Today’s veterinarians are the only doctors that are educated to protect both animals and people. They address the health needs of every species of animal and they play a critical role in environmental protection, food safety, and public health. Veterinarians are animal lovers and understand the value of animals in our families and society.
Employment opportunities for veterinarians include such diverse areas as clinical practice, teaching, research, regulatory medicine, public health, and military service.
Private or Corporate Clinical Practice
In the United States, approximately two-thirds of veterinarians work in private or corporate clinical practice.
Teaching and Research
Veterinary college faculty members conduct research, teach, provide care for animals in the veterinary teaching hospital, and develop continuing education programs to help practicing veterinarians acquire new knowledge and skills.
Research veterinarians employed at universities, colleges, governmental agencies, or in industry (including pharmaceutical and biomedical firms) find new ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent animal health disorders. In addition to a veterinary degree, these veterinarians often have specialized education in fields such as pharmacology, toxicology, virology, bacteriology, laboratory animal medicine, or pathology.
Regulatory Medicine and Public Health
To prevent introduction of foreign diseases into the United States, veterinarians are employed by state and federal regulatory agencies to quarantine and inspect animals brought into the country.
Veterinarians serve in city, county, state, and federal agencies investigating animal and human disease outbreaks, the effects of pesticides, industrial pollutants, and other contaminants on animals and people and also protect the health and safety of animals and people through their work in developing disease surveillance and antiterrorism procedures and protocols.
Other Professional Activities
Veterinarians can specialize in areas such as zoologic medicine, aquatic animal medicine, aerospace medicine (shuttle astronauts), animal shelter medicine, sports medicine, animal-assisted activity and therapy programs, military service, and wildlife medicine.
Exposure to the Field, Shadowing, & Volunteering
It is expected that a student interested in veterinary medicine will make every possible attempt to at least observe veterinarians in a variety of settings (large animal practice, small animal practice, research, wildlife conservation work, etc.) to acquire an overview of what the profession is all about. If you are interested, there are many opportunities for you to gain experience. Veterinary schools typically require that applicants log a significant number of observation hours and have at least one letter of recommendation from a practicing veterinarian whom the applicant has worked with. Therefore, it is important for you be proactive in obtaining exposure to the field. You may begin by volunteering at one of our local shelters or through Campus Y programs such as WAGS. Veterinary practices in your hometown or near campus may be open to having you volunteer with them; many applicants to veterinary school work as vet techs before they apply. Research at the zoo, and summer work or internships on farms or ranches can round out your animal exposure.