Job Shadowing


                                                      By: Caroline Elrod

What They Do

Veterinarians care for animals to make them healthy.  They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals.

Typical duties of a veterinarian include examining animals, diagnosing and treating animals, performing surgeries, operating medical equipment, prescribing medication, and advising animal owners about general care and health concerns.  

Some veterinarians work with farm animals and livestock.  They test the livestock to make sure they are healthy and can advise owners on how to keep their animals healthy.  Also, veterinarians can work in laboratories, where they test animals for diseases and run experiments to see what causes illnesses.    

Work Environment

Most veterinarians work in private clinics and hospitals, but there are some veterinarians who must travel different places based on the type of veterinarian they are.  For example, veterinarians who treat horses must travel to farms and ranches.  They work outdoors in all kinds of weather and may have to perform surgery under unsanitary conditions.  Veterinarians who do research work in laboratories and offices and usually do not deal with animals.  

Being a veterinarian can be stressful because you are dealing with sick animals and their owners who can be stressed.  It can be loud because animals who do not want to do something usually make noises.  

Veterinarians risk being bitten or scratched when dealing with a stubborn or frightened animal.  Being bitten or scratched can spread a disease from the animal to you, which is risking your own health.

In 2012, about 1 in 3 veterinarians worked more than 50 hours every week. Veterinarians often work long hours and may be called to work during emergency situations even when they are not on work schedule.  Some even work nights and weekends.   

How to Become One

To become a veterinarian, you must complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at an accredited college of veterinary medicine.  A veterinary medicine program usually takes 4 years to complete.  Even though it is not required to have a bachelor's degree, most veterinary school applicants have one.  Veterinary medical colleges typically require applicants to have taken many science classes, including biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, zoology, microbiology, and animal science.  

Some important qualities to have as a veterinarian include being compassionate, having strong decision making skills, having strong communication skills, having strong management skills, and being able to solve a problem.  

Some new veterinarians enter a 1 year internship  program to gain experience for the job.  These programs can help give veterinarians the qualities they need and help them get more prepared for the job.  

All states require a veterinarian to complete an accredited veterinary program and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination.  The American Veterinary Medical Association offers certification in 40 specialties, and even though certification is not required, it can show how well you are in a certain area.  A certification may last 3-4 years.  

Experience from working alongside other veterinarians is very helpful.   


In 2012, the median annual for veterinarians was $84,460,

Job Outlook

Employment of veterinarians is expected to grow 12% from 2012 to 2022.  Demand for veterinarians will increase as the population grows and more people need health care for their pets.  Veterinary medicine has advanced greatly and many practices are now used on humans.  Also, veterinary equipment has advanced.  These things will make veterinarians more successful, making the employment rate grow.

However, the number of graduates that veterinary schools accept has gone down, therefore making competition in that field greater.  Veterinarians have training in other areas such as disease control and public health, so they could have better luck in these areas.   

Similar Occupations

Medical Scientists-  Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health. They often use clinical trials and other investigative methods to reach their findings. Medical scientists need a doctoral or professional degree and make $76,980 annually.  

Physicians and surgeons- Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates. Physicians and surgeons need a doctoral or professional degree and make $187,200 or greater per year.  


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Veterinarians,

on the Internet at (visited March 16, 2014).

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