How to become a Veterinarian
Billy Glading   by BILLY GLADING  |  published Aug 16, 2021
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How to become a Veterinarian

Let me paint the picture for you. I get home after a long day’s work, tired from a schedule full of meetings and a little on edge from a highway full of traffic. And what is the first thing I see when I come through the door? My three dogs, with their smiling faces and wagging tails. They get me every time! They are as much a part of my family as my wife and daughter are. So naturally we want them to live long, happy and healthy lives. And when something is medically wrong, we want them to have the best care possible.

What is a Veterinarian?

A Veterinarian is a person who is qualified to treat diseased or injured animals. For example, many veterinarians work with domesticated animals such as dogs and cats that serve as house pets for people around the world. However, there are also specialized veterinarians that are specifically trained to deal with larger wildlife, such as lions, and tigers and bears, oh my!

Our Veterinarian seems to really love our dogs. She just has a way with them that puts everyone at ease. I’m not sure that a love for animals is a requirement for this job, but it does seem like an odd profession to embark upon if you do not love animals. Or maybe you are just looking for a group of clients that won’t “talk back”!

What does a Veterinarian do?

The daily tasks of a Veterinarian can consist of many different things. They might be doing routine health check-ups, diagnosing injury or disease, tending to wounds, conducting surgeries, or euthanizing animals (that one always makes me sad).

Most veterinarians work in a clinic or hospital and are assisted by various staff members (such as “Vet Techs”) to help them meet the needs of their furry clients throughout the course of the day. Some types of veterinarians may also work in settings such as farms, zoos, or laboratories.

Women examining a horse

What degree do you need to be a Veterinarian?

Becoming a veterinarian requires an individual to obtain the proper education and license/s. Each state requires veterinarians to be licensed, however requirements may vary by state.

From an education standpoint, one can expect to attend a college of veterinary medicine in order to obtain a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). The majority of DVM programs will take candidates 4 years to complete, and this would take place after one has received a bachelor’s degree, which is also customarily 4 years in length. This should come as no surprise, as you are literally becoming a doctor for animals.

If you are looking to give yourself an advantage in the application process, veterinary schools are looking for candidates with specific training. It would be a good idea to fill your undergraduate schedule with some science classes, such as biology, chemistry and animal sciences. Agriculture and math are also quality areas of studies that can help you in this career and may be a requirement in the eyes of some. As far as “hands on” experience goes, I am sure admissions staff would be thrilled to see that you have spent some time working in the field. Animal shelters, clinics and farms are all great places to put in some quality time working with animals.

What is a Veterinarian’s Salary?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for veterinarians was $99,250 in May 2020. Veterinarians make a good salary, but that does not come without a lot of hard work. Most veterinarians work more than 40 hours a week, often times working on weekends and nights. But hey, you know what they say…if you love your job you never work a day in your life!

Dog on exam table

“I really like client education. If I can help an owner take better care of their pet, and I don’t have to see them as often, that’s fantastic.” – Tiffany

“I love animals. The human animal bond I really like that. And I am a science nerd. I really like biology, so put the two together and you have a veterinarian. It’s very rewarding when you have a sick patient that comes in and you are able to figure out what’s wrong with them and fix them. There is no better feeling than that.” – Kristin

If you are a caretaker by nature, and a person that likes animals, you might what to give serious consideration to becoming a veterinarian. The work is rewarding, and the pay is good. And how many people get to say they actually save lives in their day job!

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