What does a Veterinarian do?

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Veterinarians are medical professionals that treat animals. They examine, diagnose, and treat pets, farm animals, or other animals and often perform surgery. They are skilled at using modern medical equipment or surgical tools similar to a physician in human health medicine.

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How to Become a Veterinarian

veterinarian with a dog

Veterinarians must earn a doctorate degree. Though not required many students earn a bachelors degree prior to applying to vet school. Coursework in biology, zoology, animal science, and other related courses can be beneficial in getting admitted into graduate school. You then must attend an accredited veterinarian school and complete a Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine degree (D.V.M. or V.M.D.). This typically takes about 4 years and includes classroom, laboratory, and clinical components.

Most veterinary programs include math, humanities and science and are beginning to include general business management and career development courses so that new veterinary graduates know how to manage a practice. All states require a license to practice. Applicants must pass an North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE) to become certified. For more information go to the icva.net website.

Job Description of a Veterinarian

Most people think veterinarians work in private clinical practices and treat illnesses or injuries of pets or other animals. Though this is primarily true there are also specialized areas one can work in. Examples include equine, food safety and inspection, research, or other veterinary based services. Some become postsecondary teachers at colleges or universities even. That said, a typical veterinarian in private clinical practice would normally examine an animal and determine their medical needs and treat the animal.

Veterinarians care for animal’s wounds and dress them, as well as, give vaccinations to animals and give tests for possible diseases, like heart worm or other illnesses. They use a variety of medical equipment, such as, X-ray and ultrasound machines or surgical tools. They prescribe medication for animals and educate people about the basic care and needs of their pet or animal, their medical condition or treatment plan.

Watch a vet discuss her role at the U.S. Customs and Border Protections K-9 Training Site in Front Royal, Virginia.

Video Transcript: In this episode, we visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protections K-9 Training Site in Front Royal, Virginia. These working dogs are trained to search and find illegal drugs. This is Megan, she makes sure these dogs are healthy and ready to work.

This is Candy. We’re just gonna do a physical on Candy. Candy is here so that we can get her back into our working dog program, which means she’ll be a detector dog looking for any kind of contraband like narcotics and we look at all of her teeth. The teeth can help make sure that they’re not developing tarter or gingivitis.

In working dogs, in all dogs, but especially working dogs. You want to make sure they don’t have any dental disease. That can really inhibit them wanting to play with the toys, have bad breath, not eat well, and be in pain. To become a veterinarian takes a lot of hard work and school. You have to really apply yourself to all of your different courses, not just sciences and animal related courses. But to develop the idea, do they want to be a veterinarian, as much exposure as they can get to the veterinarian field, and that can come through volunteer work in veterinary clinics or even in rescues and shelters. For more information, you can visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics veterinarian page.

Article Introduction Veterinarian Career Video Transcript

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but man’s best friend needs a checkup once in a while no matter how healthy its diet is. Veterinarians diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals. Veterinarians treat illnesses and injuries, conduct surgical and medical procedures and dental work, and vaccinate animals against diseases. They also teach owners preventive healthcare.

Veterinarians have different types of practices. Companion animal veterinarians most often work at clinics and care for cats and dogs, but also treat other pets, such as birds, ferrets, and rabbits. Equine veterinarians work with horses involved in performing, farming and racing. Food animal veterinarians work at farms and ranches to treat farm animals such as pigs, cattle, and sheep. Food safety and inspection veterinarians inspect and test livestock and animal products for major animal diseases, and work to improve animal health and reduce disease transmission. They also enforce food safety regulations. Research veterinarians work in laboratories, conducting clinical research on human and animal health problems, and may test effects of drug therapies or new surgical techniques.

Veterinarians must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, usually a 4-year program, and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing examination. Veterinary school is highly competitive and typically requires applicants to have taken many science classes in college.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Veterinarians.

National Center for O*NET Development. 29-1131.00. O*NET OnLine.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protections Veterinary career video is in the Public Domain and originally hosted on Kids.gov which is now USA.gov, an interagency product administered by USAGov, a division of the U.S. General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service.

This article’s introduction veterinary career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.