Career Information for HPAG Students: Veterinary Medicine

Veterinarians are primarily involved in providing health care for pets, livestock, zoo, sporting, and laboratory animals. This includes preventive health care (such as monitoring animal health and vaccinating against particular diseases), diagnostic procedures of animal health, medicating ill and injured animals, various therapeutic procedures (including setting fractures and performing surgery), and advising owners about the proper care of their animals. While most veterinarians are involved in the clinical practice of medicine, some focus on basic research of animal health, experimentation with therapeutic procedures, or protecting the health of human populations from diseases carried by animals.

The Work: About 75 percent of veterinarians are involved in private clinical practice. More than half of these work predominately or primarily with small animals (typically companion animals such as dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits); about 1/4 of these work in mixed animal practices (in which they see animals such as sheep, goats, and pigs in addition to companion animals); and the remainder work in large animal practices such as horses and cows.

The Work Setting: Most veterinarians work in solo or group clinical practices, although they may be employed by zoos or research laboratories.

Entry Into Field: To practice veterinary medicine, one must graduate with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from a four-year program at an accredited college of veterinary medicine and obtain a license to practice. Licensing is handled at the state level, requirements vary from state to state, and states do not typically practice reciprocity (that is, passing the exam in one state does not necessarily qualify one to practice in other states). Most states require prospective veterinarians to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam, and most states require passing an exam on state laws and regulations.

Education: There are 28 accredited veterinary medicine programs in the United States. Virginia has one accredited programs (the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in Blacksburg).

Courses generally focus on clinical diagnosis, disease processes, therapeutic techniques, and medical management responsibilities and may include human anatomy and physiology, histology, biochemistry, immunology, pathology, nutrition, parasitology, pharmacology, toxicology, and surgical techniques.

The Career: The median salary for veterinarians in 2004 was approximately $67,000, depending on position, years of experience, and practice setting.

Job Outlook:  Good. Employment of veterinarians is expected to grow as fast as the average occupation in the next ten years.

Helpful Web Sites:   

Department of Labor

Veterinary Medicine Schools in this Region:

Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine

North Carolina: 
North Carolina State University

University of Pennsylvania

University of Tennessee