Here’s what you need to know about one of the world’s greatest jobs, according to Wendy Hauser, DVM, of AAHA-accredited Coal Creek Veterinary Hospital, Centennial, Colo.
What does a Veterinarian do?
Veterinarians are animal doctors, who work in a clinic or hospital, called a practice. Veterinarians:
- Diagnose diseases
- Treat illnesses
- Help keep pets healthy by providing preventive care (like vaccines)
- Perform surgery and dental procedures
- Prescribe medicine
Being a veterinarian is very rewarding. What could be better than making sick pets well, or teaching pet owners how to keep their beloved pets healthy?
Veterinarians are life-long students. They work hard to continue to learn about new medical diseases and treatments. Veterinarians have to like pets and people too! They must be able to explain a pet’s health and treatment options to the owner.
Who would be good at this job?
In addition to loving animals, you should:
- Have patience
- Enjoy math and science
- Have great people skills
- Enjoy learning
- Work very hard
Unlike people, animals can’t tell you what’s wrong. It’s up to veterinarians to find out. They do this by:
- Listening to the owner
- Asking questions
- Examining the pet and ordering tests
What’s great about being a Veterinarian?
Making someone’s beloved pet get well. Nothing gets better than that! You also get to know many pets, and their human families, their entire lives. Being a veterinarian is never boring. Every day brings something new and exciting!
What’s hard about being a Veterinarian?
When pets are very sick or hurt, sometimes the kindest thing you can do for these pets is to give them a shot to end their lives. This is called euthanasia. Euthanasia of a pet is one of the saddest things for a veterinarian because of the pain it can bring to the pet’s human families. It’s also hard when owners have money problems and can’t afford tests and treatment for their pets. Sometimes you can work out payment plans to help them afford it.
What are some other jobs for Veterinarians?
Not all veterinarians treat pets. Here are some other jobs they can do:
- Care for cattle or dairy cows
- Work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make sure eggs, poultry and meat are safe
- Help zoo animals and endangered species
- Study how space affects animals
- Work for Homeland Security to keep the public safe from “zoonotic” diseases (diseases spread from pets to humans) that can be used as weapons
- Test drugs, chemicals and other products
- Teach in veterinary schools
What education does a Veterinarian need?
You must complete specific required college classes. Because getting into veterinary school is very competitive, most people who apply do have 4-year college degrees – sometimes even more! Veterinary school involves four years more of school.
Finding pre-veterinarian programs
When choosing a college, pick one that has a “pre-veterinary program.” Not all colleges have these programs. You must work hard and get good grades. There are only 28 veterinary schools in the U.S. and 8 in Canada. There’s a lot of competition to get into these schools. Veterinary schools require you to take an admissions exam.
Some veterinarians get additional training to specialize in a certain type of medicine or work with a certain group of animals.
What can you do to start getting ready for this job?
Start early. Getting into veterinary school requires a lot of hard work. If you’re in middle school or high school, take a lot of math and science classes. Get good grades. Volunteer to help at a veterinary practice, animal shelter or humane society. You’ll not only get a chance to work with animals, but you’ll see what veterinarians do every day.