CAREER DEVELOPMENT / JAN. 29, 2014
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How to Become a Veterinarian

Veterinarian surgeons or vets as they are most commonly known, is a career which will never go out of style, or demand for that matter. Pets and animals in general, will always be exposed to illness and without qualified vets available to treat them, we are going to have a lot of dead cats and dogs. So, if you are passionate about animal welfare and don’t mind animals are your clients, then a career as a veterinarian is perhaps the career for you.

What do Veterinary Surgeons Do?

Well, although vets have a very varied workload, in simple terms they look after the healthcare and well-being of animals. Due to the fact that vets are trained to look after every animal, their practices and workloads can be somewhat more interesting, than many doctors. Typical daily activities of a vet may include:

  • Examining and treating any kind of animal such as horses, tigers, birds, cats or dogs.
  • Carrying out routine visits to farms to check on the well-being of the livestock.
  • Taking x-rays, giving immunisations and checking for allergies.
  • Euthanising animals that are either in pain or too old.
  • Carrying out numerous pro bono activities for charities or for people who cannot afford to take their animals to a vet.
  • Implanting chips with information about an animal’s owners in case an animal is lost.
  • Maintaining up to date records and paperwork on animals and owners.
  • Promoting certain products to owners which they feel would improve animal well-being.
  • Spaying cats and dogs to reduce the stray population.
  • Performing surgical procedures on animals when necessary.
  • Work long and odd hours when attending emergency out of hour’s calls, especially to farms if an accident has happened.

Salary

It is an excellent career, if you are interested in monetary rewards. It is less demanding than becoming a doctor and usually they earn more money due to setting up private practices. Typical average salaries are:

Graduate

£30,000

Experienced

£43,000

Senior Vets

£44,000 - £55,000 - Or higher

Senior Partner or Owner of practice

£55,000 - Or Higher

Much the same as most careers, your pay is ultimately based upon your geographical position, skills and experience, as well as what your employer can afford to pay you. If you set up your own practice, then you will earn more money, but you will also have a lot more responsibility.

Qualifications Needed

In order to become a vet, the very minimum that you have to have is a veterinary degree from a Royal college of Veterinary Surgeons approved university. These courses can either be started straight from school, or also after a first degree. In order to get onto these courses, you need to get high marks at A-levels in biology and two other subjects preferably either physics, chemistry or mathematics. If you did not take the right subjects at A-Level, then some courses do provide a foundation science year.

There are only seven veterinary schools in the UK. This makes competition for places on these courses really high, so as well as having an interview and fulfilling the usual academic requirements, some candidates, such as those for the Cambridge course, also have to take the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT).

Entry requirements:

  • High A-level marks in chemistry, biology and physics or mathematics.
  • High score in BMAT test (not all universities).
  • A driving license.
  • Show an interest in the veterinary profession by doing some job experience at a local veterinary practice to impress the admissions officers.

If you actually manage to get onto the course, then you still face between five and six years of intense and expensive study, in order to obtain your degree.

  • Degree in veterinary medicine/ science (5 or 6 years)
  • Extra mural studies EMS – hands on vocational training at a veterinary practise – (38 weeks)
  • 35 hours of continuous professional development per year to maintain their membership of RCVS
  • Specialisation takes extra study for a diploma as well as publication of papers on specialisation.

Career Development

Once qualified, there are considerable opportunities for career development. Although, newly qualified vets will usually works as assistants. If they wish to specialise, then you usually work in a practise which specialise in a certain area, such as zoology or equine medicine. After gaining some experience a candidate obtains further education, and publishes papers, in order to get the RCVS qualified status in a specialisation. It is also possible to move up the ladder of seniority within a practise, to become a senior partner, or even set up your own practise. But this is becoming rarer, as most vets do not want the added responsibility of being in charge of a practise. However, if you love animals, like a lot of money and don’t mind hard work and odd hours this may well be the right career for you.

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