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Job Profile: Veterinarian


Veterinarians looking at x-ray
John Wood Photography/Photodisc/Getty Images

Veterinary medicine is perhaps the most high profile career path in the animal industry. Pursuing a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree requires a significant educational and financial commitment, but the job outlook is excellent for those pursuing this popular profession.


Veterinarians are licensed animal health professionals who are qualified to diagnose and treat pets, livestock and exotic animals. A vet can work in a variety of environments, but will generally interact with both animal patients and human clients. The typical routine for a vet in small animal practice includes well pet exams, scheduled surgeries (such as spay/neuter procedures), and post-surgical follow up exams. Vets also take x-rays, prescribe medications, suture wounds, and give immunizations. Vets are usually assisted by veterinary technicians.

Career Options

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than 75% of vets work in private practice. The majority work with small animals, but other areas of practice include large animal, equine, and exotics. Outside of private practice, vets also find work as college professors or educators, pharmaceutical sales representatives, military personnel, government inspectors, and researchers.

Education, Training, and Licensing

All vets must graduate with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. There are 28 colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States which employ a highly competitive admissions process. Upon graduation, vets must also pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE). Approximately 2,500 vets enter the field each year.


The median wage for veterinarians is around $79,000 according to the 2010-2011 Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Earnings in 2010 varied from under $46,000 to more than $143,000. Small animal vets fared the best in terms of average starting salary with $64,744; large animal vets started out at an average of $62,424. Higher salaries are generally earned by veterinarians who are board certified in a particular specialty area (ophthalmology, oncology, surgery, etc).

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the profession will expand at a much faster rate than average—nearly 33% from 2008 to 2018. The limited number of graduates from vet programs will translate to excellent job prospects in the field. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there were 90,201 veterinarians practicing in 2010, with a slight majority of those (46,992) being female. Women are expected to continue to enter the profession in increasing numbers.

How To Get A Job At A Vets Office
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