Veterinarian (Livestock): Educational Requirements

Becoming a livestock veterinarian requires a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and licensing requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

All veterinarians need to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, and those interested in working with livestock animals may further complete a residency program. Licensing is required as well, and regulations vary by state.

Essential Information

Livestock veterinarians focus on the health of horses or food animals such as cattle, pigs, and sheep by performing checkups, diagnosing illnesses, prescribing treatments and quarantining animals if necessary. Most aspiring livestock veterinarians complete a bachelor's degree program in a major related to animal science before attaining the required Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree through veterinary school. Livestock veterinarians must then complete an internship or residency program and become licensed before being able to practice.

Required Education Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
Other Requirements Completion of an internship or residency program and licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 9% (all veterinarians)*
Median Salary (2015) $88,490 (all veterinarians)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 78,300 veterinarians employed in the U.S. in 2014, with a median yearly income of $88,490. Vets who work exclusively with food animals had the highest starting salaries. Veterinarians in general can expect employment opportunities to increase by 9% over the 2014-2024 decade. Among those vets working in private practice in 2015, about 6% were equine vets and about 7% were vets for food animals.

Licensing Requirements

The BLS also reports that all states require veterinarians to be licensed unless they work for exempted state and federal agencies. The requirements for licensure can vary by state, but usually include a DVM and passing grade on the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE). The NAVLE, given by the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, includes both multiple choice and visual questions that test a candidate's knowledge of veterinary medicine and diagnostic skills. Some states also require state jurisprudence or clinical competency exams.

Certification Option

The American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) offers species-oriented certification for veterinarians. Among the certifications offered are: beef cattle practice, equine practice, dairy practice, swine health management and food animal practice. According to the ABVP, applicants for certification must have six years of experience in the category they wish to test for.

To summarize, a livestock veterinarian makes a living by traveling to farms to look after the health of horses or food animals. In order to practice, they must complete a DVM degree, specialize in livestock, and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. The salary for all veterinarians is considered to be lucrative, and job growth during the 2014-2024 decade should be slightly faster than average.

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