Career Story: Associate Veterinarian

Associate Veterinarian

Job Title: Associate Veterinarian

Type of Company: I work for a small animal clinic where I see dogs and cats.

Education: AAS, Veterinary Technology, SUNY-Delhi •• BS, Animal Science, Cornell University •• DVM (Doctor Veterinary Medicine), North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Previous Experience: I worked as a veterinary technician at the Bide-A-Wee animal hospital in Wantaugh, NY for 2 years. I then worked as a hybridoma specialist at the James Baker Institute at Cornell University for 2 years. Then I spent the next 12 years working as a hybridoma specialist at a private company and at North Carolina State University before applying to veterinary school.

Job Tasks: My primary responsibility as an associate veterinarian is the care of my patients, which are all dogs and cats. Healthy animals are brought in by their owners for annual examinations to be sure they are as healthy inside as they appear to be outside. Annual vaccinations are given to protect the pets from diseases. Fecal tests are run to determine if the pets are carrying intestinal parasites, or worms -- especially important since some of these parasites can be passed on to humans.

Sick pets have many diagnostic tests run such as blood work and radiographs to determine what is making them ill. Elective surgeries are performed such as spaying female pets and neutering male pets. I also do dentistry on any pet showing signs of periodontal disease, broken teeth, or growths in their mouths. Many owners also bring in their pets for behavior advice, baths and grooming.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of being a veterinarian include educating clients so they can take care of their pets the best way possible in an effort to keep all pets as healthy as possible for as long as possible. There is also great satisfaction when an owner brings in a sick pet that can be made well by using proper diagnostic tests and care.

The worst parts of the job include dealing with animals that do not want to be held or have any type of service done to them. These animals can become upset enough to try to scratch and bite the doctor and staff. Putting animals to sleep who have mortal injuries or are very elderly or sick can be the worst part of the job, but knowing there will be no more pain can be one of the best part of the job also.

Job Tips: If you really think you want to train to be a veterinarian, know that you must be willing to get your high school diploma with top grades, followed by at least eight more years of college. You need to get as much experience working with animals of all kinds over many years. Begin by owning a pet or pets and learning all that you can about raising and training them. You need to try to also get experience working with as many types of animal species as you can. Working at a boarding kennel, on a dairy or horse farm, or volunteering at a wildlife center or museum will get you the necessary experience as all veterinary schools require you to have numerous hours of this animal experience.

Additional Thoughts: Know that many people decide to become a veterinarian because they love animals. While this is a good reason, you also need to want to do this job because you like people also, because almost every animal you will work on will have a concerned owner by its side. Unless you plan to work in a laboratory, you will be dealing with people every day and you will need to be able to talk with and comfort their owners. Also, any veterinarian wishing to run his own clinic needs a strong background in business. And your people skills will be needed when hiring and dealing with your staff every day. Loving animals is a small part of the job.

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