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10 Most Important Facts About Vets

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Veterinarians, or vets” for short, are doctors for pets, zoo animals, horses, livestock and other animals. Like physicians, vets care for their sick and injured patients. Veterinarians may also perform surgery and prescribe medications to animals that require it. In addition, vets are responsible for the animal’s preventative care, like giving checkups and administering vaccinations.

Vets Must Have a Bachelor’s Degree

In order to be admitted to veterinary school, a prospective student must go to college and obtain a four-year bachelor’s degree. For their undergraduate education, future veterinarians must study biology, nutrition, animal science, chemistry, physics, math and English. Many vets also worked at animal hospitals and local shelters while in college.

Vets Must Attend Veterinary College

After college, future vets must attend veterinary college for an additional four years. Admission into veterinary school is competitive, and prospective students must have excellent grades. During veterinary school, students are taught how to work with animals, perform surgery and do lab tests. Once veterinarians graduate from school, they must pass a test to earn their license to practice.

Veterinarians Have Unique Specialties

Similar to medical physicians, veterinarians can choose to specialize in certain areas. After receiving their veterinary medicine license, vets can choose to complete intensive training in a veterinary specialty, such as oncology, radiology, animal dentistry, dermatology, cardiology, preventative animal medicine, internal medicine, exotic small animal medicine and surgery.

Not All Vets Practice Veterinary Medicine

A majority of licensed veterinarians work in private medical practices and see animal patients, but some vets prefer to use their education and skills to do research. Some vets work in basic research, studying about animals and medical science; others work in applied research, where they figure out new methods of using what they know about animals and applying it to humans. Vets who work in clinical research use their knowledge of animals and apply it to human problems.

Veterinarians Don’t Just Take Care for Dogs and Cats

About 77 percent of American veterinarians are in private practices, where they care for dogs, cats, and other animals commonly kept as pets, such as rabbits, ferrets and birds. But 16 percent of vets work in food animal or private mixed practices, and they care for wild animals and farm animals, such as pigs, cattle, sheep and goats. The other 6 percent works only with horses.

Vets Have Ample Job Opportunities

In 2021, vets held approximately 86,800 jobs. Roughly 80 percent of vets worked in a group or solo practice. The other 20 percent worked in research labs, for the government, in a private industry, or at a college or university. The U.S. government employs about 1,300 civilian veterinarians. The employment outlook for vets is excellent. Between 2020 and 2030, the number of jobs for vets is predicted to increase by 17 percent.

Vets Can Make More Than $90,000 a Year

Although the typical salary of a veterinarian is not as high as a medical doctor, the median annual income for a vet in 2020 was $99,250. The highest-earning vets grossed over $164,490 annually. Veterinarians who work for the federal government should expect to make the median. In 2020, the average yearly salary for these vets was $94,610.

Vets Have Tough Work Environments

Being a veterinarian means you have to work long hours in a noisy environment. Vets who work in a group practice often take turns being “on call” at night or on the weekends. Veterinarians who work in private, solo practices often work longer hours, including on the weekends. Vets deal with emotional and demanding pet owners on a daily basis. They also face the risk of being injured, bitten, kicked and scratched by frightened or aggressive animals.

Veterinarians Must Take an Oath

When a new vet graduates from a veterinary school in the U.S., they are required to make an oath that swears they will use their scientific knowledge for the benefit and protection of animal health and welfare. They solemnly swear to relieve animal suffering, advance medical knowledge, promote public health, and practice their profession with dignity, conscientious, and abiding by veterinary medical ethics.

Vets Must Love Animals and Have People Skills

In order to be a successful veterinarian, a person must love animals and want to help them. Vets must also have good people skills. They must know how to deal with pets and their owners. Pet owners can be very demanding, confrontational and emotional, especially when it comes to a sick or dying animal.


DoanPhuong Nguyen has been a professional writer since 2007. Her articles have appeared in "Nashville City Paper," "Nashville Parent magazine" and numerous online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Vanderbilt University. She is also member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

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Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/DigitalVision/GettyImages