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What Are Some Different Careers in Veterinary Medicine?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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There are a number of careers in veterinary medicine open to people with specific interests, ranging from conservation medicine, which focuses on the link between human, animal, and environmental health, to working as a large animal vet traveling from farm to farm to offer care to farm animals. In all cases, these careers require a great deal of training, including four years of undergraduate work followed by training in veterinary school, and many veterinarians pursue internships for additional training before striking out on their own.

At one time, veterinary medicine careers were simply divided between large and small animal practice. Large animal veterinarians handled animals like horses, cows, and sheep, while small animal vets handled pets like cats and dogs. While generic small and large animal practices continue to exist today, often with very talented vets at the helm, careers in this field are much more diverse now.

For example, a veterinarian can choose to focus on a specific species or group of animals. Avian vets treat birds, while equine vets focus on horses. Others may choose to work with pocket pets like hamsters and mice, and other animals to focus on include cats, dogs, sheep, and cattle, all of whom have unique veterinary needs. Careers in veterinary medicine don't need to focus on domesticated animals, either; exotic animal vets take care of animals at zoos, while wildlife vets focus on injured wild animals.

A veterinarian can also choose to focus on a specific medical specialty, just like in human medicine. Vets may choose to pursue careers in pathology, reproductive health, oncology, orthopedics, surgery, physical therapy, radiology, and so forth. Some specialist veterinarians make a great deal of money, especially in fields like horse racing, where a talented vet can be in great demand.

Many veterinarians enter private practice, but they can also work for the government to monitor food safety, conduct inspections, and the monitor emerging health threats. Other careers include working for pharmaceutical companies to develop new medical treatments for animals, and working in the holistic field, offering alternative and complementary medicine for animals.

The incredible diversity of careers in veterinary medicine recognizes a drastic shift in the veterinary field which occurred in the later half of the 20th century. Veterinarians today are as diverse as doctors, with the same powerful diagnostic and healing tools at their disposal. The procedures performed in high-tech veterinary hospitals today rival those conducted in human hospitals, thanks to a growing respect for the value of animal life.

Choosing a specialty in the diverse field of veterinary medicine can be daunting. A career test, tailored for this profession, can help streamline this decision. By highlighting your strengths and interests, it guides you towards your ideal role, whether in avian medicine or large animal care. This tool proves invaluable for those at crossroads, from undergraduates to experienced vets considering a new focus. Use a career test as your compass in navigating the vast landscape of veterinary careers, directing you towards your true vocation.


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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon330887 — On Apr 19, 2013

I love animals and I would hate for any animal to be in any type of dangerous event. They don't deserve it and I would look forward to being a vet to help the ones who are sick.

By dented — On May 08, 2011

@nerdchik - That or just work in the vet's office. They wanted to pay me $10 an hour with no schooling.

By NerdChik — On May 06, 2011

A great stepping stone into this career is to get a job as a vet tech. This is a typically a two-year degree and then you can work and go to school if you choose. Typically they earn $10-15 an hour or they can make up to $40,000. Then you are working in your field and it pays better than minimum wage, even if not by much.

By Michelle24 — On May 04, 2011

I almost got a job in a vet's office. I thought it would be so great working with animals because I love them so much. But in the interview they told me about dealing with putting down pets and upset animals that can bite and scratch. I never thought about it that way and I wanted to be a vet when I was 14.

If you consider going into this career, keep in mind that it is not going to be as fun as caring for the family pet.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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