Student Info & Guide

So you wanna be a veterinarian

by on January 9, 2020 | Top Stories, Career Guide

So you wanna be a veterinarian -

Are you passionate about animals? And we don’t mean only cuddly kittens and puppies. A vet’s job means that you might need to deal with all sorts of animals, from lizards to horses and perhaps even a ferocious tiger! If you like things to be neat, orderly and predictable, this job is not for you! But if you really do like working with animals and are not intimidated by their sometimes difficult owners, a career in veterinary could be for you.

The job of a veterinarian

Veterinarians are specially trained professionals who diagnose, treat, and do research on animals. From household pets, to livestock and zoo animals, veterinarians treat and dress wounds, test for and vaccinate against diseases, and prescribe medication for pain relief or to aid in the animal's recovery. When nothing more can be done to safely and fairly prolong an animal's life, veterinarians also euthanize animals.

A veterinarian is trained to use a variety of medical equipment, ranging from small surgical hand tools to x-ray machines. They also advise animal owners about general care, medical conditions, and treatments.

What does a vet do?

  • Examine animals to assess their health and diagnose problems
  • Treat and dress wounds
  • Perform surgery on animals
  • Test for and vaccinate against diseases
  • Operate medical equipment, such as x-ray machines
  • Advise animal owners about general care, medical conditions, and treatments
  • Prescribe medication
  • Euthanize animals

Is this job for you?

Working in the veterinary field takes more than just a love for animals. Animals cannot tell what’s wrong with them so you need to use your skills and knowledge in animal health, along with sensitivity and attention to detail in order to make a diagnosis.

If you’re the type who likes things to be neat, clean and predictable, you might want to give veterinary a pass. Dealing with animals especially when they’re unwell could turn messy. Also, while some vet jobs are in the confines of an office or clinic, others could take you to a farm, zoo or animal shelter.

Besides dealing with animals, a veterinarian also needs to deal with animal owners. A veterinarian needs to be patient, compassionate and good at explaining sometimes complicated matters to animal owners. Veterinarians also need to be trained to console animal owners and be able to come to terms with pain and suffering that some animals go through.

The interest code for this career is IR (Investigative and Realistic).

Investigative — Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Realistic — Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Work styles

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. 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.

Manual dexterity is important for veterinarians, because they must control their hand movements and be precise when treating injuries and performing surgery. 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.

Work values

Veterinarians value achievement. They are results oriented and like being able to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. They also enjoy working on their own and making decisions independently. Recognition is important to them—they appreciate opportunities for advancement, potential for leadership, and achievements that are often considered prestigious.

Work environment

Most veterinarians work in private clinics and hospitals. Others travel to farms or work in laboratories, classrooms, or zoos. Some veterinarians 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.

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.

Places of employment

The veterinary field has several options which include private veterinary clinics (either general or specialising in a particular type of animal), animal shelters, animal hospitals, laboratories, research facilities, and zoos.

Education and training qualifications:

Specialisations in veterinary

Companion animal veterinarians mostly see household pets.

Equine veterinarians work with horses.

Food animal veterinarians work with livestock such as sheep and cattle.

Food safety and inspection veterinarians inspect livestock and animal products to enforce government regulations for food safety.

Research veterinarians conduct clinical research on human and animal health problems in a laboratory setting.


Careers related to veterinary

What does a vet tech do?

  • Conduct well-pet visits
  • Diagnose sick and injured animals
  • Assist with surgical procedures
  • Administer medications or vaccinations
  • Run tests
  • Monitor sick or injured animals
  • Perform wound care
  • Clean up exam rooms
  • Teach pet owners how to care for sick or injured animals
  • Give anesthesia prior to a surgery
  • Assist with catheterization
  • Monitor vital signs

Animal breeders select and breed animals according to their genealogy, characteristics, and offspring.

Animal caretakers feed, water, groom, bathe, exercise, or otherwise care for pets and other nonfarm animals, such as dogs, cats, ornamental fish or birds, zoo animals, and mice.

Animal scientists conduct research in the genetics, nutrition, reproduction, growth, and development of domestic farm animals.

Animal trainers train animals for riding, harness, security, performance, or obedience, or assisting persons with disabilities.

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers feed, water, and examine pets and other nonfarm animals for signs of illness, disease, or injury in laboratories and animal hospitals and clinics.

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests in a laboratory environment for use in the treatment and diagnosis of diseases in animals.


Watch these videos!

Watch this video of Katie, a third year veterinary student at the University of Melbourne


What happens in animal emergency? Take a peek at how vet students tackle animal ER challenges.


Evan Antin is a veterinarian, but he doesn’t work in a typical animal hospital. Instead, he deals with unpredictable—and sometimes dangerous—wild animals.

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