Vet Careers

Considering a career in the veterinary medical field? This is an occupation that is expected to grow 35% by the year 2016, well above the average for all occupations. Small and mixed animal practices are predicted to be the fastest growing area in this field. Practices of this type are close to heavily populated areas where companion animal practices are needed. If you are considering a career in a large animal or herd animal practice the future is also good. Fewer veterinarians are drawn to the rural areas where these practices need to be, so the competition will be much lower. The limited number of colleges and universities offering a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree also adds to the job growth statistics. With an average of only 2,700 students graduating from veterinary programs a year the demand for vets will continue to increase. This is not the field of study for the weak hearted though; there are more than a few medical doctors that dropped out of veterinary school due to the difficulty and intensity of the program. A medical doctor is required to understand the workings of the human body, while a veterinarian is required to have knowledge of many species and their corresponding diseases.

Starting Out as a Veterinarian

Many times beginning veterinarians take positions in established practices to gain experience and are required to work evenings or weekends to accommodate the extended hours some practices offer. They may also take salaried work at a retail store offering veterinary services. More than 77% work in small practices treating companion animals. The median annual salary for a veterinarian is $79,000, with the highest 10% earning more than $144,000.

Veterinarians with training in food safety and security, animal health and welfare, and public health and epidemiology should have the best opportunities for a career in the Federal Government. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the largest employer of veterinarians in the United States. Vets working for the Federal Government make an average annual salary of $93,000.

Becoming a research veterinarian is also a choice for DVM's with a couple years of experience. These vets provide the daily veterinary care required for all research animals. This position can cover a very broad range of job functions, creating diverse opportunities and challenges.

The Job Market for Veterinary Techs

The number of vet tech graduates is not expected to meet the demand of the current job market. Small class sizes with less than 3,800 graduates contribute to the shortage. In addition most technicians only remain in the field for less than 10 years.

The majority of veterinary technicians go to work in small animal, mixed animal, or large animal veterinary practices. There are now many specialties that a VT can specialize in. The NAVTA Committee on Veterinary Technicians Specialties (CVTS) provides guidelines to which a candidate must follow and complete in order to be awarded the designation of VTS (Veterinary Technician Specialist). Some of these specialties include: orthopedics, equines, exotics, anesthesia, dental, emergency and critical care, and animal behavior.

Excellent Opportunities for Vet Techs

The number of students graduating from 4-year programs is only 500 annually. Students graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Veterinary Technology have more opportunities than a student earning their Associate's Degree; these opportunities include teaching, research, government and pharmaceutical sales.

Pet owners are much more willing to spend money on their pets these days, and spend more on advanced and preventative health care than they ever have before. This is fueling career opportunities in the veterinary health field. There are a variety of places a VT can find work outside of a companion animal practice. Here are just a few of the options: research and diagnostic laboratories, human societies, kennels, breeders of working animals, and wildlife facilities.

The median annual wage of a veterinary tech is $28,000 with the top 10% earning more than $41,000 per year. Technologists working in research jobs usually earn more than any of the other areas.