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A Guide to Veterinary Careers

Lacey Dorliac

The veterinary field can provide a very rewarding career for anyone with a love for animals, and there are plenty of roles available depending on your level of qualifications as well as your interests. Here are some of the key roles in the veterinary field, what they entail, and what qualifications are required.

Vet surgeon

A vet surgeon is a doctor who provides primary medical care to the animals. The responsibilities of a vet surgeon include diagnosing illness, administering treatments, performing surgery, prescribing medicine, and carrying out tests.

Once a vet has a few years of experience working in a practice, they usually choose to further specialise as either a small animal vet, focusing on the treatment of domestic animals such as dogs and cats, a large animal vet, focusing on livestock and farm animals, or even an exotic animal vet, providing care for all manner of exotic animals, such as reptiles, rodents or even zoo animals.

The path to becoming a vet surgeon involves rigorous study. To become a veterinary surgeon, you must complete a degree in veterinary science or medicine, and admission to these courses usually requires A levels results of AAA, though each institution has its own entry requirements. The degree course typically takes 5-6 years to complete, and you must register with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) upon completion in order to practice veterinary medicine.

Once you have qualified as a vet, there are still opportunities to refine your skills and study for additional qualifications. You can study for certificates in many specialist areas, such as:

  • Soft tissue surgery
  • Small animal advanced surgery
  • Dentistry
  • Orthopaedics
  • And many more!

Vet nurse

Veterinary nurses work closely with the veterinary surgeon to provide care for the animals. Vet nurses have a wide range of responsibilities that may change depending on the size of the practice that they work in. Generally, however, these responsibilities include administering treatments such as medicines, performing diagnostic tests, preparing animals for surgery, and assisting with surgery, as well as general patient care such as feeding and monitoring.

Vet nurses don’t have to complete a veterinary science degree, but they do need to complete a course accredited by the RCVS. Entry to these courses does not require the same academic qualifications, but rather the completion of a determined number of work experience hours in animal-related roles, such as volunteering at a veterinary practice or farm.

Lab technician

One of the lesser-known, but extremely important, veterinary roles is that of the lab technician. The responsibilities of this job can vary depending on the place of work and level of experience. Lab technicians may be responsible for running tests, obtaining a medical history from the owners, taking blood samples, monitoring animals and recording data, as well as controlling heating, lighting and humidity in the cages.

There is no specific route to becoming a lab technician and the qualifications required will depend on the employer. Degrees in related subjects such as biology, animal welfare or pharmacology are all beneficial but are usually not essential.

Vet care assistant

Vet care assistants work alongside the vet surgeons and nurses to help provide care for the animals. The range of responsibilities a vet care assistant may have will depend on their level of experience and the type of practice they work in, but will usually be involved in feeding, exercising, grooming, and monitoring, as well as cleaning and preparing the cages.

There is no formal training or qualification required to get a job as a vet assistant, as most of the training will be on the job. However, vet care assistants need to be at least 16 years old and some employers may wish you to have had some experience in animal care, such as volunteering with a practice.

Vet receptionist

A vet receptionist is a great start to a veterinary career, particularly for those who prefer the hospitality side of the business rather than directly administering care to the animals. Vet receptionists are the primary contact point for all clients and their social skills are crucial in making clients feel calm and keeping them well informed during what can be a very stressful time.

Vet receptionists will also have administrative duties such as scheduling appointments, taking payments and, of course, answering phone calls and responding to emails. They require no formal qualifications and will be trained on the job, however each employer will have their own requirements.

As well as any formal qualifications a role may require, you can always improve your chances at securing a position by volunteering in some capacity at a workplace that cares for animals, such as a veterinary practice or a farm.

SynergyVets is a dedicated veterinary recruitment agency, with almost 30 years of collective experience supporting the profession with locum and permanent personnel.

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