Veterinarian: what they do, how to become one, and where to study

Author: ProfGuide
Veterinarian: what they do, how to become one, and where to study

When it comes to taking care of our furry, feathered, and scaly friends, veterinarians play a crucial role in ensuring their health and well-being. The veterinary profession combines a love for animals with a passion for medicine, making it a rewarding career choice for those who are dedicated to the welfare of animals. In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of being a veterinarian, including specializations, responsibilities, pros and cons, demand, salary ranges, work settings, important qualities, career path, educational requirements, and the possibility of entering the profession with a different degree. By the way, recently the ProfGuide career guidance center has developed a precise career orientation test, which will tell you which professions are suitable for you, provide a conclusion about your personality type and intelligence.



Just like in human medicine, veterinarians have the opportunity to specialize in various areas of veterinary medicine. Some common specializations include:

  1. Small Animal Veterinarian: Focusing on domestic pets such as dogs, cats, and rabbits.
  2. Large Animal Veterinarian: Dealing with livestock animals like horses, cows, and pigs.
  3. Exotic Animal Veterinarian: Working with non-traditional pets like reptiles, birds, and small mammals.
  4. Equine Veterinarian: Specializing in horse medicine and surgery.
  5. Wildlife Veterinarian: Caring for wild animals in sanctuaries, zoos, or conservation organizations.

Tasks and Responsibilities

Veterinarians have a wide range of tasks and responsibilities that revolve around animal health and welfare. Some of their key responsibilities include:

  1. Conducting physical examinations and diagnosing illnesses or injuries.
  2. Performing surgeries and medical procedures.
  3. Prescribing medications and administering treatments.
  4. Conducting laboratory tests and interpreting results.
  5. Providing preventive care such as vaccinations and parasite control.
  6. Advising pet owners on nutrition, behavior, and overall animal care.
  7. Collaborating with other veterinary professionals and specialists.
  8. Euthanizing animals when necessary, with compassion and sensitivity.

Pros and Cons


  1. Making a positive impact on animal lives and their human companions.
  2. A rewarding and fulfilling career for animal lovers.
  3. Continuous learning and the opportunity to stay updated with advancements in veterinary medicine.
  4. Job stability and demand for veterinarians.
  5. The ability to specialize in different areas and pursue diverse career paths.


  1. Emotionally challenging situations, including dealing with sick or injured animals.
  2. Long and irregular working hours, especially in emergency situations.
  3. Physical demands, such as lifting and restraining animals.
  4. Potential exposure to zoonotic diseases (illnesses transmitted between animals and humans).
  5. The high cost of veterinary education and potential student loan debt.


In the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, the demand for veterinarians remains strong. Pet ownership is on the rise, and people are increasingly seeking high-quality veterinary care for their animal companions. Additionally, advancements in veterinary medicine have expanded treatment options, leading to an increased need for specialized veterinary services.

Salary Ranges

Salaries for veterinarians can vary based on factors such as experience, specialization, location, and type of practice. Here are the approximate salary ranges for veterinarians in the following countries:

United States:

  • Entry-level: $70,000 - $90,000 per year
  • Mid-career: $80,000 - $110,000 per year
  • Experienced: $100,000 - $150,000+ per year


  • Entry-level: CAD 65,000 - CAD 80,000 per year
  • Mid-career: CAD 85,000 - CAD 100,000 per year
  • Experienced: CAD 100,000 - CAD 150,000+ per year

United Kingdom:

  • Entry-level: £30 000 - £40,000 per year
  • Mid-career: £40,000 - £60,000 per year
  • Experienced: £60,000 - £80,000+ per year


  • Entry-level: AU$60,000 - AU$80,000 per year
  • Mid-career: AU$80,000 - AU$100,000 per year
  • Experienced: AU$100,000 - AU$150,000+ per year

Where do Veterinarians Work? How and Why is this Profession Needed?

Veterinarians can work in a variety of settings, including:

  1. Private Practices: Many veterinarians work in private clinics, providing general or specialized care for companion animals. These clinics offer routine check-ups, vaccinations, surgeries, and emergency services.
  2. Research and Education: Some veterinarians contribute to advancements in veterinary medicine by working in research institutions or educational settings. They conduct studies, teach future veterinarians, and contribute to scientific discoveries.
  3. Government Agencies: Veterinarians may work for government agencies responsible for animal health and welfare. They enforce regulations, conduct inspections, and respond to public health emergencies.
  4. Wildlife and Conservation Organizations: Veterinarians play a vital role in the care and conservation of wildlife. They work in wildlife rehabilitation centers, zoos, and conservation organizations to treat and protect endangered species.
  5. Industry and Pharmaceuticals: Veterinarians can work in the pharmaceutical industry, developing medications and products for animal health. They also provide expertise in food safety and inspect livestock for disease prevention.

The veterinary profession is essential to ensure the well-being and health of animals. Veterinarians are needed to diagnose and treat diseases, prevent the spread of zoonotic illnesses, perform surgeries, and provide preventive care. They contribute to animal welfare, public health, and the bond between humans and animals.

Important Qualities of a Successful Veterinarian

To excel in this profession, veterinarians should possess certain qualities:

  1. Compassion: A genuine love for animals and empathy towards their owners is essential. Compassion allows veterinarians to provide care with sensitivity and understanding.
  2. Communication Skills: Effective communication is vital to convey diagnoses, treatment plans, and recommendations to pet owners. Veterinarians should be able to explain complex medical terms in a way that clients can understand.
  3. Problem-Solving Abilities: Veterinarians must be skilled at analyzing symptoms, diagnosing illnesses, and developing appropriate treatment plans. They should be able to think critically and make decisions under pressure.
  4. Physical Stamina: The work of a veterinarian can be physically demanding. They may need to handle large animals, perform surgeries, or work long hours during emergencies. Physical stamina is crucial to meet these demands.
  5. Professionalism and Ethics: Veterinarians must adhere to high ethical standards and maintain professionalism. They handle sensitive information and make challenging decisions regarding animal care and euthanasia.

Step-by-Step Career Path

  1. Obtain a Bachelor's Degree: Start by completing a bachelor's degree in a related field such as biology, animal science, or pre-veterinary studies. These programs provide the necessary foundation for veterinary school.
  2. Veterinary School: Apply to an accredited veterinary school and complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) or Veterinary Medical Doctor (VMD) degree program. This typically takes four years to complete.
  3. Licensing and Certification: After graduating, aspiring veterinarians must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) to obtain a license to practice. Additional state-specific licensing requirements may apply.
  4. Gain Experience: Seek internships or entry-level positions to gain practical experience in different veterinary settings. This allows for skill development and exposure to various aspects of the profession.
  5. Specialization (Optional): Pursue postgraduate education and training if you wish to specialize in a specific area of veterinary medicine. This may involve completing a residency program or obtaining board certification in a particular specialty.
  6. Build a Professional Network: Networking is important in the veterinary field. Attend conferences, join professional associations, and connect with veterinarians in your area of interest. This can open up opportunities for mentorship, collaboration, and career advancement.
  7. Continuing Education: Stay updated with advancements in veterinary medicine by participating in continuing education programs. This helps maintain licensure and ensures you are providing the best possible care to your patients.

How to Become a Veterinarian

In the United States, the path to becoming a veterinarian involves several steps. After completing a bachelor's degree, aspiring veterinarians must attend a four-year veterinary school to obtain a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. Veterinary school curriculum includes coursework, laboratory sessions, and clinical rotations to gain hands-on experience.

Following graduation, veterinarians must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) to become licensed practitioners. Additional state-specific licensing requirements may also apply.

Higher education is necessary to become a veterinarian in the USA, and completing a residency or graduate program is typically required for specialization in a specific area of veterinary medicine. However, the specific length of study can vary depending on the individual's chosen career path and specialization.

Where to Become a Veterinarian

Here are five examples of reputable veterinary schools in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia:

United States:

  1. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine 
  2. University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
  3. University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine 
  4. Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences 
  5. Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences 


  1. University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College
  2. University of Prince Edward Island Atlantic Veterinary College 
  3. University of Montreal Faculty of Veterinary Medicine 
  4. University of Saskatchewan Western College of Veterinary Medicine 

United Kingdom:

  1. Royal Veterinary College 
  2. University of Edinburgh Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies 
  3. University of Liverpool Faculty of Health and Life Sciences 
  4. University of Cambridge Veterinary Medicine 
  5. University of Glasgow School of Veterinary Medicine 


  1. Murdoch University School of Veterinary Medicine 
  2. James Cook University College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences 

Entering the Profession with a Different Degree

While a veterinary degree is typically required to become a veterinarian, some individuals may wonder if they can enter the profession with a different degree. In most cases, a veterinary degree is necessary to practice veterinary medicine. However, there are alternative career paths within the animal health field that may be accessible with a different degree.

For example, individuals with a degree in animal science, biology, or a related field may find opportunities in research, animal nutrition, animal behavior, or animal welfare organizations. They may work alongside veterinarians in support roles or contribute to advancements in animal health through scientific research.

Additionally, some universities offer combined degree programs, such as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine/Ph.D. program, which allows individuals to pursue both a veterinary degree and a research-focused degree simultaneously.

It is important to note that alternative career paths within the animal health field may have different educational and licensing requirements. It is advisable to research and consult with professionals in the field to determine the specific requirements and opportunities available for individuals with different degrees.

In conclusion, the veterinary profession offers a fulfilling and rewarding career for individuals passionate about animal health and welfare. Veterinarians play a vital role in providing medical care, promoting animal welfare, and ensuring the bond between humans and animals remains strong. With specialized knowledge, dedication, and a love for animals, veterinarians make a lasting impact on the lives of their patients and their human companions.


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