Career-of-the-Month: Veterinarian

Career-of-the-Month: Veterinarian

Veterinarians take care of sick and injured animals. When an animal is sick, vets examine it to find out why. Vets give blood tests, x-rays, and other tests, looking for clues about an animal’s illnesses. Then the vets decide what kind of medicine or treatment the animal needs. Like doctors, veterinarians can fix broken bones, perform surgery, and give medicine to animals. Vets also prevent problems by giving vaccinations, check-ups, and cleaning teeth. They check for infections in the animals and give advice to the animals’ owners. They teach owners how to feed and train their animals. Some vets specialize in certain kinds of animal care, such as dentistry.

Most vets treat small pets like dogs, cats, rabbits and gerbils. They work in animal clinics and hospitals. Some vets focus on large animals like sheep, cows, and horses. Large-animal vets usually drive to ranches and stables where their patients live. A few vets work in zoos, aquariums, and wildlife rescue/rehabilitation centers. They care for zebras, sharks, and other exotic or wild creatures. In addition to helping sick animals, vets can work as animal inspectors, checking to make sure that farm animals are healthy and that their living spaces are clean. Vets also work for governments, universities, scientific research and pet food companies.

It will take eight years to become a veterinarian – four years of college and four years of veterinary medicine school. Veterinarians study biology, chemistry, nutrition, and animal science. Pre-veterinary studies should demonstrate a strong aptitude for math and science. Veterinary schools typically require applicants to have taken one year equivalent classes in organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physics, and general biology. Usually the minimal mathematics requirement is college level trigonometry. Most students admitted to veterinary schools have completed an undergraduate program and earned a bachelor’s degree.

In the United States, there are only 28 veterinary schools that meet the accreditation standards set by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Admission to these veterinary schools is highly competitive; only about 1 in 3 applicants are accepted. In addition to satisfying pre-veterinary course requirements, applicants must submit test scores from standardized tests such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT), or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

An application committee decides who gains admittance and who does not. Most schools place heavy emphasis and consideration on a candidate’s veterinary and animal experience. Formal experience is a particular advantage to the applicant. This would include working with veterinarians or scientists in clinics, agribusiness, research, or some area of health science. Less formal experience is also helpful for the applicant to have, and this includes working with animals on a farm or ranch or at a stable, or volunteering at an animal shelter and basic overall animal exposure.

In veterinary college, students learn how to handle and care for animals, do surgery, and do laboratory tests with microscopes and other equipment. They may work with professional veterinarians during a 2-year internship. New graduates with a DVM/VMD/BVS/BVSc degree cannot begin to practice veterinary medicine until they have received their license. To be licensed in the United States, one must receive a passing grade on a national board examination, the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam.

An alternative to becoming a licensed veterinarian is becoming a veterinary technician. Veterinary technicians are essentially veterinary nurses, and are legally qualified to assist veterinarians in many medical procedures. Veterinary assistants are not licensed by most states, but can be well-trained through programs offered in a variety of technical schools. Many veterinary technicians are trained on the job by directly assisting the veterinarians.

Most vets like their work since they can be with animals every day. But they have to be careful because when some animals are scared or hurt they may try to bite, kick, or scratch their vets. In the early history of veterinary medicine, most veterinarians were males. However, in the 1990s this ratio reached parity, and now it has been reversed. Today, approximately 80% of veterinary students are female.

Well-known depictions of a veterinarian at work can be found in James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small which was made into a BBC series. In addition, Doctor Dolittle is a series of children’s books by Hugh Lofting, one of which was turned into a 1967 movie. The movie was remade in 1998 with Eddie Murphy as Dr. Dolittle. The cable network Animal Planet has frequently featured veterinarians. Two notable shows are Emergency Vets and E-Vet Interns, both set at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital in Denver, Colorado, one of the world’s leading veterinary hospitals.

Related Occupations:
Animal care and service workers
Pet store clerk
Veterinary technician
Wildlife biologist


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