What a Veterinary Surgeon Does
Veterinary surgeons, also referred to as veterinarians in the United States and Canada, are responsible for the care and wellbeing of animals. They treat illnesses and injuries as well as provide preventative care, promote wellness, and may handle palliative care. Veterinary surgeons can work in a myriad of environments, such as an animal hospital, clinic, in the military, or even a zoo.
Vets enter the field while still training and work their way up, from an intern through full-fledged veterinary surgeon and may even continue on to practice in a specialty field.
Who would enjoy a career in Veterinary Science?
People who have a genuine love of animals, understand physiology, and have good interpersonal skills will likely enjoy the career. Common degree names include Veterinary Science and Veterinary Medicine.
Who mightn't like the career?
Highly emotional people and those who are unprepared for rigorous amounts of schooling are likely to burn out in the career.
A degree from an accredited school and registration from a licensing body, such as the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) in the UK or Australasian Veterinary Boards Council (AVBC) in Australia is necessary to begin.
General vets will typically need to work as an intern first and those going for a specialty will need to complete a residency as well.
Moving into Veterinary Science from another career
Given the qualification requirements, transitioning to become a vet is not one of the more simple moves. Those who do go on to undertake the requisite courses can come from a variety of backgrounds, from areas such as Zoology, Medical Science and Animal Nutrition.
Role: Interns work under the direction of a veterinary surgeon or veterinarian and have a comprehensive list of practical skills that they need to complete in order to finish their internship.
At the start of an internship, the intern works very closely and trains with his or her superior, but by the end, he or she is able to handle all aspects of patient care and utilize various forms of equipment. Internships typically last one year, though the period may be extended to accommodate additional training. It’s also worth noting that those who plan to go into a specialty may need to complete a second internship within their intended field prior to applying for residency, in order to get into a competitive niche.
Veterinary Surgeon/ Veterinarian
Role: After completing an internship and obtaining the proper license, a person is qualified to work as a general veterinary surgeon or veterinarian. This means he or she can open his own practice or take on a position with a company.
Role: In order to become a specialist, a three-year residency is generally required. Residency is much like an internship, but with a core focus on a specific area of veterinary medicine. These veterinary specialities include:
- Internal Medicine
Role: Following residency, a person can apply for certification as a specialist. Some large clinics and zoos may have specialists on staff who remain in-house, but others have private practices or travel to the offices of other veterinarians as needed.
Specialists generally set their own schedules and may work as little as just a few days per week or put in 40 hours or more, though those who work for larger establishments may be on-call or have shift work.
Those considering a career in veterinary medicine can work anywhere in the world, but each country, and sometimes each jurisdiction within a country, has its own licensing bodies. Some will only accept credentials from those who have graduated from an accredited university, while others simply make the licensure path easier for those who graduated from a specific university.
For this reason, those hoping to practice veterinary medicine should research any region they might work in and choose a university accordingly.
Intern: Those just starting out with fewer than five years of experience make an average of USD$71,610 in the US, CAD$69,350 in Canada, AU$58,668 in Australia, and £30,374 in the UK, according to PayScale.
Veterinary Surgeon/ Veterinarian: Those with between five and ten years of experience make an average of $79,095 in the US, CAD$83,950 in Canada, AU$69,550 in Australia, and £35,803 in the UK. These figures increase if you run your own private practice successfully.
Resident: Vets may become residents before launching into a career or after time in the field. However, because most do become residents with minimal working experience right after finishing an internship, pay would fall into the 0-5 years of experience category: an average of USD$71,610 in the US, CAD$69,350 in Canada, AU$58,668 in Australia, and £30,374 in the UK.
Specialist: Specialists are well compensated for their expertise, which means they fall at the higher end of the spectrum: USD$110,693 in the US, CAD$101,793 in Canada, AU$102,447 in Australia, and £46,682 in the UK.
Why a Veterinary Surgeon moves on
A career as a vet can be emotionally draining and stressful, given the challenges of treating animals of all species and with a variety of health challenges. For those that are more headstrong, the career can be incredibly rewarding, especially when the work translates into a recovered animal and an overjoyed animal owner or carer.