If you love animals, then naturally, your passion will translate to an interest in working in the veterinary field. Whether you aspire to be a veterinarian, a vet technician, or a veterinary assistant, is working in the veterinary field a good job?
Veterinary medicine is a difficult but fulfilling job. You’ll get to help many animals, utilize problem-solving skills, and communicate with humans and animals alike. You could make as much as $100,000+ a year if you advance in this role.
In today’s guide, we’ll explore what it takes to get involved in veterinary medicine, what your job requires you to do, and what your earnings potential looks like. Then we’ll investigate the pros and cons of working as a vet so you can decide if this career path is right for you!
What Are the Job Responsibilities of a Vet?
As a veterinarian, what kinds of job responsibilities will greet you each day you’re on the job? Let’s go over the daily duties of a vet now.
When a pet comes into the vet’s office with a broken leg (or wing) or because they’ve stopped eating, you’ll examine the pet to determine what might be going on.
Since it’s not like an animal can verbally communicate in a way we understand, you have to know the signs and symptoms of various conditions and diseases well.
Your job as a vet will require you to use x-ray machines and other veterinary tech to aid you in making a diagnosis. You might also collect blood, urine, and fecal samples that you’d take yourself or have a vet tech take.
If a pet is visibly injured, such as after an attack or a bite from another animal, you’d sterilize the area to prevent infection and dress the wound. You’d then recommend the pet owner change the dressing later and continue to monitor the injury to stave off infection.
Prescribe and Administer Treatments
Not all pet conditions are as immediately treatable as that, though.
For those that require more in-depth treatments, you might administer those treatments in your vet’s office or prescribe treatment to the pet owner to administer at home.
For example, you can inject a pet with medication. If the medication is oral and must be taken over many days, then you’d prescribe it to the pet owner to give to their pet.
Test and Vaccinate
Pets need vaccinations throughout their lifetime, usually when they’re puppies and kittens. You’ll administer these vaccinations and track which vaccinations a pet has received, so they don’t get any duplicates.
If you suspect that a pet has been exposed to a new pathogen, you can test for it and then vaccinate the pet if need be.
Recommend Pet Care
You know a lot about animals, so when a pet owner has issues, they’ll seek your guidance and professional opinion.
You might suggest a dietary change for an animal, weight loss, more exercise, and other care recommendations.
The hardest part by far of being a veterinarian is euthanasia. If it’s what’s best for the animal, though, then it’s what has to be done.
Is It Hard to Become a Vet?
Becoming a veterinarian is not an overnight process. In this section, we’ll go over the steps required to gain the qualifications to work as a vet so you can decide how difficult a path this is.
Enroll in Veterinary School
Having a GED is not nearly enough education if you hope to get a vet job. You’ll have to attend veterinary school as well.
A veterinary school is not a quick program that you graduate from in a year or two. While it varies based on the vet school you select, the entirety of the program can last for eight years in some instances.
That’s due to all the educational experience you’ll gain. You’ll spend at least two semesters learning general chemistry, then another two semesters of organic chemistry, and one to two semesters spent on biochemistry and molecular biology with a laboratory component.
Then you’ll have two semesters of general biology and two semesters of physics with a lab component.
Your course load will also include mathematics classes and general education.
Graduate from Veterinary School
Having at least a bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine is enough to get you out on the job market.
If you want to capitalize on opportunities to earn more money, then you might aspire to graduate with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.
Get Your License
If you live in and plan to practice in the United States, then you must take the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam to become a licensed vet.
The NAVLE is administered by the International Council for Veterinary Assessment or ICVA. It’s considered a difficult exam since it’s so all-encompassing, so studying up is absolutely a requirement.
If you don’t pass your first time around, don’t worry. You can always take the NAVLE again until you get a passing grade.
Keep in mind that some states throughout the country might require you to take another exam in addition to the NAVLE to become licensed to practice veterinary medicine.
Intern or Begin a Residency
You’ll need experience before you get hired for your first vet job. You can either take on an internship for a year or more and then begin looking for full-time work, or you can participate in a residency program.
A residency is a multi-year program. You’ll undergo further training and supervision for the duration of the program.
Join a Local Professional Veterinarian Association
Most states have their own professional veterinarian associations you can join. If not on a state level, then you can participate in an association on a national level.
As a member, you’ll be granted resources to continue your education, access to published literature and newsletters, and even professional networking opportunities.
How Much Money Do Vets Make?
You might be more interested than ever in pursuing a career as a vet, but is this job going to provide a stable enough financial footing?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS, veterinarians earn $48.26 an hour, which is an annual earnings rate of $100,370 per year.
The veterinary field isn’t going away anytime soon, either. In 2020, up to 86,800 vet jobs existed. The BLS predicts that between 2020 and 2030, the field will grow by a rate of 17 percent, which is faster than average.
As long as people own pets, your job as a vet will always be needed.
The Pros and Cons of Working as a Vet
If you’re still on the fence regarding whether you should work as a veterinarian, this section should help you make up your mind. In it, we’ll look at the pros and cons of being a vet.
Let’s begin with the clear advantages of this career choice.
Making a Difference in People’s Lives
If you’re looking for a job where you make a difference, you’ve found it.
As a vet, you’re helping people’s sick or injured animals every single day. You’re giving these people peace of mind and happiness, as their pets will usually recover, and they can enjoy more time together.
Even checkups make a difference, as you can give a pet a clean bill of health or diagnose an issue that the pet owner hadn’t realized was even there.
Spend All Day with Animals
Animal lovers don’t have many career trajectories besides vet or dog walker. A vet is a much more rewarding job, as you get hands-on experience with animals of all kinds. You’ll still spend your day with people, but the bulk of your time will be with animals.
As we discussed in the section above, the veterinary field is continuing to grow and has a healthy outlook for the next decade. That should instill confidence in you that you’ve selected a career path with longevity.
Each day when you close your veterinary practice, you’ll have a rewarding, fulfilled feeling knowing that you’ve helped so many people and that you perhaps even saved the lives of some animals.
Your work isn’t ever pointless, which should inspire you to pursue each day with renewed vigor.
Working as a veterinarian, as with any job, does have its downsides. Let’s take a look.
It Takes a Long Time to Become a Vet
We want to reiterate again that you cannot begin working as a vet in a matter of months or even years. It can take upwards of eight years if you’re committed to furthering your education as much as you need to.
Then you need to gain experience, which takes years more.
All said, it can be about a decade between when you decide to become a vet and when you actually start working as one.
Some people don’t mind that time commitment, while others will want a career they can start much sooner.
Stressful, Hard Work
The high-paced environment of a vet’s office is not what comes to mind when you think about relaxing jobs.
Even if patients come in by appointment only, you can still get harried if you have back-to-back appointments or if one appointment runs a bit long.
If you work for an animal hospital that doesn’t require appointments, the stress of the job is going to be a lot more apparent.
You Have to Put Animals Down
By far, the worst part of working as a veterinarian is having to put animals down, which we talked about a little at the start of this article.
Even though these pets aren’t yours, if you’ve cared for them their entire lives, then you’ll feel some attachment to them and their human owners.
It’s never fun to have to be the one to pick up the phone and call a patient to tell them their precious pet should be euthanized. It’s even worse to have to perform the service yourself.
This is a requirement of the job, though. In almost every case, a pet that’s undergoing euthanasia is better off for it. Perhaps they were very sick or injured, or maybe they were just old.
That said, it can still be very emotionally taxing at first.
For better or for worse, you will develop compassion fatigue with time. Seeing all the trauma that animals go through will desensitize you to future pain so that even euthanasia won’t phase you as much.
The Verdict – Is Being a Vet a Good Job?
Every job has its advantages and disadvantages. In the case of working as a vet, we think the good far outweighs the bad.
You’ll always be surrounded by fluffy companions to reduce your work stress, which is a benefit that a lot of people working office jobs simply don’t have.
Although it’s a long, arduous climb to attain the job of a veterinarian, once you have it, the fulfilling work you do, the demand for professionals in your role, and your high earnings make working as a vet worth it.
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