What Are the Duties of a Veterinarian?

If you have a passion for animals and like working with the public, you might consider a career as a veterinarian; however, this career requires several years of schooling. If you think you have what it takes to be a medical caregiver to animals, keep reading to find out what a vet does and how to become one. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Overview of a Veterinarian

As a veterinarian, you will determine the illnesses or causes of injury afflicting your patients, assess animals' conditions and advise owners on treatments. You may place stitches or casts as needed and, in some cases, perform surgeries. You may also neuter and spay pets, administer vaccines, euthanize terminal animals and advise owners on the overall care of their animals.

Most veterinarians work with pets, though many others diagnose and treat livestock, zoo animals or horses. Others work in research to expand human understanding of animals and make advancements in animal care.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Key Skills Compassionate, good at decision-making, management, problem-solving, interpersonal
Work Environment Classrooms, farms, laboratories, private clinics or hospitals
Similar Occupations Physicians and surgeons, veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers, veterinary technologists and technicians
Continuing Education Continuing education is required to maintain licensure; annual or biannual requirements vary by state
Job Outlook (2016-2026)19% growth
Median Salary (May 2018) $93,830

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements

To qualify for licensure and practice as a veterinarian, you need a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. The American Veterinary Medical Association must accredit the veterinary college you attend. Some veterinary schools require you to have a bachelor's degree, but all require undergraduate prerequisite coursework in areas such as biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology to gain admission.

Once admitted, you can expect to complete four years of coursework in topics like animal anatomy, microbiology, veterinary immunology, diagnostic imaging, surgery and parasitology. Your fourth year consists of clinical rotations in various aspects of veterinary medicine, such as small and large animal core rotations.


You must be licensed to practice as a veterinarian. The licensing process varies by state but generally entails passage of a national exam administered by the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME). The NBVME will report your scores to the state licensing board (www.nbvme.org). You might also have to pass state-administered exams on veterinary law and clinical aptitude. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you may go directly into practice after obtaining a license, or you may complete a one-year internship, which might result in higher wages later in your career.

Specialty Info

Some veterinarians go on to complete three to four-year residencies in specialties like surgery, internal medicine or anesthesiology. Board certification isn't required to work in a specialty, but it can show that you're an expert in your particular veterinary field. After completing a residency or gaining experience in the field, you may sit for your certification exam.

Salary and Job Outlook

The BLS indicated that jobs in this field were expected to grow 19% between 2016 and 2026 (www.bls.gov). Increases in consumers' pet-related spending are expected to drive employment in the veterinary services industry, which employs most veterinarians. Overall job prospects are expected to be very good. In addition to projected employment growth, job opportunities will also become available as veterinarians retire, opening up positions for new veterinarians. In May 2018, the median annual wage for veterinarians was $93,830, according to the BLS.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools