Animal lovers are often drawn to a career in veterinary medicine. Veterinarians work with animals every day diagnosing and treating animals of all types. No day is the same for a veterinarian and each animal patient will bring a new challenge and reward. Consider all of the positive and negative features of being a veterinarian before beginning a career in veterinary medicine.
A high salary is one of the positive features of being a veterinarian. Although the median salary for all health diagnosing and treating practitioners was $77,980 in 2016, veterinarians earned a median income of $88,770. The 10 percent of veterinarians who were highest paid earned more than $161,070 per year, while the lowest 10 percent earned below $52,47.
In addition to earning a high salary, veterinarians enjoy expanding opportunities as the field is expected to grow faster than average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipated employment for veterinarians by grow by nine percent from 2014 to 2024.
Specialties and Career Paths
Another benefit veterinarians have is the ability to choose an area of specialty that they are passionate about. Veterinarians may get certified in more than 40 specialty areas including microbiology and dentistry. Veterinarians can also choose to work with a specific type of animal. For example, equine veterinarians work exclusively with horses, and companion animal veterinarians work with small animals such as dogs and cats.
Entry into Field
One negative feature of becoming a veterinarian is that it is a difficult field to enter. To become a veterinarian, you must first obtain a four-year bachelor's degree. Then, you must apply to one of only 28 accredited veterinary programs in the United States. According to the BLS, less than half of the students who applied for veterinary school were accepted. If you are accepted you must then finish four years of study to get your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.
Maintaining qualifications to practice veterinary medicine is another challenging feature of being a veterinarian. After completing veterinary school, you must take and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam and get a state license to practice. In addition, you must maintain your license by completing continuing education classes throughout your career. If you want to specialize in an area such as surgery or internal medicine, you must take additional education courses, complete a three- to four-year residency and pass a certification exam.
Veterinarians seldom enjoy a typical 40-hour work week. Animal emergencies occur at all hours of the day, so veterinarians often work long hours that include nights, weekends and holidays. According to the BLS, more than 25 percent of veterinarians work more than 50 hours a week.
Practicing veterinary medicine can be very emotional. Veterinarians witness firsthand when animals are sick and suffering. In some cases, you will not be able to save the animal you are working with. In addition, you will have to speak with concerned and emotional pet owners. This can be stressful and have a negative emotional impact. On the other hand, you will experience rewarding, positive emotional feedback when you successfully bring an animal back to health or deliver healthy offspring.
2016 Salary Information for Veterinarians
Veterinarians earned a median annual salary of $88,770 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, veterinarians earned a 25th percentile salary of $69,240, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $118,460, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 79,600 people were employed in the U.S. as veterinarians.