Veterinarian job description

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Sandra has almost completed her training to become a vet. She is now finishing her final year working in practice under the supervision of a senior clinician at the University of Cambridge's Queen's veterinary school hospital.

What does your job involve?

I admit animals into the hospital and carry out tests to work out what might be wrong with them. Once I have made a decision, I discuss treatment options with senior clinical staff and animal owners.

Do you have a typical day?

My day varies according to which animals are in and which areas of the hospital I am working in. Usually my day begins at 8.00am, when I check the animals and record any overnight progress. This is followed by admitting any new cases and continuing to investigate the old cases. I usually finish at about 7.00pm.

What kind of equipment is available to you?

The veterinary school is equipped with all the regular medical diagnostic equipment such as x-rays, ultrasound, MRI scanning machines, medicines and stethoscopes.

What kind of animals do you see?

I work with all kinds, from the smallest domestic animals and exotic pets, to horses and other large animals. The hospital has special wards for dogs and cats, a unit for horses and larger animals, and a university farm so that we can learn how to treat livestock.

What inspired you to choose this career?

How2Become - Vet

Inspiration to become a vet came from my interest in anatomy. I was very inquisitive about how muscles work. Veterinary medicine seemed perfect because it allowed me to learn about the anatomy of lots of different species and to compare them.

What kind of training do vets have to do?

In the first three years I learnt the basics of animal science, like how bodies work and which muscles move which joints. In the fourth and fifth years we start clinical studies, learning what happens when the muscles stop working, how this differs between species and how they might be affected by it.

When do you start practising as a qualified vet?

That is what I am doing right now – in my sixth and final year. This is where I use all my knowledge from the previous five years. Although I am closely supervised by clinical staff, I am responsible for my own cases and have to decide what's wrong with them and how to make them better. Once I complete this year, I can apply for veterinary jobs anywhere.

What do you like best about being a vet?

I like meeting the owners – even the very eccentric ones! But the best bit is being able to hand animals back to their owners in a better medical state than when they arrived.

Is there anything you dislike about the job?

It's not nice having to deal with sick animals knowing I cannot do anything clinically to help them recover. The hardest part is when I have to tell owners the bad news. I find this really emotional as owners get very attached to their animals.

What qualities are needed to become a good vet?

Obviously, you must want to work with animals and get satisfaction out of helping them to recover from their various ailments. The most important skill is communication, because you have to be able to talk to the owners and listen to what they say. They know their animals best. You also need to be prepared for the odd scratch or bite. I was recently kicked in the knee by a calf!

Sandra's route to becoming a Vet

  • A levels.
  • Degree in Veterinary Science.

Sandra's Vet tips

  • Work hard at school as this is the best foundation for any future career.
  • Be prepared to listen – everyone has something to teach you.

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What is the salary of a vet?

  • A newly-qualified vet starts on about £20,000 a year.
  • Senior partners can earn over £50,000.
  • Some employers offer benefits such as a car and accommodation allowance.

Qualifications needed to become a vet

  • To study as a vet, applicants must attain high grades in at least three A levels/H grades in subjects such as chemistry, biology, physics and maths. Some universities accept a third A level in a non-science subject, as long as it is an acceptably academic subject.
  • Veterinary degrees are available at six UK universities: Bristol, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and London (Royal Veterinary College). Courses last for at least five years and competition for places is intense.
  • University veterinary school applicants must show evidence of their interest and commitment. Useful work experience can include helping out at a local veterinary surgery, farm work or experience with horses.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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