After letting people know I was moving from research to clinical practice, someone said to me “Oh, you’re going to be a vet?” I just sat there a little confused because I am a veterinarian, but then I realized how often I come in contact with people who think vets only work in that local practice seeing cats and dogs. It is amazing what you can do with a veterinary degree beyond the “traditional” route, and I think many people are surprised to hear all the opportunities that this degree can bring. Here are a few options if you are looking for a change!
- Private Practice: This route is what most vet students choose following graduation. Whether large or small animal, veterinarians in private practice diagnose and treat medical conditions, perform surgeries and dentistry, provide wellness care, and perform euthanasia. They have the opportunity to create long-term client relationships and develop strong bonds with their patients. Usually new graduates will want to choose a practice with strong mentorship and support as they transition from student to doctor.
- Internship & Residency: If veterinarians want to specialize in certain areas of medicine or surgery, they must complete at least one internship (sometimes two!) followed by a 3-year residency. Areas of specialty include internal medicine, soft tissue or orthopedic surgery, dermatology, cardiology, clinical or anatomic pathology, theriogenology, emergency and critical care, anesthesia, ambulatory medicine, dentistry, neurology, oncology, behavior, radiology, nutrition, lab animal medicine, equine medicine or surgery, zoo medicine, avian medicine, food animal medicine or surgery, ophthalmology, shelter medicine, and rehabilitation. These programs require strong dedication as they usually include long hours, on-call shifts, and low pay.
- Practice Ownership: Experienced veterinarians interested in business and management often elect to buy or build their own practices. This provides greater flexibility in scheduling and ability to practice their own styles of medicine. Some may also open their own mobile practice and spend time traveling to client homes to treat pets.
- Research: Veterinarians can complete postdoctoral fellowships, earn a PhD degree, or do clinical research at veterinary or medical schools. This is a route that allows veterinarians to impact both animal and human patients through new developments in medicine and science.
- Industry: Opportunities in industry are plentiful for DVMs. These jobs are at pharmaceutical companies where vaccine or drug development is done. Professional service veterinarians can also act as reps for companies like Zoetis or Merck in educating animal hospitals about new products and speaking to veterinary students.
- Government: Veterinarians ensure food safety and appropriate treatment of animals in the food chain. They usually work for USDA or CDC and perform accredited duties, such as reportable disease testing, health certificate management, or disaster response.
- Shelter Medicine: Veterinarians in shelter environments typically perform high volume spay and neuter surgeries, treat medical conditions, develop policies and procedures, and manage disease outbreaks.
- Public Health: For DVMs interested in zoonotic and infectious disease management, this is a popular route. The majority of veterinarians pursuing this area of medicine also have Masters in Public Health degrees.
- Writing: Veterinarians have a vast knowledge of medicine and the ability to communicate well with clients. Creating a blog, developing a writing business, or volunteering for a local newspaper are all options for those that enjoy writing.
- Teaching: Those that like teaching others can find jobs at veterinary schools, vet tech programs, or other academic institutions. Some positions may require another graduate degree, but the opportunities are plentiful.
SO many options exist for those holding a DVM degree. I think it is the most versatile medical degree and will open many doors to pursue whatever interests you! Veterinarians often take advantage of many of these different paths throughout their careers. Don’t be afraid to try something new! That is the only way to know what works and what doesn’t.