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Veterinarian Jobs with the Government

When you think about places with jobs for veterinarians, you usually envision a companion animal practice or working with farm animals.  While 80% of veterinarians do work in private practices, many work for the federal government. Most people would not think of the federal government as a place of employment for a DVM, but over 3000 veterinarians do work for them. Federal veterinarians have a variety of careers within the government; going into space with NASA, performing surgery on animals at the National Zoo, inspecting livestock, and investigating new drugs for animals and humans.

The government actually employs more veterinarians than any other entity. The FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service) agency is the largest employer of veterinarians in the United States.  FSIS is a division of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture); this agency protects the public from foodborne illnesses.  There are approximately 1,100 Veterinary Medical Officers who are trained in public health and regulatory medicine employed by FSIS.  These officers supervise other public health managers and work to ensure establishments under the FSIS jurisdiction are in compliance with sanitation standards and that they properly implement systems that will control hazards from entering the food supply. Most of these veterinary medical officers work in meat and poultry plants, enforcing federal meat and poultry inspection procedures.  Officers working as livestock inspectors check animals for transmissible diseases, quarantining the animals if necessary.  They also advise the livestock owners on the treatment of the animals.  There are many career opportunities within this agency for these officers as they gain knowledge and experience in this field of veterinary medicine. Many DVMs are also working in food security; this entails working along the country’s borders examining imports and exports of animal products to prevent disease in our country as well as other countries.   

There is a shortage of veterinarians for the amount of vacancies within the FSIS, especially in certain locations.  Students may apply 9 months prior to graduating and students in the top of their class are almost assured a position within this agency.

The federal government also employs federal veterinarians through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  The FDA is responsible for keeping our food safe and for making sure new drugs are safe and effective for both humans and animals.  There are approximately 140 veterinarians employed in the seven FDA centers and two FDA offices.  More than half of these 140 vets work at the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM).  This is a diverse group of veterinarians with many jobs lead by the center’s director who is also a veterinarian.  The goal of all of these people is to protect the health of both animals and people.

CVM’s smallest office is the Office of Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Drug Development (OMUMS).  Their work involves making drugs available to minor species, such as hamsters, llamas and reptiles as well as minor uses in major species, such as a rare disease in bovine.

Another office of CVM is the Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation (ONADE).  This office reviews information about new animal drugs.  Prior to a drug company being able to market and sell a new drug they must send all the information to ONADE.  Vets at ONADE verify that the drug does what it is supposed to do, and that it does it safely.  If the drug is for food-producing animals, veterinarians and other scientists at ONADE make sure the food will be safe for consumption.  ONADE must approve all drugs prior to a company being able to sell and market the drug.

CVM’s Office of Surveillance and Compliance continues this safety review, by monitoring the approved animal drug; making sure it remains safe and effective.  This office also makes sure that the advertisements for the drug are honest and correct with no misleading information contained in the ad.

While these are the major federal government employers of veterinarians, there are other branches that utilize the talents of veterinarians.  Some of these include the National Institute of Health, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Air Force and the US Army.  So, if you have completed a degree in veterinary science and are considering a career outside of private practice there are many options within the federal government worth investigating.

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