Veterinary studies involves working with animals and treating or researching new ways to prevent disease in pets and livestock. Learn about academic and licensing requirements for veterinarians here, as well as what you might earn in the field.
In a veterinary studies program, sometimes called a pre-veterinary studies or just pre-vet program, you'll learn how to care for and treat domestic animals and cattle. In general, your course of study will include topics in anatomy and physiology, diagnostics and clinical procedures. You'll also learn about anesthesiology and surgical techniques. The study of ethical and professional standards in the veterinary industry may also be part of your program.
As a qualified graduate of a veterinary studies program, you may work as a privately employed or staff veterinarian, caring for household pets and other small animals. Depending on your area of specialization, you might hold a position as an equine veterinarian or livestock veterinarian within the food industry, treating cattle, pigs and sheep. You may also work with large animals in a zoo. If you pursue a nonclinical veterinary career, you might work in a laboratory, conducting animal research as a means of preventing human health problems.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2012, most veterinarians are employed by animal clinics and private hospitals, with approximately 18% engaged in private practice. Between 2012 and 2022, opportunities for employment were projected to grow by 12% nationwide. In May 2013, veterinarians earned a mean annual salary of $96,140, as reported by the BLS (www.bls.gov).
To work as a veterinarian, you'll need a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from a program that has been accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The programs typically take four years to complete; completion of a bachelor's degree in veterinary science may help you qualify for admission. Additional requirements can include taking the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT). Classroom and clinical studies might allow for a concentration in small animal care.
If you want to work as a veterinarian, you should enjoy working with animals and have the physical stamina necessary to work long hours that may include emergencies. Interpersonal skills and patience are key, especially when interacting with emotional pet owners. Good reflexes and the ability to remain calm may also be helpful when working with animals that may cause physical harm.
After completing a DVM program, you'll need to obtain a state license. Although requirements can vary from state to state, you'll have to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination.