Veterinarians provide treatment to animals, care for them, and work to improve their health. They diagnose, treat, prevent, and cure illnesses and injuries in animals, including livestock, pets, and other species. Some countries like India, the need for good vets is enormous. Becoming a vet could be a great line of career for you if you love animals, are not scared of them, and like to do initiate charity work. If you wish to you can also specialize in a type of veterinary medicine or/and a type of animal. Just like doctors and physicians, vets often work for long hours, and travel and make themselves available for emergencies. In this blog, we shall share with you the qualifications required to become a vet, including the qualities needed, and give you an overview of the career.
Veterinarians take care of the healthcare need of animals, such as cattle, pets, farm animals, zoo animals, wild animals, and lab animals. They are commonly referred to as vets. As a vet, you can choose to work in private clinics, hospitals, NGOs, and animal shelters. Some specialize in treating companion animals, like cats, dogs, and bunnies, while there are vets who obtain a license to become Equine veterinarian. Equine vets are large-animal licensed practitioners who are qualified in the health management of horses, especially those involved in production and competition.
You can also become a food animal vet and work with farm animals that are raised to become food sources. Other types of vets include food and safety inspectors who treat livestock and diagnose and treat illnesses that can be transmitted to humans and research veterinarians who study animal health conditions.
Job Duties and Responsibilities
Most vets work in hospitals and private clinics, while you can also choose to work in farms and labs.
The primary job responsibilities of a vet include:
- Diagnose health problem and prescribe medication
- Treat and dress wounds and injuries
- Provide counseling to animal owners about general care, weight management, disease prevention, treatment, and medical conditions
- Deliver offspring
- Perform surgeries
- Order for test and assess medical reports
- Provide vaccination against diseases
- Operate equipment and tools, such as X-ray machines and ultrasound
- Euthanize suffering animals
Generally, veterinarians’ career revolves around these categories: immunization, critical care, general procedures, emergency care, dentistry, surgery, delivery, treatment plans, client relationship, and education.
A vet’s job is tougher than the job of a doctor in our opinion. This is because although vets need to provide medical treatment to animals in the same manner doctors provide treatment for humans, veterinarians cannot talk to their patients, gauge their symptoms, and learn more from communication as easily as doctors do.
You must learn to communicate effectively with the owner of the animals because they are the closest to their pets. Your task will involve explaining diagnoses and treatments, explain how owners can comfort their ailing pets, and how they can offer help during examinations and other treatments.
You may also have to recommend diet and nutrition plans, and exercise routines for underweight and overweight animals, and animals with special illness or disease.
You have to additionally keep up with the latest development in the animal medical realm, including new medicines, treatment plans, and care plans.
The journey to becoming an animal doctor may seem easy, but working every day towards delivering a wholesome life to these vivacious species is the challenging part. If you are up for it, it is indeed a commendable and satisfactory experience.
The average annual salary vets drew in the year 2017 was $90,420 while the highest paying vets received $159,320 per annum as per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Steps to Becoming a Veterinarian
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree Program
You must earn a bachelor’s degree to become eligible for enrolling in a veterinary medical school. There is no preferred subject; however, the applicant must major in a certain science course. If you wish, you can choose biological science as your main subject, which most qualifying vet students take. On the other hand, you can choose from general biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and zoology. Depending upon the medical school, you may have to study science courses, such as animal behavior, mammalogy, and biochemistry to qualify.
Some of the things that you must accomplish during your bachelor years to make yourself more competitive when applying include:
- Volunteer in veterinary clinics or other animal care centers and facilities, and gain real-time experience in vets’ lives.
- Participate in an internship in a veterinary clinic, hospital, animal care shelter, etc. for the same reasons. These experiences will demonstrate your dedication to the animal care field. It will also help you secure enough professional references.
- Join pre-veterinary clubs that focus on animal care and medicine. These clubs are extremely beneficial with regards to discussing careers in this field, shadowing programs, networking, information and references to volunteering jobs and internship, and many more.
- Finally, do not forget to take the GRE examination. The Graduate Record Examination measures a candidate’s knowledge and aptitude for graduate-level studies. Many schools require applicants to submit their GRE scores as a criterion for the screening
Step 2: Complete Your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program
The degree is a four-year-long program, where each successive year in the program builds upon the previous year’s curriculum. In the first two years, you will study science subjects, such as anatomy, physiology, virology, and nutrition. You will also study a few related courses specific to an animal group, and together these courses will give you the foundation needed for understanding veterinary medicine.
In the third year, your studies will relate to clinical studies, in which you will work with living animals, and practice on them using the knowledge and skills gained in previous years. You will diagnose diseases, recommend treatment plans, and even treat animal-patients under the supervision of professionals. In the fourth year, you will apply your experiences and studies in real-world scenarios. You may be sent to externships or practicums (supervised clinical practice, mainly in zoos, hospitals, and veterinary clinics.
To broaden your door of opportunities to work in a research setting instead of clinical, you must get participate in research-based projects. You can also pursue independent research in the field. You can do this while studying your degree program. Research projects will also be helpful in understanding certain aspects of the field that is beyond the clinical setting.
In the U.S. there are around 30 accredited schools for Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program.
Step 3: Earn Your License
You must earn your license, and not just obtain it, by going through a seven-hour-long examination. The licensing examination is usually offered by the state. In the USA, graduates must successfully pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination, apart from the additional state-specific examination. The National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners prepares this common test. If you are from a different country, you need to clear your country’s national veterinary licensing examination. You must find out from the local and federal regulatory authorities about what has to be done to get a license.
Step 4: Gain Experience
After becoming licensed, an intern for a year in a professional animal care center. It is a good idea to gain further practical knowledge in the field you wish to specialize in before applying for a permanent position.
You can either choose to study further in working with zoo animals, larger animals or equines, or exotic animals or work in private clinics dedicated for small companion animals.
You can also opt for working with farm animals and other domestic animals.
Step 5: Gain Certification for Chosen Specialty
Working or interning in your chosen specialty will not be enough to be reckoned as a specialist. In fact, just like specialist doctors, like surgeons and cardiologists, you must first become an eligible candidate for specialist certification. For this, you must either complete a residency program or gain an additional educational qualification. In the veterinary field, a residency program includes working several years at a place where the veterinarian receives supervised training on his/her chosen specialization.
There are 40 veterinarian specialties, including behavior, dentistry, anesthesia, emergency, critical care, internal medicine, lab animal medicine, radiology, oncology, nutrition, and certifications for treating specific animal type, such as horses, canines, cattle, large, or tiny animals. Specialization will give you recognition in more ways than you can imagine. If you select a specialty that is hard to pursue and rarely chosen by others, then you will open doors to national as well as international work opportunities.
Step 5: Work with a Professional Association
To further boost your growth opportunities, we recommend you to join national and state associations for veterinarians. Membership in these associations can bring several benefits, including likelihoods to meet renowned proficients from the field, access to special newsletters and published literature on the latest veterinary topics, effective contact list, better job opportunities, and means to continue further education.
There are several online courses on animal health that you can pursue alongside your practice to strengthen your career.
What Qualities Should Veterinarians Possess?
A good veterinarian possesses more than just good credentials and certifications behind their name. Although education and experience are paramount in this profession, there are certain qualities that you must have that will help you keep your job and build a worthy career. While education and experience will get you to the door for opportunities, qualities will help you build a strong career and great work-based relationships.
Some of the top qualities you must possess, learn, or refine to be recognized as a great veterinary technician include:
Have Patience with Animals
You will be exposed to all types of animals. And let us remind you that each species has different personalities, temperament, and habits. Animals are nonresponsive, and they often become non-cooperative too when visiting the vet. This could be frustrating that oftentimes you’d wish that animals spoke. You will also have to deal with the owners of the animals. So patience is a virtue that you must learn to have. It is not easy but it is essential. You must treat the animal the way you wish they treat you.
Show that You Care
When you walk into a room, you must greet the animal you have to examine, even if it is not friendly and cooperative. Show that you care for them, and the care should be genuine. You cannot survive in the career if you truly do not have love and compassion for animals. For instance, you should pet the animal before beginning your check-up. You should not make your patients and their owner feel that you are here for the dollar. Animals are harmless, and they are already in trouble physically and emotionally, which they are unable to express as well. That is why they are here to see you. You should not worsen their pain by being rude and unfriendly.
Be a Good Listener
You should take time to listen to all of the owner’s concern. Since animals cannot speak, the owners can give you the required clue to a symptom that will help you develop a better treatment plan. Do not rush. Ask and hear the answer. They may have something important that will help you diagnose the pet’s problem.
Be Ready to Learn
Professional doctors do not behave that they know it all. Although you will enter the profession with a wealth of knowledge and experience, you must accept that you have scope to learn more as you do not know everything. You must take pride in enhancing your knowledge. You must have the desire to learn, from your senior, from your junior, and even from your colleagues.
A Determination to Race to Your Goal
Even under varying degrees of pressure, you must show resilience and have the stamina to accomplish your goal. The animal kingdom is a new world. You can never feel or experience what they go through. Therefore, often times you may have to deal with unknown territories, for which finding solutions may seem next to impossible. Be focused, resilient, and positive.
If you apply the above steps and work on the essential qualities, you will be able to successfully start this career. Let us know if you found inspiring in the comments below.