USA Career Guide-Veterinarians

 Education and Training Required to be Veterinarians

Like physicians, candidates who wish to become doctors of veterinary medicine must complete the equivalent of 4 years of pre-veterinary education and then attend a 4 year accredited college of veterinary medicine to attain a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) degree.
In veterinary schools today, increasingly, courses also include general business management and career development classes to help new veterinarians learn how to effectively run a practice.
Admission to Veterinary school is very competitive. Successful candidates usually apply to more than 2 schools.

Licensing and Postgraduate Training

After earning a DVM degree, you'll need to obtain a license by passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. Other licensing requirements are determined by individual states. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many graduates also choose to complete a 1-year internship after earning their license to gain experience in the field ( If you're interested in practicing in a specialty of veterinarian medicine, you may consider completing a 3-4 year residency program and becoming board certified.


The American Veterinary Medical Association offers certification in 40 different specialties, such as surgery, microbiology, and internal medicine. Certification is not required for veterinarians; it can show exceptional skill or expertise in a particular field. There are some prerequisites to sit for the certification exam although it may vary depending on the specialty:
Veterinarians must have a certain number of years of experience in the field,
 Complete additional education, or
Complete a residency program, typically lasting 3 to 4 years.

Work Experience

Some colleges give weightage to experience while admitting students. Formal experience, such as work with veterinarians or scientists in clinics, agribusiness, research, or some area of health science, is particularly advantageous. Less formal experience, such as working with animals on a farm, at a stable, or in an animal shelter, can also be helpful.

Pay of Veterinarians

The median annual wage of veterinarians was $82,040 in May 2010.
The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,910, and the top 10 percent earned more than $145,230.

According to a survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association, average starting salaries for veterinary medical college graduates in 2011 in different private specialties were as follows:
Food animal exclusive    $71,096
Companion animal exclusive    69,789
Companion animal predominant    69,654
Food animal predominant    67,338
Mixed animal    62,655
Equine    43,405

The average annual wage for veterinarians in the federal government was $88,340 in May 2010.
Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition

Job Prospects of Veterinarians

Employment of veterinarians is expected to grow 36 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. The need for veterinarians will increase to keep up with the demands of a growing pet population. There also will be employment growth in fields related to food and animal safety, disease control, and public health.
Overall job opportunities for veterinarians are expected to be good. Although veterinary medicine is growing quickly, there are only 28 accredited veterinary programs in the United States, which produce a limited number of graduates—about 2,500—each year.
Job opportunities in large animal practice, public health, and government should be best. Although jobs in farm animal care are not growing as quickly as those in companion animal care, opportunities will be better because fewer veterinarians compete to work with large animals. There also will be excellent job opportunities for government veterinarians in food safety, animal health, and public health.

Industrial Overview of Veterinarians

Veterinarians held about 61,400 jobs in 2010, of which 81 percent were in the veterinary services industry. Others held positions at colleges or universities; in private industry, such as medical or research laboratories; or in federal, state, or local government. About 9 percent were self-employed.
Although most veterinarians work in private clinics, others travel to farms, work outdoors, or work in laboratories.

Source:Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition
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