Corporate run clinic , 10,001+ employees
Arronius - 11/19/20
Job/Career Demand
Positive Impact
Work-Life Balance
Compensation & Benefits
Work Environment
Years of experience
Recommended Education
Doctoral or Professional Degree

What education would you recommend?

To work as a veterinarian in the USA you must have graduated from a credited veterinary school. To get into vet school there are pre-requisite undergraduate courses required (determined individually by each school).

Describe the path you took to become a veterinarian

After graduating high school I spent 4 years at a small liberal arts college pursuing a bachelor's degree in Biology. During my final year of undergrad I applied to and was accepted into vet school. I started vet school the fall after graduating from undergrad. I took one year off during vet school to deal with depression. After graduating school and passing my national licensing exam I started working in a companion animal clinic.

What's a day in the life of a veterinarian?

As a veterinarian there are numerous career options open to you. The following comments are in regard to my career as a companion animal general practice vet.

Our days are broken into appointment blocks. In addition to seeing "in-room" appointments there are also "drop-offs" patient that come during the morning and get picked up later. For all patients seen the veterinarian is responsible for examining the patient, developing a diagnostic and/or treatment plan, overseeing those diagnostics/treatments, discussing findings with owners, and prescribing medications if needed. When we are not in appointments our time is spent doing research on cases, answering messages left by owners with questions, continuing education, and other tasks as needed to keep the clinic functioning properly. Some appointments involve giving vaccines to healthy animals. Other appointments involve trying to solve the mystery of why a patient is sick. Sometimes emergencies come in too. The majority of patients seen in general practice are cats and dogs, but with proper training and person motivation you can also see fun things like guinea pigs, bearded dragons, parrots, or many other exotic pets.

On some days we are responsible for surgery. In general practice the routine surgeries performed include spays, castrations, and dental extractions. The surgeons is responsible for ensuring these patients are heathy enough for anesthesia prior to the procedure, handling of controlled substances involved in anesthesia, performing the surgery, and ultimately is reliable for the patients health during anesthesia recovery. Many clinics schedule the surgery procedures in the morning, and once the surgeries are done the surgery doctor begins seeing other appointments.

Before leaving for the day veterinarians must finish updating the medical records for each patient seen by them that day. Any controlled substances used must be logged. For most general practices all patients must be either discharged or have a firm pick up time arranged with the owners before the veterinarian can leave.

What's the best part of being a veterinarian?

The variety. No two days are exactly the same. Yes, there are some common diseases that present frequently, but prior to walking in the door I don't know what the day will hold.

Also, you occasionally get to play with cute puppies and kittens.

What's the downside of being a veterinarian? Words of caution?

  • Vet school sucks: most people go through 4 years of undergrad plus for more years for vet school specifically. Unless you are born into a filthy rich family you rack up a 6 figure student loan debt. On top of that the rigorous nature of vet school drives many to depression and despair.

  • Capitalism - medicine costs money: depending on the demographic of where you end of practicing you might have to deal with clients not being able to afford the 'best' option medically. It sucks having to tell someone want their pet needs for treatment, and them telling that will drain their entire savings account.

  • Blood guts and gore: not a profession for the squeamish. You will touch internal organs. You will get sprayed with anal gland juices. You shoes will get peed on. If you are the kind of person who needs to be squeaky clean at all times, look elsewhere for a career.

  • Emotionally heavy: this profession has one of the highest suicide rates among professions (USA statistic). You want to make these pets better, but sometimes things don't work out. Sometimes the medicine doesn't work. Sometimes you got the wrong diagnosis. Sometimes the owner can't afford the treatments. People who have big hearts for the world can get really dragged down by all the sad things that take place in this profession. In this profession people will cry in front of you, yell at you, disregard the things you tell them, and much worse. Not a profession for the faint of heart.

What's the earning potential? Entry-level? Mid-level? Senior-level?

Many places hire vets with hybrid pay, meaning there is a base salary but if you exceed a certain amount of production you get a bonus on top of that.

Advice on how to get started as a veterinarian

If you are interested I would do two things. First, work as a veterinary assistant at a vet clinic or hospital. Do that for at least two years, minimum. Preferably do some of that full time. This will get you the full experience required to grasp the intricacies of the job, and the demands on your soul. Second, also consider the career of a veterinary technician. Good vet techs are well sought after and always in demand. It gets you the fun of the variety of veterinary life, without the constant threat of being sued.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

You don't have to go straight from high school to undergrad to vet school. Its more than ok to take a year or two between them to get experience.

What skills are needed to be a veterinarian?

  • You need to be organized. Both in school and on the job you will be required to process large amounts of information in shorts amounts of time.

  • You have to be able to motivate yourself.

  • You have to be a little bit of a perfectionist. Medical records need to be without error. Mistakes in drug dosages can lead to life threatening conditions.

  • Having a chiropractor is not required, but definitely helps.

  • Having a hobby or other way to take your mind of vet stuff outside of work is helpful.

What's the future outlook for a veterinarian?

There will always be a need for veterinarians. As pet ownership increases so will the demand for companion animal vets. As the food industry has more demands on it, large animal vets will continue to be needed. Veterinarians are also well equipped to work in the public health sectors. As COVID-19 has proved the need for good public health services will only grow.

What opportunities can being a veterinarian lead to?

Oh so many. There are four big categories for veterinarians: companion animal, large/food animal, public health and research, and exotics / wildlife. Within those big categories are specialties that a veterinarian can go on to further schooling for (past their original 4 years of vet school). You can work as a vet that specializes in horse surgery, or cat eyes, or the reintroduction of extinct species, or developing vaccines to novel viruses. Opportunities are endless.

Even within the category of companion animal medicine there are options like general practice, emergency, shelter medicine, or whatever business ideas you can think up.

What's work-life balance like?

Depends on where you work. At a corporate run clinic that has a definitive closing time, work-life balance is decent. We sometimes are here past close but I would say most night we get out on time. The clinic I work at does not have on-call policies nor requires you to be available on your days off.

However if you went and worked at an emergency clinic, or a private owned small town clinic you might experience a difficulty with work-life balance. If you are the only veterinarian in a 100 mile radius you will get called upon a bit more so than if there are several 24 hour emergency vet clinics in your city.

Anything else?

You can force turtles and tortoises to breath by flipping them over and back again. They have no diaphragm, so flipping them pushes their internal organs against their lungs, compressing or deflating the lungs depending on if they are on the belly or back.

How can people contact you or your company?

I occasionally browse the veterinarian subreddit to answer questions posted there. If you have a burning desire for my specific answer you could direct message me at u/Arrrrronius.


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