How to Become a Veterinarian

How to Become a Veterinarian: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a veterinarian, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a veterinarian:


Those who become veterinarians have a keen interest in caring for the health of animals, as well as confidence when working with them. Prospective veterinarians must also have the intellectual and emotional fortitude necessary to become accepted into, and complete, a degree program in veterinary medicine.


If you’re interested in becoming a veterinarian, you’ll now need to learn how to become one. Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a veterinarian. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Veterinarian

In order to become a veterinarian, you will need a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree (entrance requirements to Doctor of Veterinary Medicine programs typically vary by school).


Before you are accepted into a school that offers a Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine degree, you will need to work towards or earn a bachelor’s degree. Some veterinary schools may accept you after you have only completed 2 years of undergraduate study.


While there is not typically a specific undergraduate degree you need, many veterinarians earned their undergraduate degrees in fields such as biology or agriculture.


Whichever degree path you choose, you will need to pursue an education in a field that allows you to develop a solid background in the biological and physical sciences.


Success Tip: Maintain a competitive grade-point average (GPA), preferably 3.5 or higher. Also keep in mind most veterinary schools closely examine courses taken in the last 3-4 semesters.




Veterinarian Job Description

Veterinarians are responsible for diagnosing and treating animal illnesses, diseases and injuries. They must also perform surgery and dentistry, and provide preventative medical services and advice regarding the proper care of animals.



Veterinarian Job Duties

• Perform routine, emergency and post-mortem examinations of animals

• Diagnose and treat animal diseases, illnesses and injuries

• Provide advice to the general public and pet owners regarding the proper care of animals

• Keep animal medical and health records

• Provide euthanasia services when necessary

• Perform surgery and dentistry on animals

• Prescribe and administer medicine for animals



Where Do Veterinarians Work?

Veterinarians typically work as associates or partners in established veterinary clinics, or own their own veterinary practice. However, not every veterinarian chooses this route, as there are jobs with many other organizations that hire veterinarians, such as:


• Agricultural commodity inspection companies

• Food hygiene companies

• Animal health and animal disease research organizations

• Pharmaceutical companies

• Government agencies (such as those that administrate veterinary public health) programs

• Equestrian centres and race tracks(to inspect horses)

• Colleges and universities

• Zoos and wildlife facilities

• Animal testing laboratories (as clinical veterinarians)



Characteristics of Successful Veterinarians

In order to become an effective and successful veterinarian, you need to posses certain personality characteristics and traits, including:


• Confidence when working with animals and people

• A commitment to animal and public health

• A genuine interest in the well being of animals

• Physical stamina and strength

• Excellent observational skills

• Good communication skills

• Able to work in a team environment as well individually

• Must be willing to engage in life-long learning in order to keep up with developments in the field

• Must be able to make decisions quickly while under pressure





Junior and High School Preparations for Becoming a Veterinarian

If you’re in junior high or in high school and you’re interested in becoming a veterinarian you should enroll in as many science courses as you can. Classes such as biology, chemistry and physics will be excellent preparation for coursework you will need to pursue in university during your undergraduate years.



Gain Veterinarian Career Experience by Volunteering

If you want to become a veterinarian, you should consider volunteering at a veterinary clinic, or animal hospital, or at other facilities where veterinarians work, such as an animal shelter. This volunteer experience will give you the opportunity to work with animals and gain clinical experience at various levels. It will also give you an opportunity to work with and around veterinarians, an experience that will help you determine if a career as a veterinarian is right for you.


Success Tip: Veterinary schools are highly competitive; volunteer experience in veterinary medicine is also great for increasing your chances of becoming admitted.



Veterinarian Salary: How Much Do Veterinarians Earn?

The salary level of veterinarians can vary depending on factors such as their level of experience, their level of education, their area of specialty, where they work, and many others.


Veterinarian Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Veterinarians occupational group earn an average wage of between $42.21 and $68.42 per hour. The mean wage for veterinarians is $53.06 per hour.


Veterinarian Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the annual average employment income for workers in the Veterinarians occupational group is $73,805.


Veterinarian Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of workers in the Veterinarians occupational group is $82,040 per year.



Working Environment for Veterinarians

Work Schedule: Veterinarians typically work very long hours. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics 1 in every 4 veterinarians worked more than 50 hours per week in 2010. Veterinarians typically work hours that reflect those of their workplace; this may include evenings and weekends, and may include waking up in the middle of the night for emergencies.


Occupational Hazards: The work of veterinarians has its share of hazards, as they may be exposed to animals that carry diseases that are transmittable to humans, as well as animals that can be dangerous because they are frightened, in pain, or aggressive. They may also have to work around large animals, and may have to lift over 50 pounds at times.


Stressful Conditions: The work of veterinarians can be emotionally stressful at times, as they must work with sick animals, as well as anxious owners. Their workplaces may be quite noisy as they are typically occupied with many different animals.


Rewards: A career as a veterinarian can be very rewarding, as healing and treating animals, as well as providing their owners with emotional relief can be extremely gratifying.


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Careers Similar to Veterinarian

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Veterinarian, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.



Marine Biologist

Medical Scientist





References: How to Become a Veterinarian

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a veterinarian.



Wages & Salaries in Alberta: Veterinarian.” (March 31, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Healthcare:Veterinarians.” (September 4, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Recruitment:Become a Veterinarian.” (n.d.). University of Guelph website. Retrieved January 15, 2020.

Student Resources:Steps to Becoming a Veterinarian.” (n.d.) PennState - College of Agricultural Sciences. Retrieved January 15, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Veterinarian

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Veterinarian can be found on our Biology Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Veterinarian: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a veterinarian. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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