What They Do: Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to protect public health.
Work Environment: Most veterinarians work in private clinics and hospitals. Others travel to farms or work in settings such as laboratories, classrooms, or zoos.
How to Become One: must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from an accredited veterinary college, as well as a state license.
Salary: The median annual wage for veterinarians is $100,370.
Job Outlook: Employment of veterinarians is projected to grow 19 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of veterinarians with similar occupations.
Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to improve public health. They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals.
Veterinarians typically do the following:
Veterinarians treat the injuries and illnesses of pets and other animals with a variety of medical equipment, including surgical tools and x-ray and ultrasound machines. They provide treatment for animals that is similar to the services a physician provides to treat humans.
The following are examples of types of veterinarians:
Companion animal veterinarians treat pets and generally work in private clinics and hospitals. They most often care for cats and dogs, but also treat other pets, such as birds, ferrets, and rabbits. These veterinarians diagnose and provide treatment for animal health problems; consult with animal owners about preventive healthcare; and carry out medical and surgical procedures, such as vaccinations, dental work, and setting fractures.
Food animal veterinarians work with farm animals such as pigs, cattle, and sheep, which are raised to be food sources. They spend much of their time at farms and ranches treating illnesses and injuries and testing for and vaccinating against disease. They may advise farm owners or managers about feeding, housing, and general health practices.
Food safety and inspection veterinarians inspect and test livestock and animal products for major animal diseases, provide vaccines to treat animals, enhance animal welfare, conduct research to improve animal health, and enforce government food safety regulations. They design and administer animal and public health programs for the prevention and control of diseases transmissible among animals and between animals and people.
Veterinarians hold about 86,300 jobs. The largest employers of veterinarians are as follows:
|Social advocacy organizations||1%|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||1%|
Most veterinarians work in private clinics and hospitals. Others travel to farms or work in settings such as laboratories, classrooms, or zoos.
Veterinarians who treat horses or food animals travel between their offices and farms and ranches. They work outdoors in all kinds of weather and may have to perform surgery, often in remote locations.
Veterinarians who work in food safety and inspection travel to farms, slaughterhouses, and food-processing plants to inspect the health of animals and to ensure that the facility follows safety protocols.
The work can be emotionally stressful, as veterinarians care for abused animals, euthanize sick ones, and offer support to the animals’ anxious owners. Working on farms and ranches, in slaughterhouses, or with wildlife can also be physically demanding.
When working with animals that are frightened or in pain, veterinarians risk being bitten, kicked, and scratched. In addition, veterinarians working with diseased animals risk being infected by the disease.
Most veterinarians work full time, often working more than 40 hours per week. Some work nights or weekends, and they may have to respond to emergencies outside of scheduled work hours.
Get the education you need: Find schools for Veterinarians near you!
Veterinarians must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from an accredited veterinary college, as well as a state license.
Veterinarians must complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD) degree at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. There are currently 30 colleges with accredited programs in the United States. A veterinary medicine program generally takes 4 years to complete and includes classroom, laboratory, and clinical components.
Most applicants to veterinary school have a bachelor's degree. Veterinary medical colleges typically require applicants to have taken many science classes, including biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, zoology, microbiology, and animal science. Most programs also require math, humanities, and social science courses.
Admission to veterinary programs is competitive.
In veterinary medicine programs, students take courses on animal anatomy and physiology, as well as disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Most programs include 3 years of classroom, laboratory, and clinical work. Students typically spend the final year of the 4-year program doing clinical rotations in a veterinary medical center or hospital.
Some veterinary medical colleges weigh experience heavily during the admissions process. Formal experience, such as previous work with veterinarians or scientists in clinics, agribusiness, research, or some area of health science, is particularly advantageous. Less formal experience, such as working with animals on a farm, at a stable, or in an animal shelter, can also be helpful.
Although graduates of a veterinary program can begin practicing as soon as they receive their license, some veterinarians pursue further education and training. Some new veterinary graduates enter internship or residency programs to gain specialized experience.
Veterinarians must be licensed in order to practice in the United States. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all states require prospective veterinarians to complete an accredited veterinary program and to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. Veterinarians working for the state or federal government may not be required to have a state license, because each agency has different requirements.
Most states not only require the national exam but also a state exam that covers state laws and regulations. Few states accept licenses from other states, so veterinarians who want to be licensed in another state usually must take that state's exam.
The American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes certification in 41 specialties, such as surgery, microbiology, and internal medicine. Although certification is not required for veterinarians, it can show exceptional skill and expertise in a particular field.
Compassion. Veterinarians must be compassionate when working with animals and their owners. They must treat animals with kindness and respect, and must be sensitive when dealing with the animal owners.
Communication skills. Strong communication skills are essential for veterinarians, who must be able to discuss their recommendations and explain treatment options to animal owners and give instructions to their staff.
Decisionmaking skills. Veterinarians must decide the correct method for treating the injuries and illnesses of animals.
Manual dexterity. Manual dexterity is important for veterinarians, because they must control their hand movements and be precise when treating injuries and performing surgery.
Problem-solving skills. Veterinarians need strong problem-solving skills because they must figure out what is ailing animals. Those who test animals to determine the effects of drug therapies also need excellent diagnostic skills.
The median annual wage for veterinarians is $100,370. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $60,760, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $165,600.
The median annual wages for veterinarians in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|Social advocacy organizations||$99,340|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||$93,770|
Most veterinarians work full time, and they often work additional hours. Some work nights or weekends, and they may have to respond to emergencies outside of scheduled work hours.
Employment of veterinarians is projected to grow 19 percent over the next ten years, much faster than the average for all occupations.
About 4,800 openings for veterinarians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Increases in consumers' pet-related spending are expected to drive employment in the veterinary services industry, which employs most veterinarians.
Veterinary medicine has advanced considerably. Today's veterinarians are able to offer many services that are comparable to healthcare for humans, including more complicated procedures such as cancer treatments and kidney transplants.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2021||Projected Employment, 2031||Change, 2021-31|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.