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Career Information

Veterinarians: Career, Salary and Education Information

Career Profile: What do Veterinarians do?
Whether animals serve as companions or work on farmland, they need caring professionals to see to their health. Veterinarians care for every step of an animal's life, from complications in birth to geriatric care. In urban areas, veterinarians may use sophisticated technology, surgery, and preventative measures to care for pets. On the farm, vets are highly valued for their ability to diagnose and treat the animals that keep business running.

A Day in the Life of a Veterinarian
The majority of veterinarians work in private practice, often owning all or part of a clinic. The daily job duties of veterinarians depend highly on their focus. Those dealing with small animals may spend their days interacting with owners in a clinic setting, while equine veterinarians may travel to ranches and farms to visit their patients.

Rural veterinarians are more likely to travel, and all experience the typical trials of working with animals--the risk of being bitten, scratched, or kicked by frightened patients. People skills are an important aspect of the job because veterinarians interact with owners as much as their animals.

Veterinarian Training and Education
All veterinarians must be trained and licensed based on the requirements of their state. A bachelor's degree or significant undergraduate coursework is the typical basis for admission to the 4-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.


Typical coursework for veterinarians includes vertebrate embryology, genetics, zoology, systemic physiology, and biology. Pre-veterinary courses emphasize science, and courses in business management and career development are considered incredibly useful for veterinarians who want to run their own practice.

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Veterinarian Employment & Outlook
About 62,000 veterinarians were employed nationwide in 2006, with 3 out of 4 in solo or group practice. Other employers include the federal government, research laboratories, animal food companies, and pharmaceutical companies.

Job prospects for veterinarians are expected to be excellent in the coming years, in part because of the relatively low number of accredited veterinary medicine schools. The best opportunities can be found in rural areas, where a lower competition for work means better chances for recent graduates.

Employment is expected to increase 35 percent through 2016, with an estimated 22,000 new jobs created in the field. Trends in intensive veterinary care and sophisticated animal-care treatments are expected to drive the need for trained veterinarians.

Typical Veterinarian Salary
Earnings for veterinarians vary by location and client base. The BLS reports that veterinarians saw mean annual earnings of $84,090 in 2007. A survey by the American veterinary Medical Association found that starting salaries for Veterinary medical college graduates in 2006 ranged from $61,029 for those treating large animals exclusively, to $52,254 for those treating mixed animals, to $40,130 for equine veterinarians.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Veterinarians

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