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Veterinarian Opportunities for Advancement

Veterinarians are medical specialists focused on the research, diagnosis, and treatment of medical problems in animals. As a veterinarian gains experience, advancement can take the form of choosing a veterinary specialization, teaching veterinary science at a postsecondary institution, or moving into full-time research.

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Career Advancement for Veterinarians

Through research, diagnosis, and treatment, veterinarians care for the health and wellbeing of both animals and the people around them. Many veterinarians begin their careers working with companion animals or livestock. While the companion and livestock veterinary field is a growing one, it is not the only area in which a veterinarian can advance in his or her career.

Experienced veterinarians can advance in several ways. These include focusing on a veterinary specialization, teaching at a college or university, or moving into full-time research as a medical scientist or agriculture and food scientist. Details on these avenues for advancement are below.

Job Title Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2016-26)* Qualifications
Veterinary Medicine Specialization $93,830 (veterinarian) 19% (veterinarian) DVM degree, Specialization Board Certification
College or University Instructor $97,870 (postsecondary health specialties instructor) 26% (postsecondary health specialties instructor) DVM degree, work or research experience
Medical Scientist $84,810 (except epidemiologists) 13% (except epidemiologists) DVM or Ph.D. degree with area of specialization
Agriculture or Food Scientist $64,020 7% DVM or Ph.D. degree

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information

Veterinary Medicine Specialization

A veterinarian with several years of experience and advanced training can become board certified in a specialized area of veterinary medicine. There are 22 AVMA-recognized specialization organizations that offer 41 specializations, including animal behavior, internal medicine, pharmacology, surgery, and more. A complete list of specializations is provided on the AVMA website. Specialization usually requires an internship and residency with a board-certified specialist. Board certification is awarded after the completion of required training and the passing of a certification exam.

College or University Instructor

An experienced veterinarian may move into the role of a postsecondary teacher. College and university instructors begin as assistant professors and advance to associate professor and full professor positions after several years of teaching experience. Many universities offer the possibility of tenure with promotion as well. In addition to teaching students, veterinary instructors also conduct and publish valuable academic research. Because of this, applicants may be asked to show a record of scholarly research in addition to their years of veterinary experience.

Medical Scientist

A medical scientist researches avenues for preventing and treating disease. Veterinarians with proven experience in research are in demand by private laboratories, postsecondary institutions, and government agencies. These veterinary-focused medical scientists investigate health issues with animals in captive or companion situations, including livestock, wildlife, and aquatic animals. No special certification is required, but a specialization of study at the doctoral level and a track record of experience and research is invaluable.

Agriculture or Food Scientist

Agriculture and food science is another area of advancement that could be considered by a veterinarian. An agriculture and food scientist with veterinary experience can be employed in the public health arena. The USDA is the largest veterinarian employer; through inspection, testing, and research, veterinarians evaluate animal health and food safety, and prevent food-borne diseases, making them an instrumental part of the country's food supply. As with the role of medical scientist, there is no specific certification required to move into the agriculture and food science field, but a strong research record is a must.

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