Animal Doctor Career Options: Overview of Jobs and Opportunities

Sep 15, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an animal doctor (veterinarian). Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Veterinarians are doctors who care for animals. They work in private practice as well as in a number of sectors including farming, government, clinical, or academic. Jobs for veterinarians are expected to grow at an above average rate over the next few years.

Essential Information

Veterinarians are physicians and surgeons for animals. All states require animal doctors to be licensed. Licensure requires completion of a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree which is earned upon completion of veterinary school. A high school diploma, prerequisite undergraduate courses and other variable admission requirements are required to get into veterinary school.

Required Education Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
Licensure & Certification State licensure required
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 18%*
Median Salary (2018) $93,830*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Overview

Overall, animal doctors, or veterinarians, are charged with the study and application of medical care on animals. Veterinarians can work in a variety of settings, from farms to cities, academic labs to private clinics. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), good candidates for this work are scientifically inclined, due to the amount of science education, particularly in biology, that is required. Future vets should also have, or be prepared to develop, good skills in communication, because although animals are the patients, human caretakers are the liaison between doctor and patient (www.avma.org).

A significant amount of education is required in order to become a vet. The AVMA states that high school students should focus on science and math education. Veterinary school doesn't necessarily require a completed undergraduate degree. Instead, most of the 28 AVMA-accredited vet schools in the U.S. require the completion of specific undergraduate coursework in relevant disciplines. Admission requirements may vary by school. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), all states require veterinarians to be licensed, and completion of a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) degree is necessary for licensure (www.bls.gov).

Animal Doctor Jobs

Many animal doctors in the U.S. are private practitioners who treat people's pets in emergency or routine check-up situations. A private practice can be a boutique clinic in an urban environment, but it can also mean a traveling rural practice that includes livestock animals. However, private practice is not the only work available in this field. The AVMA recognizes almost 40 areas of veterinary specialty that include dentistry, surgery, food animal practice, immunology, poultry medicine, radiology and dermatology.

Veterinarians can work in a variety of sectors as well. They are employed by government organizations like the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency. Some veterinarians serve as active-duty military servicemen, providing care to military animals like dogs and marine mammals. More academically inclined animal doctors can research or teach at veterinary medicine colleges.

Job Opportunities

The AVMA predicts a good career outlook for animal doctors as more and more people get pets. Additionally, scientific research requiring animals also continues to expand, creating further demand for vets. The BLS expects much faster growth than the national average through 2028. In May 2018, the BLS reported that workers in the 90th percentile or higher earned $162,450 or more per year, whereas the bottom 10th percentile earned $56,540 or less per year.

The ease of finding work may depend on the area of practice, though. New solo practitioners will have to work to develop a client base, the BLS mentions, though opportunities in urban and suburban areas are expected to be plentiful. The best area to do veterinary work, according to the BLS, will be rural areas, since the number of available vets there is smaller than in urban areas.

A veterinarian requires a Doctor of Veterinary Degree (DVM) and state licensing. Admission requirements vary for DVM programs, and may include a bachelor's degree or may only require completion of certain college level courses. Among the work opportunities for animal doctors are private practice, the military, government agencies or academia.

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