Are you thinking of becoming a veterinary surgeon? If so, then read on to learn about the different types of vets and which area you may be interested in working in once you qualify. I’d also recommend taking a look at the vet cpd available at The Webinar Vet to get further insights into the different types of vets.
One of the reasons I wanted to become a vet in my early teens, was because of one of my heroes, which I think everyone knows. I was reading the books of James Herriot who was a vet based in Yorkshire. He wrote very lovely, funny, romantic stories about being a vet during the 1930s – 1940s. In the stories, he practised what today we would call mixed practice, as he focused on large animal with some small animal practice.
These days there are many different types of veterinary surgeons, and some who remain in mixed practice, but over time, people have begun to specialise in specific fields.
Companion animal veterinarians are those who only treat dogs and cats, of which there are many. Some of the Companion Animal Vets have included in their practice exotics medicine in animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats, tortoises and maybe snakes, but always focusing on small animal species. Of course, there are those who specialise only in exotics, who we call Exotic Vets or Wildlife Vets who tend to practice medicine on wild animals that do not necessarily come to a place of care.
The Equine Vets, are the ones who just see horses, much of their practice is ambulatory, meaning that they must visit their patients in the stables or they can work in a hospital. Lastly, we have the Farm Animal Vet, they may be specialists in cattle, sheep, poultry or pigs in which they hold certificates. They often go to farms as advisors to help improve milk production on a dairy farm, or make sure that mortality is low on sheep farms by checking welfare. Always remember that a well-cared animal tends to produce more!
There is also further specialisation, particularly in the small animal field, although this does not mean that there is no specialisation in other fields.
There is a growing specialisation not only among doctors but also within the practice. For example, there may be a veterinarian who only specialises in dermatology or internal medicine, or who is a surgeon or works in diagnostic imaging.
My special interest was dermatology, as well as owning my first small animal practice, I also did dermatology as a referral vet, for vets who had difficult cases. A common occurrence within our profession is for vets to refer cases to specialists. This is a positive thing because not only do we get the patient with the problem but we have the whole clinical history of the patient, which helps us to reach a more accurate diagnosis.
Other Types of Vets
The veterinary career path is very broad. There are veterinarians who are in charge of abattoirs or who deal with food safety and security, others who work on animal imports and exports, and veterinarians who work within government to help with certification and with emerging disease outbreaks, such as the big foot and mouth outbreak we had at the beginning of the new millennium, these are known as epidemiologists.
Imagine having the opportunity to work for the government and end up as the chief vet of England or the country where you are reading this blog or on a large scale being part of organisations such as the United Nations!
We can’t forget the veterinarians who stay in academia and teach young people to become veterinarians, others have a research interest, as well as some who research and teach about a specific area. There are also vets who work for a pharmaceutical company or a feed company, advising other veterinarians on how to use the products. Some people get a veterinary degree and then go into something very different.
There are many opportunities for veterinarians, and a veterinary degree is a degree full of endless opportunities. I had a very satisfying career, and obviously, it’s a career I would recommend to others.
While it is important to know all of these things, one piece of advice I could give you is that it is important that you like animals, but that you also like people, because you are going to deal with people a lot and you have to be able to relate to people, in whatever area you work in.
So, these are some ideas for what you can do when you finally pass your degree at university.
What is your dream career path in veterinary medicine?