"Hey, doc, I'm feeling a little ruff..."

Most sick patients can tell you what’s wrong, but try asking a dog or a cat.

For this, the world needs a professional who is equal parts animal mind reader, problem-solving brainiac, and master of cross-species medicine: in other words,a veterinarian.

Could you be that professional?

A sick puppy and kitten being comforted by a veterinarian in a white coat. Image credit: Bing Copilot

The Basics of the Job

An All-In-One Approach

You go to the (human) doctor: a cold stethoscope on the chest, a tap on the knee with the little doctor hammer. On checkout, it'd be pretty weird if they asked you to schedule a tooth cleaning, right?

A doctor saying,

In a veterinary clinic, it's a normal question and an expected service. Vets may offer more services in-house than the average human doctor, including:

  • Wellness exams

  • Surgery

  • Dermatology

  • Dental

  • Overnight hospitalization

A Different Kind of Care and Communication

Vets also have the following skills when interacting with patients and their owners:

  • Animal psychology and behavior

  • Owner education

  • Physical control and restraint

Watch the video below to see a simple but effective restraint method:

A Variety of Workplaces

Icon showing a happy cat with a veterinarian Anywhere there are animals has the potential to be a vet's workplace. In clinics, of course, they treat pet dogs, cats, birds, and hamsters, but you will also find vets:

  • On farms caring for livestock.

  • In conservation and tourism to treat large, exotic animals like camels or elephants.

  • In the military or research labs to protect public health.

How Do Vets Protect Public Health?

Managing the healthcare of many different animal species makes vets the first line of defense in guarding public health.

Icon depicting microorganisms

  • Preventing and treating diseases that cross species (e.g, bird flu).

Icon of a turkey leg

Icon of a liquids being poured between beakers

  • Developing new drugs for animals and people.

Do You Have a Veterinarian Personality?

You might love to be a veterinarian if:

  • You love animals and are generally comfortable around them.

  • You're a lifelong learner who's happy to walk someone through complicated concepts.

  • You can learn and perfect small movements for physical exams and surgery.

  • You're not intimidated by larger or stronger animals.

A giant in combat with text,

  • You don't mind having patients who can't speak, and you like solving problems.

  • You like working with people, too! You'll be having a lot of important conversations with owners, technicians, and colleagues.

How Do I Prepare to Become a Vet?

Clipboard checklist icon Pre-vet

Applying to vet school starts way before applying to vet school. Plan ahead by:

  • Getting a bachelor’s degree in a biological science or program working with animals.

  • Taking many science courses to meet vet school prereqs.

  • Shadowing in clinics to get practical experience.

Vet school

Your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) diploma is at the end of this rainbow. The typical vet school:

  • Has a competitive application process in the US and Canada.

  • Is expensive and often requires large student loans.

  • Is four years long.

  • Requires passing a licensing exam (but not a residency).

  • Is composed of challenging science, lab, and practicum courses.

Check this list of US and Canadian vet schools to get your plan started. A word of warning: the competitive application process means many pre-vet students may look to international programs for entry.

A German shepherd wearing a graduation mortarboard and holding a diploma in its mouth. Image credit: Bing Copilot

Scenario: Jenny Wants to Become a Veterinarian

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Jenny has loved working directly with animals her whole life. Growing up on a farm, she’s got an instinctive understanding of how to approach a nervous horse, how to stop the chickens from eating their own eggs, and a lot more that her brothers don’t even know.

She doesn't mind her brothers or other people, but sometimes finds it hard to explain things to them. She'll start her pre-vet track after high school. Select any of the advice below that you might tell Jenny:

A. Focus on academics in college and lean on your farm upbringing when applying to a vet school.

B. Work on future client communication skills by practicing teaching your brothers what you know around the farm.

C. Focus on being a public health vet.

D. Take a lot of communications courses in college to improve your communication skills.


Which advice would work for Jenny? Select all that apply:

How's the Money Though?

Flaticon Icon In 2024, the average base salary for vets in the US is between $98,000 and $169,000 USD.

Flaticon Icon In 2024, the average base salary for vets in Canada is between $85,000 and $122,000 CAD.

Take Action

Is veterinary medicine your calling?

It's a profession that includes challenges, rewards, and day-to-day work that makes a measurable difference for animals and people everywhere. Plus, you can finally look a gift horse in the mouth! 🐴

A smiling veterinarian drawing liquid into a syringe.

Get your veterinary career started today!


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