Veterinary surgeons (better known as simply vets) work to keep the health and welfare of animals in good shape.
A vet has the important job of combining all their knowledge of animal physiology, nutrition and medicine with practical skills to ensure that much loved pets – and sometimes more exotic creatures – leave the surgery in a better state than when they arrived.
If you decide to become a veterinary surgeon, your day to day tasks are likely to include diagnosing illnesses, prescribing medicines and performing surgery on various different kinds of animals.
Veterinary scientists are employed in labs, veterinary hospitals, veterinary schools, charities and research institutes that deal with animal health and disease. Some of these places may specialise in certain areas, for example equine or marine animals, often depending on their location.
Veterinary science graduates are almost guaranteed a job at the end of their training. There is an acute shortage of vets in the UK, so employment rates for students are well above 90% at most veterinary schools.
As you develop your career as a vet, you may find yourself getting into managerial positions within a practice, eventually becoming a partner in the business. Taking on these roles will inevitably mean you need to gain management skills and have a financial input into the practice.
With further qualifications you can also become a veterinary researcher. This leads to more understanding of how diseases are created and spread and what impact these diseases have on animals. You may be involved in creating prevention strategies so that animal and our home pets can be healthier.
Veterinary science is an expensive degree to take, but the salary you can earn as a veterinary surgeon is likely to make up for it. Further training courses you take can also allow you to specialise in certain fields.
A veterinary surgeon can expect to start their career on around £31,000, moving up to between £41,000 and £44,000 with a few years’ experience. Senior vets may earn up to £69,000.
If you want a career in veterinary science, it is vital that you have a veterinary degree, which typically lasts five years plus work experience. A veterinary degree will also allow you to specialise in certain fields such as exotic species.
Your degree should be accredited by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to ensure that you’re registered to practice as a vet afterwards. There are currently eight institutions that offer an accredited veterinary degree:
Assessment on veterinary degrees is generally through coursework, practical assessments, exams and end of degree final exams. Work experience is vital, and you will find yourself on a number of placements throughout your studies.
Entry requirements will vary between different institutions, but you will almost certainly need very good A-levels in science subjects and have demonstrated a strong interest in and aptitude for working with animals in order to be considered for a place.
Tuition fees are also likely to vary between different institutions, so check with the universities that you’re applying to.
Working as a vet means have a surplus of technical skills and on-the-job knowledge. Long hours are a given in the industry, and you can often be on call at all hours of the day. It’s important to be able to work effectively as part of a team, and good communication skills are essential as you will often be dealing with distressed animal owners.
You can expect to be continuously learning throughout your veterinary career, as new techniques, drugs and illnesses come up.
To be considered for a veterinary degree or a role afterwards, it is essential that you can demonstrate your dedication to the job.
This means giving a large number of hours to volunteering with animals, whether that is in a vet’s surgery, an animal shelter or kennel – or anywhere else that you can get some extensive hands-on experience with animals.