Is veterinary medicine right for me?
If you love science and have a genuine interest in the welfare of animals, then you may wish to consider becoming a veterinarian. A degree in veterinary medicine opens the door to an exciting and interesting career. In this article, we aim to provide you with all that you need to know in order to make an informed decision about whether or not this is the career path for you.
What does a vet do?
A vet has to examine animals to diagnose their health problems, treat and dress wounds or perform surgery. Testing and vaccination against diseases is also required along with operating medical equipment such as x-ray machines. A vet will also advise animal owners about general care, medical conditions, treatments and prescribe medication.
In a typical day, a vet may deal with a variety of patients ranging from a cat which has been kept in for observations after being in an accident to applying worm treatments or vaccinations to a dog. As for any branch of medicine, accurate diagnosis and effective treatments are required.
Is there much demand for vets?
Yes- at the moment there is a shortage of UK qualified vets with surgeons from overseas filling the skills gap. 45 % of households own a pet in the UK according to the most recent statistics, with dogs and cats being the most popular although you do have to be prepared to deal with large farm animals or more unusual pets such as snakes.
Some vets may work in or run their own small independent business whilst others prefer to join a large corporate practice where specialisms in particular areas may be possible for example with small pets, farm or zoo animals.
Apart from a love of animals and a genuine interest in their wellbeing, clear communication skills are important along with empathy for their owners. For many people a pet is like a member of a family and you may have to deal with stressful situations where a high degree of sensitivity is required. Attention to detail is important as well as physical stamina to cope with being on your feet all day and handling large animals. For operations, a high degree of technical skill is essential.
Qualifications and training
To be a vet, you need an approved degree in veterinary medicine. This usually takes five years to complete. The course is rigorous with many practical and theory assessments including dissections of dead animals. There are seven places where you can study veterinary medicine in the UK. Competition is fierce for places. You need strong grades at GCSE including English, maths and science, A levels in science subjects and some experience of working with animals. Some universities also require you to take the BMAT exam beforehand.
In short, veterinary medicine offers a great career if you have the skills and determination to succeed. However, do make sure you have relevant work experience and research courses and entry requirements carefully.