A world of opportunity
There are many different types of jobs that a degree in veterinary medicine can lead to. Here are descriptions of a few of them.
The most well known route for a graduate vet is general practice. This can be working in small or large private clinical practices and engaging in a huge range of activities, from making examinations of pets to offering guidance to owners on animal care. Career paths in private practice can be organised according to the types of animals that one may wish to specialise in treating and the sort of practice in which one might work:
- Companion animals – This involves a deeper knowledge of the more common household animals for when a more complex or unusual treatment may be necessary.
- Farm animals – Farm and livestock animals often require different treatments designed to care for the herd as a whole, rather than individual animals. Working in the farm or food production environment demands its own unique set of skills.
- Equine – Equine vets treat horses, ponies and donkeys, and might work in the breeding or racing industries. These large animals lead very different lives to livestock and so require different treatments.
- Exotic – A small number of vets specialise in exotic pets, which, as you might guess, can suffer from ailments as exotic as they are and so need specialists to properly care for them.
- Referral – A referral vet may have a diverse background, including further academic qualifications, and will treat a broad range of the above animals while perhaps still having specialised skills in one area.
- Mixed practice – These practices might treat a particular mix of the above categories and so offer the opportunity for a vet to gain experience in multiple areas.
- Zoo – Encouraging the survival of zoo animals will be the main aim of vets employed specifically to work in these circumstances. Understanding and improving rates of reproduction is another focus of this area.
In order to practise as a veterinary surgeon in the UK, it is necessary to gain registration with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the regulator of the profession. Information on how to register can be found on the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons website.
Vets have an important role in private industry. There are many different areas in which they work, but here are a few of the most common:
- Food production – Occupying a central position in food production, vets ensure both the welfare of the animals used and the safety and quality of the products made.
- Pharmaceutical – The development and testing of drugs that are designed for humans and animals is monitored by vets in order to ensure best practice in the methods used, as well as to further understandings of the complex processes involved.
- Biomedical – Vets lead in interdisciplinary and translational research concerning the way that animal health relates to human health. This has wide-ranging effects on the study of infectious disease, virology and pathology, as well as biomechanics and other areas.
Working in universities, government or private facilities, and often relating to the work in the biomedical industry described above, vets in public health focus on the transmission of animal disease to humans. Within the European Community, they play a key role in safeguarding the safety of food of animal origin. They work on preventive measures such as vaccinations, and diagnoses and treatments. Their role relates to the nation’s health as a whole.
Vets might work in representing the profession and engaging in policy work which shapes the profession’s future. Bodies such as the British Veterinary Association work in this way.
Working in government outside of direct public health, vets can undertake a wide range of different regulatory and advisory functions.
The Royal Army Veterinary Corps provides care for service animals in the Armed Forces and maintains a small number of vets.
Along with their teaching roles, faculty members of veterinary schools often engage in a mixture of activities. These can include research, representative work and clinical practice.
As well as research in government, industry, and private laboratories, a great deal of research is conducted in the academic setting. Universities and research institutes make for rigorous and creative environments for research, and work there will involve the prevention and treatment of health problem relating to both animals and humans.
For more on research and the postgraduate routes into it, see the Research page.
In order to practise as a vet in the UK it is necessary to register with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. See the RCVS website for more information.