US News and World Report recently named veterinary medicine as one of the top 50 career choices. The outlook for the profession as a whole continues to be strong, and the demand for veterinarians is expected to grow over the next decade.
Veterinarians use their knowledge and skills for the overall benefit of society through their training in public health, food safety and environmental protection as well as their specific training in health and disease for individual species of animals.
When most people think of veterinary careers, they think of the private practitioner who works in a veterinary hospital and treats companion animals or livestock. Although the majority of veterinarians do in fact work in private practices, a significant number work in other fields. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, three-quarters of veterinarians are private practitioners, while the rest work as educators in veterinary colleges or medical schools, researchers at research laboratories, animal food companies or pharmaceutical companies, hold industry jobs, or in federal or regional government agencies.
One of the hurdles that face potential veterinarians is the challenge to get into veterinary school. The United States has only 28 veterinary schools, while Canada has just 5. This means that only a small percentage of applicants are accepted into the veterinary program, with most veterinary colleges reporting that about one in three qualified applicants is accepted. Most candidates have already completed a university degree by the time they get into veterinary school. The veterinary program takes 4 years to complete. After obtaining their veterinary degree, some graduates may choose to further their education and become board certified specialists.
Overall, the profession’s activity level was rated as ‘high’, meaning that the work is very demanding, and the stress level also rated high, since workloads can be grueling and unpredictable. However, most successful veterinarians would never want to do anything else.
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