Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to protect public health.
What they do
Veterinarians diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals.
Veterinarians typically do the following:
- Examine animals to assess their health and diagnose problems
- Treat and dress wounds
- Perform surgery on animals
- Test for and vaccinate against diseases
- Operate medical equipment, such as x-ray machines
- Advise animal owners about general care, medical conditions, and treatments
- Prescribe medication
- Euthanize animals
Veterinarians treat the injuries and illnesses of pets and other animals with a variety of medical equipment, including surgical tools and x-ray and ultrasound machines. They provide treatment for animals that is similar to the services a physician provides to humans.
Most veterinarians work in private clinics and hospitals. Others travel to farms or work in settings such as laboratories, classrooms, or zoos.
Veterinarians who treat horses or food animals travel between their offices and farms and ranches. They work outdoors in all kinds of weather and may have to perform surgery, often in remote locations.
Veterinarians who work in food safety and inspection travel to farms, slaughterhouses, and food-processing plants to inspect the health of animals and to ensure that the facility follows safety protocols.
The work can be emotionally stressful, as veterinarians care for abused animals, euthanize sick ones, and offer support to the animals’ anxious owners. Working on farms and ranches, in slaughterhouses, or with wildlife can also be physically demanding.
How to become a Veterinarian
Veterinarians must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from an accredited veterinary college, as well as a state license.
Veterinarians must complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD) degree at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. A veterinary medicine program generally takes 4 years to complete and includes classroom, laboratory, and clinical components.
Admission to veterinary programs is competitive. Most applicants to veterinary school have a bachelor’s degree. Veterinary medical colleges typically require applicants to have taken many science classes, including biology, chemistry, and animal science. Most programs also require math, humanities, and social science courses.
Some veterinary medical colleges prefer candidates to have experience such as previous work with veterinarians in clinics, or working with animals on a farm, at a stable, or in an animal shelter.
In veterinary medicine programs, students take courses on animal anatomy and physiology, as well as disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Most programs include 3 years of classroom, laboratory, and clinical work. Students typically spend the final year of the 4-year program doing clinical rotations in a veterinary medical center or hospital.
Veterinarians must be licensed in order to practice in the United States. Licensing requirements vary by state, but prospective veterinarians in all states must complete an accredited veterinary program and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination.
In addition to passing the national exam, most states require that veterinarians pass a state licensing exam. However, veterinarians employed by state or federal government may not need a state license, because government agencies differ in what they require.
Each state’s exam covers its laws and regulations. Few states accept licenses from other states, so veterinarians usually must take exams for the states in which they want to be licensed.
The median annual wage for veterinarians was $95,460 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $58,080, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $160,780.
Employment of veterinarians is projected to grow 16 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Increases in consumers’ pet-related spending are expected to drive employment in the veterinary services industry, which employs most veterinarians.
Similar Job Titles
Companion Animal Practitioner, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), Emergency Veterinarian (Emergency Vet), Large Animal Veterinarian (Large Animal Vet), Mixed Animal Veterinarian (Mixed Animal Vet), Small Animal Veterinarian (Small Animal Vet), Veterinary Medicine Doctor (DVM), Veterinary Surgeon (Vet Surgeon), Veterinary Surgical Specialist (Vet Surgical Specialist), Zoo Veterinarian (Zoo Vet), Animal Doctor
Medical Scientists, Health Specialties Teachers-Postsecondary
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Animal Hospital Association
- American Association of Bovine Practitioners
- American Association of Equine Practitioners
- American Association of Feline Practitioners
- American Association of Swine Veterinarians
- American Association of Zoo Veterinarians
- American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
- American College of Veterinary Surgeons
- American Heartworm Society
- American Veterinary Medical Association
Magazines and Publications
- Animal Wellness Magazine
- Today’s Veterinary Nurse
- Bovine Veterinarian Magazine
- Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
- Veterinary Focus Online
An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but man’s best friend needs a checkup once in a while no matter how healthy its diet is. Veterinarians diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals. Veterinarians treat illnesses and injuries, conduct surgical and medical procedures and dental work, and vaccinate animals against diseases. They also teach owners preventive healthcare. Veterinarians have different types of practices: Companion animal veterinarians most often work at clinics and care for cats and dogs, but also treat other pets, such as birds, ferrets, and rabbits. Equine veterinarians work with horses involved in performing, farming and racing. Food animal veterinarians work at farms and ranches to treat farm animals such as pigs, cattle, and sheep. Food safety and inspection veterinarians inspect and test livestock and animal products for major animal diseases, and work to improve animal health and reduce disease transmission. They also enforce food safety regulations. Research veterinarians work in laboratories, conducting clinical research on human and animal health problems, and may test effects of drug therapies or new surgical techniques. Veterinarians must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, usually a 4-year program, and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing examination. Veterinary school is highly competitive and typically requires applicants to have taken many science classes in college.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org