Veterinary science and medicine master's degree programs teach students to diagnose and treat animals and provide them with preventative care. Veterinarians may pursue careers as general practitioners, or specialize in treating particular types of animals or conditions.
They may specialize in treating large or small animals, wild or domestic animals, or particular families of species such as felines, pachyderms, or marine mammals. They might also focus on working with a certain type of animal such as companion animals, wild animals, zoo animals, or laboratory animals. Within those specializations, they might also focus on a particular type of practice such as dentistry, surgery, or internal medicine. Given the many varieties of animals and specializations, the field of veterinary medicine is incredibly broad and diverse.
Individuals pursing a graduate degree in veterinary sciences and medicine should ideally possess the following qualities:
- A desire to help animals
- Belief in animals' rights to health and quality of life
- Able to work with animals and people (pet owners, zoo caretakers, etc.)
- Have an ability to "stomach" animal wounds and injuries and the side effects of diseases and illnesses
- Able to take charge, make difficult decisions, and stand by their choices
- Work ethically, honestly, and with integrity
Many people who wish to work in the field of veterinary medicine think only of their love for animals. Keep in mind being a veterinarian sometimes may require you euthanize animals, witness the effects of abuse and neglect, and make difficult choices regarding their well-being.
Veterinary Sciences and Medicine Graduate Curriculum
In the United States, people who wish to work as veterinarians are required to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and obtain licensure from the state in which they want to practice medicine. Full time students typically earn their degree in 4-5 years. Most programs require students to complete a full year of rotations, practicing veterinary medicine under the supervision of licensed professionals in a variety of settings.
Most students pursuing a doctoral degree in veterinary medicine earn a bachelor's degree in a related field such as biology or the physical sciences, or they may be required to obtain a post-baccalaureate degree prior to applying to their chosen program. It may also be useful for individuals to gain experience in the field of veterinary medicine by working as paraveterinarians, or volunteering working at veterinary hospitals or clinics.
Graduate courses in veterinary medicine vary according to an individual's concentration and the institutions program, general courses might include:
- General chemistry
- Organic chemistry
- General Biology
Students interested in earning a veterinary specialist degree might be required to take additional classes in their particular specialization as well as participate in additional internships, extensive research projects, and multi-year residencies. All of these requirements can add years to your education. If you do not wish to become a veterinary specialist, keep in mind you may still be required to complete a multi-year residency following completion of your graduate program.
Typically, once you have completed your graduate work, specialization work (if applicable) and residency, you will be eligible to test for state or board certification or licensure.
Veterinary Science and Medicine Career Paths
Doctors of Veterinary medicine typically work within a specialization. Areas of focus include:
- Food and Safety Inspection: Ensure animals and livestock involved in creating food sold to consumers meet government standards of safety.
- Research: Investigate new drug therapies, surgical techniques, and methods to prevent animal born diseases
- Equine: Diagnose and treat horses
- Food Animals: Diagnose and treat farm animals.
- Companion Animals: Diagnose and treat common household pets
Veterinarians can work in a variety of different settings, most commonly they work in private clinics or animal hospitals, but some may work in laboratories, universities, or in the field. Veterinarians are sometimes required to work outside of normal business hours to treat emergent cases.
Veterinary Medicine Salary and Job Outlook
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012 veterinarians earned a median salary of $84,460/year. The same source reported that veterinary techologists and technicians earned a median salary of $30,290. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers earned a median salary of $23,130. The graph below summarizes the 2012 median annual salary data of these veterinary science and medicine careers.