Veterinarian: Job Duties, Occupational Outlook and Education Requirements

Veterinarians may focus on providing medical care for common household pets, like cats, dogs, rabbits and birds. They can also treat large farm animals, including horses and cattle. If you'd like to train to become a veterinarian, continue reading for information on job duties, occupational outlook and educational requirements. Schools offering Veterinary Food Inspection degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are the Job Duties of Veterinarians?

Veterinarians' duties depend upon the areas in which they work. Many veterinarians treat small companion animals. As a small animal vet, you may perform services such as spaying and neutering, setting broken bones, treating wounds and providing geriatric care for older pets. You might also take X-rays and dispense prescription medicine for animals with illnesses. Other job duties include inoculating pets against diseases and performing surgeries and euthanasia if necessary.

Veterinarians who care for large animals often engage in production medicine, which involves treating an entire herd to prevent disease. As a large animal vet, you may also advise farm owners on animal feeding and production concerns, as well as maintaining sanitary conditions. Working in food inspection as a veterinarian, you must ensure that animals are free of communicable diseases. Your duties might include placing animals in quarantine and investigating meat processing facilities to ensure they are in compliance with government regulations.

What is the Occupational Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS), jobs for veterinarians were projected to grow by 33% between 2008 and 2018, a faster pace than most occupations (www.bls.gov). Reasons for the growth involved a surge in the feline population and pet owners placing more value on their pets' health and veterinary care. With many career avenues to choose from, such as large animal medicine, small animal medicine, animal research and zoology, the employment outlook for veterinarians appeared robust. The BLS reported that the median salary for veterinarians was $82,040 in 2010.

What Are the Education Requirements?

Your pre-veterinary bachelor's curriculum includes coursework in animal biology, genetics, chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physics and animal nutrition. Aspiring veterinarians must then attend one of 28 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-accredited schools of veterinary medicine and earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. Curricula for these programs usually include courses such as veterinary immunology, advanced surgical techniques, veterinary physiology and zoological medicine.

To practice veterinary medicine, you must be licensed by your state. Requirements for licensing include a DVM degree and successful completion of the comprehensive North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. You might also be required to pass a jurisprudence examination, which deals with state regulations. You may choose to complete an internship before joining or opening a veterinary practice. To become a board-certified vet, you must complete a residency program, which will allow you to specialize in such areas as surgery, cardiology or preventive medicine after an additional four years of training.

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