Common Veterinarian Job Types

Many Americans consider their pets to be part of their family and deserving of the same level of care extended to their human owners.

This, coupled with the growing importance of providing effective care to commercial animals, has resulted in a steadily expanding veterinary care sector in America. As a part of this, there are a wide variety of career options for licensed veterinarians in the United States.

Becoming a Veterinarian

Becoming a veterinarian requires a high degree of education, comparable to that needed to become a physician. In addition to their specialized education, most individuals seeking to become vets will have completed a science based bachelor’s degree program to prepare themselves to successfully complete their veterinary program.

veterinarian jobsIn most cases, a veterinary program takes at least four years to complete. As these are intensive programs that include classroom, laboratory and clinical components, there are no part-time veterinarian programs in the United States. Furthermore, most programs have extremely competitive entry requirements, making it important that any candidate be able to demonstrate his or her qualifications when seeking entry.

In the United States, veterinary programs are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). It is important that any candidate ensure that his or her program is currently accredited, as most states will not accept diplomas from programs that have not been accredited. Students who have graduated from a foreign veterinary program must be able to show that it is equal to an AVMA accredited program as a part of their licensure process.

The Veterinary Examination

After graduation from a vet program, the candidate must then take the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). The NAVLE is a comprehensive examination that is designed to effectively evaluate the veterinarian’s professional qualifications. All veterinarians must successfully pass the NAVLE before they can obtain licensure in the United States.

Career Options for Veterinarians

There are a wide range of career options for veterinarians in the United States, ranging from private clinical practices to working for local, state and federal agencies. In addition, there are a wide variety of veterinary specialties that practicing veterinarians can enter in order to further expand their professional opportunities.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for veterinarians is expected to grow by at least 36 percent by 2020, making this field one that is expanding at an above average rate. Coupled with the retirement of currently practicing veterinarians, this opens a wide variety of job opportunities for newly graduated vets.

Among the most common career opportunities for veterinarians are the following:

  • Private clinical practices. The current focus on pet care has resulted in the dramatic growth of neighborhood pet care clinics. Whether the veterinarian seeks employment in an already existing practice or establishes his or her own practice, this is an excellent field.
  • Government agencies. There are a number of state, local and federal government agencies that employ veterinarians. These include public humane shelters, wildlife management departments, and public health agencies.
  • Farms and ranches have a growing need for qualified veterinary services, both for large animals such as horses and smaller production animals like chickens, pigs and sheep. Those interested in this field can benefit from the fact that few veterinary practices are capable of handling large animals such as horses and cows.
  • Research vets ensure that animals used in research are maintained in good health and treated in a humane manner. In addition, they work with researchers to ensure that any experiments are conducted in such a way as to ensure that accuracy of the results.

Veterinary Specialties

In addition, there are a wide variety of veterinary specialties that have been recognized by the AVMA. In most cases, certification in a specialty requires extra education and the successful completion of a professional examination. Common specialties include the following:

  • Internal medicine.
  • Veterinary oncology.
  • Microbiology.
  • Surgery.
  • Exotic animal care.
  • Dentistry
  • Canine & Feline practice.

While not required, obtaining certification in these specialties demonstrates that the veterinarian has obtained a high level of skill in his or her specialty. In many cases, government and private agencies will prefer to hire certificated specialists when seeking to fill a career opening.

It is important to note that obtaining a certification as a veterinary specialist does not eliminate the need to maintain a current veterinary license in the individual’s state. Although these certifications demonstrate a high degree of skill in the specialty, they cannot be used in place of a state license.

Veterinary Salaries

Currently, the BLS estimates that the annual median salary for veterinarians is over $82,000, with some specialties earning considerably more. In addition, experienced veterinarians and those who own their own practices may earn more than starting vets. The BLS has stated that the top 10 percent of vets earn a median annual salary of over $145,000. Finally, veterinarians who choose to work for the federal government can expect to earn a median wage of over $88,000.

Becoming a veterinarian opens a wide variety of job opportunities. In addition to the large number of clinics that are currently seeking qualified veterinary practitioners, a number of private practices currently need qualified specialists.

In addition, the rising importance of effective veterinary care for production and livestock animals, especially to ensure that their owners are complying with current animal care regulations, has resulted in a growing market for this subfield of veterinary medicine.

Becoming a veterinarian is an excellent choice for those seeking to help provide effective care to America’s animals. Whether it is providing high quality care to a family’s beloved animal companion, or ensuring that production animals are raised in a humane and healthy setting, the job prospects for America’s vets are more promising than ever.