Veterinary Professions: An Overview

Sep 14, 2019

Degrees in veterinary sciences typically teach students to provide medical care to animals. Find out about the requirements of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for veterinary science graduates.

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Individuals who wish to pursue a career working with animals can consider being a veterinarian or veterinary technician. Veterinarians are required to be a doctor of veterinary medicine, while veterinary technicians need to complete an associate's degree. State licensing is required for both careers.

Essential Information

Degree programs in veterinary sciences vary greatly in level. These programs provide students with the skills to care for animals' health needs and require a state license for practice. The majority of veterinary science professionals, such as veterinarians and their technicians, work in clinics and private practices, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). These rewarding professionals are expected to see a positive job outlook over the next decade.

Career Veterinary Technician Veterinarian
Education Requirements Associate's degree Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Additional Requirements State license State license
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 19% (veterinary technologists and technicians) 18%
Median Salary (2018)* $34,420 (veterinary technologists and technicians) $93,830

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

For individuals who love animals, the field of veterinary medicine offers different career paths. These careers work toward the betterment of the health and well-being of animals and can be rewarding professions. While the educational requirements of these careers vary greatly in degree level, licensure is a commonality. Read on to learn more about the jobs of veterinary technicians and veterinarians.

Veterinary Technician

A veterinary technician is an individual who has completed an associate's degree and licensure. The American Veterinary Medical Association notes that a veterinary technician's duties vary depending on location. Some states may allow a veterinary technician to perform ultrasounds and dental procedures, assist in administering anesthesia or preparing animals for surgery.

Completion of a 2-year degree program is required. This may be an associate's degree in applied science or another related major. Coursework in these programs include anatomy and physiology in animals, veterinary terminology and clinical practice. These degree programs tend to require 90-plus credit hours of study.

Each state sets licensing requirements for veterinary technician, and many use the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) administered by The American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). The test consists of 225 multiple choice questions in seven topics, including pharmacology, diagnostic imaging, anesthesia and dentistry.

The BLS predicts a 19% employment growth for veterinary technologists and technicians in the 2018-2028 decade. In 2018, vet technicians and technologists earned $34,420 as a yearly median salary, per BLS.


The BLS noted that a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) or veterinarian is an individual who has completed a 4-year program of study focusing on animal medicine. These programs may require a certain number of undergraduate credits, although not all DVM programs require that applicants have a bachelor's degree. In a DVM degree program, students may choose from several tracks, including small animal and equine veterinary medicine. These programs take four years to complete and typically include the study of anatomy, treatments (including surgery) for large and small animals and clinical rotations. In some programs, a thesis is optional.

The National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners offers the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE), which is required in every state. This computer-based test includes 360 multiple choice questions. Individuals in the U.S. who wish to take the NAVLE must submit two applications: one to take the NAVLE and the other to send to a state licensing board for approval to take the NAVLE.

Some veterinarians conduct research and use that new knowledge for practical purposes. Most people, however, are more familiar with clinical veterinarians who diagnose, treat, and cure their pets' diseases or injuries. Clinical veterinarians usually specialize in small companion animals, mixed (non-domestic) animals or large animals such as horses or cows. Clinical veterinarians perform surgery, vaccinate animals, position fractures, administer medications, bandage wounds and educate owners about the condition of their animals, including their dietary and care needs, according to the BLS.

The BLS estimates a 18% job growth for veterinarians in the years 2018-2028. Veterinarians earned median annual wages of $93,830 in 2018, per BLS.

Stable job growth of 18% is expected for veterinarians from 2018-2028. Veterinary technologists and technicians are expected to experience much faster than average job growth of 19% for the same decade. Candidates who complete the required postsecondary degrees and state licensing requirements should find many options in this job market upon graduation and can distinguish themselves to employers by working with animals or completing internships in this field.

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