How Can I Become a Clinical Veterinarian?

Research what it takes to become a clinical veterinarian. Learn about job duties, education requirements, and earning potential to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Clinical Veterinarian?

Clinical veterinarians, who are typically just called veterinarians, diagnose and treat animals much like a doctor treats people. They manage animal health by performing routine checkups and treating animals that have illnesses, injuries or diseases. Veterinary duties also include performing X-rays, ultrasounds and surgery when needed. Their additional responsibilities include - but are not limited to - performing dental care, setting fractures, advising owners on the best course of care and treatment, and euthanizing animals when necessary. See the table below for information about education requirements, expected salary, and job outlook for this career.

Education Required Doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Veterinary medicine
Licensure/Certification All 50 states require licensure; optional specialty certification available
Job Growth (2014-2024) 9%*
Median Salary (2015) $88,490*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a Veterinarian?

As a veterinarian, you diagnose and treat animals, administer vaccinations and medications, attend to wounds, perform surgery and work with owners to ensure the overall health and wellbeing of their animals. Some veterinarians specialize in either small animals or large animals, while others may focus on specific groups or species, such as farm animals, avian animals, exotic animals, canines or felines.

What Education Do I Need?

The first step to becoming a veterinarian is obtaining an undergraduate degree. While in undergraduate school, you should generally take courses in the sciences, such as biology, chemistry, animal biology, animal chemistry, microbiology and embryology. Though there are some veterinary programs that do not require you to have a bachelor's degree, you will likely have a harder time getting accepted without one, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ( You should expect to devote four years towards the completion of an undergraduate program.

After undergraduate school, you must enter a school of veterinarian medicine leading to a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.). Programs generally last four years; during the fourth year most programs allow for concentration in an area of specialty, such as large animal, small animal or mixed animal. Programs cover essential topics, such as:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Animal nutrition
  • Parasitology
  • Pharmacology and toxicology
  • Pathology
  • Large/small animal medicine
  • Diagnostic imaging

How Do I Get Licensed and Certified?

You should check your state for the particulars of licensing requirements, but all 50 states require practicing veterinarians to have a D.M.V and pass the North American Veterinary Board Examination, according to the BLS. Although it is not mandatory for employment, you may seek board certification from the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners ( You can apply for certification in an area of specialty, such as beef cattle, avian, canines, felines, exotic pets and equine.

How Much Can I Expect To Earn?

According to the BLS, veterinarians are expected to experience a 9% increase in employment opportunities from 2014-2024. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $88,490 in 2015. The top-paid ten percent earned $158,260 or more, while the bottom ten percent earned $53,210 or less during this time.

What Will My Job Duties Be?

Research veterinarians are another type of vet with the same education requirements as clinical veterinarians. Rather than treating animals in a clinic, research veterinarians work in labs, and they may conduct experiments related to both animal and human health. Doctors and physicians perform similar duties to veterinarians, though they work with people rather than animals. Physicians must hold a medical degree and a license. Another doctoral-level career is that of a medical scientist. These scientists need a Ph.D., though some have a medical degree, and they focus on conducting experiments with the aim of improving medicine and human health.

If education requirements are a concern, all veterinarians need veterinary assistants, technicians and technologists to help them on the job. These assistants and techs work directly with animals and aid clinical veterinarians in providing care and treatment. The education requirements for these positions range from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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