If you are interested in helping care for wounded or sick animals, veterinary sciences may be a good career possibility. Depending on whether you want to become a veterinarian or assist one, different education levels are needed. To assist a veterinarian, or become a veterinary technician or technologist, an undergraduate degree is all that is needed, but a veterinarian will need to complete an undergraduate and graduate degree program in order to practice.
Two common positions in the veterinary field are veterinarian and veterinary technician. Veterinarians are animal doctors who treat all types of animals, from house pets to large animals to exotic species. Veterinary technicians assist veterinarians. Educational requirements for a veterinarian usually include both an undergraduate and graduate degree related to animal science, while a technician's requirements include only an associate's degree.
|Education Requirements||Associate degree for technicians; Bachelor's degree for technologists||Doctor of Veterinary Medicine|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||19% (for veterinary technicians and technologists)||9%|
|Average Salary (2015)*||$33,280 (for veterinary technicians and technologists)||$99,000|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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For those interested in the veterinary sciences, the opportunity to assist sick or injured animals is often the main draw. The veterinary careers available all require differing amounts of formal education. While an associate's degree will suffice for a vet technician, a proper veterinarian must earn a doctorate, just like a doctor specializing in humans would.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), veterinarians are required to hold a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree to legally practice medicine on animals (www.bls.gov). This degree must come from a school accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA); as of August 2016, the AVMA listed 30 accredited schools in the United States (www.avma.org). Most DVM programs take four years to complete, although dual-degree programs, such as a combined DVM and master's degree program, can take longer to complete.
Coursework in a DVM program generally includes animal anatomy, veterinary physiology, systematic pathology and veterinary technologies. Students are also required to complete supervised clinical hours where they treat and diagnose animal patients. Prior to being accepted into a DVM program, applicants must meet prerequisite requirements, which can include completing undergraduate courses or earning a bachelor's degree. Some common prerequisite courses include genetics, chemistry, biochemistry and statistics.
Educational requirements for veterinary technicians usually include an undergraduate degree, such as an associate's degree in veterinary technology. Prerequisite courses for veterinary technology degree programs can include healthcare biology, chemistry and laboratory training. Coursework for the veterinary technology program covers veterinary medical terminology, animal behaviorisms, animal anatomy, veterinary office procedures and animal handling.
Licensing Requirements for Veterinary Careers
Upon completing an accredited DVM program, veterinarians must earn a license to practice medicine. Each state has different licensing procedures, but the BLS notes that all states require applicants to pass at least one licensing exam, such as the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. To verify that veterinarians understand state laws concerning the medical treatment of animals, some states require veterinarians to pass a jurisprudence test as part of the licensing process. License renewal requirements vary and may require applicants to complete continuing education coursework.
Veterinary technicians, like veterinarians, must be credentialed by the state in which they work. This generally means becoming certified, licensed or registered, depending on the state. To obtain these credentials, veterinary technicians must meet education requirements and pass a credentialing examination, usually the National Veterinary Technician examination; however, both the education requirements and exam can vary by state as well.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2015, veterinarians earned an annual average salary of $99,000, while veterinary technicians and technologists earned $33,280. The BLS predicted 9% employment growth for veterinarians between 2014 and 2024 and expected even faster growth of 19% for veterinary technicians and technologists during that same time.
Veterinary technicians assist veterinarians in their work, and are trained on how to handle animals, animal anatomy and veterinary office procedures. Veterinarians directly care for and diagnose animals and receive training in animal anatomy and veterinary technologies, amongst other subjects. Veterinary technicians must have a credential to practice in the state where they work, while veterinarians must hold a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine degree and a license to practice medicine.