What Can I Do with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) Degree?

With Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degrees, graduates can take advantage of many opportunities. These include becoming private-practice veterinarians, university-level teachers or researchers. They might also pursue government veterinary positions. Read on for degree information and the job opportunities that may be available to these professionals. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

About the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree

Before applying to a veterinary medicine program, you need a minimum amount of undergraduate credit hours that fulfill a college's desired prerequisites. Entry into a veterinary medical school is competitive, and as a result, you may consider earning a bachelor's degree to increase your chances of acceptance. You may be required to complete the Veterinary College Admission Test, the Medical College Admission Test or the Graduate Record Examination before applying to a school of veterinary medicine.

Once enrolled, it usually takes four years to complete a veterinary medicine program. You can expect to complete classes in physiology, zoology, microbiology, biochemistry, physics, animal nutrition and genetics. Many schools also recommend that you enter into a 1-year internship or a 3-4 year residency program for board certification purposes. Each state requires that you pass a licensing examination prior to actively practicing veterinary medicine.

Career Options

Veterinarian Practice

If you start your own veterinary practice, you have several choices. You can enter into pet care and work with small animals, like dogs, cats, birds, reptiles and other pets. Or, you can choose to work with livestock and farm animals, like goats, cows, horses and pigs. A small number of veterinarians specialize in exotic animal care at zoos or animal sanctuaries.

In this instance, you will review your patient's history and perform physical examinations of the animals. You will communicate with the owners of the animals about any medical issues or behavior changes in their pets. You may need to provide treatments or perform medical procedures, such as vaccinating, operating, setting splints, administering medication or delivering their offspring.

Potential employment settings include offices, laboratories, zoos, aquariums, wildlife retreats, ranches and farms. No matter where you work, it is important that you stay cautious and aware of the behavior your patients are displaying in order to remain safe.

Animal-Health Teaching and Research

With a DVM degree, you can teach at universities and colleges. You might also conduct research that can lead to new treatments and developments for conditions such as heart disease. You'll be expected to write reports and publish papers on the research you're performing in order to contribute to your field.

Food Safety Research

The knowledge that you acquire in a DVM degree program can also lead to a career wherein you identify animal-borne diseases that affect humans. These include salmonella and E. coli. You can choose two routes in this specialization. You can perform independent, government or business-sanctioned research designed to make food supplies safer, or you can choose to inspect conditions where animals are slaughtered and processed. These inspections ensure that the food supply is abundant and safe for consumption.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The number of employed veterinarians was expected to increase 12% from 2012-2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is average growth compared to all other occupations. The median salary for these professionals was $86,640 as of 2013.

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