How to become a vet
Vets are responsible for managing the health of the animals in their care, providing treatments for illnesses and injuries and offering advice to animal owners on how to keep animals safely and healthily.
For an animal lover, the role of a vet is one of the most sought after and rewarding jobs. The opportunity to work with a range of animals on a daily basis and meet with their owners is a dream career for many.
£30,000 to £50,000
A career in the veterinary profession
This is a high pressured job and the role of a vet is incredibly responsible. Being in control of the diagnosis and treatment of an owner’s most loved family member is demanding and as such, the entry requirements into this career our great. That said, the reward for bringing an unwell animal back to good health is extensive and the appreciation from owners guarantees to ensure that this is a profession where the positives far outweigh the tensions.
What are the entry requirements for a career as a vet?
In order to become a vet, you will need to hold a veterinary degree that is recognised and approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). You must also register with the RCVS before you can work as a vet.
It usually takes five years to complete a veterinary degree and to enter a degree course in this field, you will usually need at least three high grade passes at A-Level, with at least one being a science subject.
If you have a degree in another subject that is related to veterinary practice, you may be able to take a 4 year degree course, rather than having to take the full five years.
It will also be essential for you to have practical experience of working as a vet in a surgery before you will be able to practice independently.
Essential Skills for Being a Vet
Vets are required to have an interest in animals, a thorough understanding of illnesses and injuries and a compassionate nature. There are also a host of additional essential skills that a vet should possess in order to ensure that they work professionally, safely and successfully.
Essential skills that a vet should have, include:
- A thorough understanding of the anatomy of animals, including potential risks to health and the ability to recognise birth defects.
- The ability to explain complex medical conditions in more simple terms so that your clients can understand.
- The ability to communicate verbally and in writing.
- Maths skills, particularly as you will need to write prescriptions and calculate dosages.
- A sympathetic and kind nature.
- The ability to continually learn and develop your understanding through studying developments within your field.
- Managerial and leadership skills.
- The ability to make difficult decisions for the good of the animals in your care.
- An ability to share bad news with pet owners and comfort them in emotional situations.
- Problem solving skills.
- Excellent time management skills and the ability to meet deadlines.
- The ability to work in a focused way when working in stressful situations.
- A commitment to adhering to regulations and legislation.
Day to Day Work of a Vet
Vets enjoy a varied day to day working life. With new clients, a wide range of animals and a variety of medical conditions to treat; no two days are the same for a vet. For people who like to work in a challenging career that offers exceptional rewards, being a vet is likely to be the perfect role.
Although the hours for veterinary work can be demanding and there are emotional situations to deal with, work as a vet promises to continually encourage you to develop, offers an unparalleled opportunity to help animals and liaise with a wide cross section of society.
As a vet, you might work in a private veterinary surgery, an in-house department for a large farming business or for a governmental organisation such as the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). You may also choose to work in a teaching role or take on a research position.
If you work as a vet in a general veterinary surgery, it is likely that some of the tasks that you undertake each day will include:
- Giving a diagnosis and preserving treatments to ill animals.
- Dressing wounds of injured animals.
- Giving advice to pet owners about how best to look after their animals.
- Carrying out operations and post-operative checks.
- Managing veterinary nurses and support workers.
- Maintaining thorough records on each animal you see.
- Requesting follow-up checks with some clients.
- Carrying out a range of tests on animals such as blood tests, scans and x-rays.
- Putting animals down and comforting their owners.
- Visiting animals at their home.
- Offering veterinary services to farm owners and visiting animals on the farm.
- Giving vaccinations and neutering pets.
- Attending meetings and seminars.
- Continuing to learn, research and study new developments within the field.
If you work in public health as a vet, you will spend most of your day investigating disease outbreaks that affect animals and humans. This may also mean that you prepare reports for the government or give updates to the media.
No matter what type of vet you are, you will be legally required to follow public health regulations and hygiene legislation.
How much does a vet get paid?
The starting salary for a qualified vet is £30,000. This is the average amount that you will earn in the first couple of years of practice. Once you are more established and experienced, your salary will increase to around £35,000 to £45,000.
A vet who has worked for several years and who has a good reputation can expect to earn in excess of £50,000 per year.
Career Progression for a Vet
Once you are an experienced vet, you may decide that you want to progress your career. This could see you specialising in the treatment or particular animals or specialising in certain medical conditions such as weight management or cardiology. There are a range of RCVS approved postgraduate courses that are available to help a vet take their career further.
Alternatively, you may choose to work in environmental conservation or take your experience to a developing country to help establish better conservation and care on an international level.
You might also choose to move into a research position or work in a university to teach student vets.
Working Hours and Working Environment for a Solicitor
Most vets will normally work in excess of 40 hours each week and this will often include being on call for night and weekend cover. You may need to work on bank holidays but will usually charge a double rate for call outs at unsocial times.
The bulk of your work will be carried out in the veterinary surgery but you may occasionally need to travel to visit an animal in their home or work outdoors on a farm or in a park.