All Pets Veterinary Clinic


Veterinary medicine is a diverse career option. While most people assume veterinarians
only take care of the family pet, vets can be found in many different roles. Some vets
see animals every day. Some do not. Some conduct research on human diseases, some work
for drug companies and answer technical questions about certain drugs and products, and some
only write veterinary related articles and books.
In 2002 there were approx. 62,000 veterinarians in the US.

74% (45,665) are in private practice. Of the veterinarians in private practice:
- 73% (33542) are in small animal practice
- 8% (3839) are in mixed animal practice
- 15% (6853) are in large animal or equine practices

15% (8934) are in public or corporate areas. Of these 8934:
- 45% (4032) work in a college or university
- 14% (1233) work for the federal government
- 4% (339) work for state/local government
- 17% (1523) work in industry
- 5% (472) are in the uniformed services

The remaining 11% (6878) are unknown.


The traditional veterinary education prepares students to practice medicine and surgery
on a wide variety of species. Typically this takes 7-8 years of school. Veterinarians
in private practice diagnose and treat dogs, cats, horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and a
variety of exotic species. Some veterinarians limit their practice to all small or all
large animals. Some will practice on both.

BS degree-->DVM degree-->Private Practice

If additional training is desired, a veterinarian can specialize in a narrow area of
veterinary medicine. Some areas of specialization incude cardiology, oncology, dermatology,
pharmacology, anesthesia, surgery, neurology, internal medicine, ophthomology, dentistry,
emergency medicine, etc. This typically adds a 1 year internship and a 3 year residency to
the regular veterinary degree. After this additional four years, most will have earned a MS
degree. In addition, most will become boarded in their area of specialty. Veterinarians
with these qualifications often work in private practice, universities, or industry.

BS degree-->DVM degree-->Internship-->Residency and MS degree-->Specialty practice or teaching

Some veterinarians will then go on to earn a PhD and will conduct reasearch or teach in their
area of specialty. Veterinarians with these qualifications often work in industry or at
a university.

BS degree-->DVM degree-->Internship-->Residency and MS degree-->PhD-->Research or teaching

Regardless of the path chosen, veterinary medicine offers an endless amount of opportunities.

As with any career there are pros and cons. The positive aspects of veterinary private
practice are many and include working with animals and the sheer variety of things you get to
do. No two days are ever the same. In private practice you get to do a little bit of everything
all of the time! You get to be a surgeon and an internist. You get to practice a little
cardiology, a little oncology, a little dentistry, etc, etc. This can keep you on your toes!
You get to follow your patients, often from birth to death. This may not be possible in
a specialty practice or in other areas of veterinary medicine.

The negative aspects of veterinary medicine include euthanasia (sometimes, you have to kill
your patients), the fact that financial constraints of the owner can come in the way of your ability
to treat or save an animal, and the salary. (Veterinarians earn less than other professions
with similar or less education.) Regardless of the negatives, veterinary medicine can be
a wonderful career choice for people who love animals and have a strong interest in science and

More Information On Careers In Veterinary Medicine Can Be Obtained From:
The American Veterinary Medical Association
1931 N. Meecham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173

The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine
2001 S. Lincoln, Urbana, IL 61801

Karen Blakeley, DVM, MPH
12 September 2004