the 2008 to 2018 timeframe which is much faster than average for all occupations. The fast growth of the cat population is expected to increase the demand for feline veterinary services. Excellent job opportunities are forecasted for veterinarians since there are just 28 accredited veterinary medicine schools in the nation, which results in a limited number of graduates each year.
In 2008 the median annual earnings for veterinarians was $79,050. The highest paid 10 percent earned more than $143,650. Farm animal veterinarians typically earn less money that pet veterinarians.
Most veterinarians begin their careers as employees of group practices. After gaining experience, many veterinarians set up their own practice or buy an established practice.
Education, Certification, and Licensing
Prospective veterinarians need to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) degree from an accredited college of veterinary medicine. There are numerous colleges that meet the accreditation standards established by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
The prerequisites for admission to veterinary programs vary. Many veterinary programs do not require students to have a bachelor's degree, although all the programs require a substantial number of credit hours at the undergraduate level. However, most of the students have earned a bachelor's degree.
Admissions to veterinary schools is competitive. In 2007 about one out of three applicants was accepted to veterinary school. Some veterinary colleges place a heavy consideration on the applicant's veterinary and animal experience. Experience gained through working with veterinarians or scientists in clinics, research, agribusiness or some area of health science can be very beneficial.
Pre-veterinary courses in science subjects are recommended. Veterinary medical colleges usually require candidates to have completed classes in subjects including biochemistry, organic and inorganic chemistry, animal biology, general biology, genetics, animal nutrition, cellular biology, vertebrate embryology, systemic physiology, zoology and microbiology.
Veterinarians need a Doctor of Veterinarian Medical degree and a state license. Many new graduates of veterinary schools choose to take a one year internship. The internship provides a small salary, yet they often discover that the internship leads to better paying opportunities.
Those that seek board certification are required to complete a three to four year residency program that includes intensive training in 1 of the 39 AVMA recognized veterinarian specialities. Most states have continuing education requirements for licensed veterinarians.
The primary employers are group practice veterinary clinics and hospitals, colleges, universities, research laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, and local, state and federal government agencies.