How to Become a Clinical Veterinarian


Many individuals choose to become veterinarians because of their fondness of animals. However, as the popularity of this occupation grows, it is important to keep in mind the tough nature of the job. A veterinarian’s job is both, physically and emotionally demanding. On the contrary, the job itself is highly rewarding in terms of promoting animal healthcare as well as the positive job prospects.

With growing awareness of animal healthcare, pet owners strongly advocate high quality medical attention to be given to their pets. What may have started out as fondness for animals, has snowballed into a highly specialized profession.

Veterinarians may specialize in particular species, big or small animals or specific groups of animals. Broadly explained, veterinarians can choose from three main categories: production animals, canines and felines and exotic companion animals. Each category is characterized by different challenges and situations. Veterinarians should be knowledgeable as to the demands of each category. A simple act such as drawing blood differs across animals and species.

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People in higher social classes are increasingly becoming attracted to exotic companion animals. As a result, veterinarians have seen a rise in this particular category. Diseases and treatments of varying complexities accompany these animals and veterinarians have to be quick with their responses. If not provided effective and timely treatment, these animals can deteriorate rapidly.

Industries that obtain their raw materials from their animals, deal with production animals such as farms. The level of concern and care is especially high in these industries because the animals are in such close proximity, they can easily transmit diseases to one another in no time. As far as the treatments are concerned, clinical veterinarians should maintain records which comply with legal regulations (local, federal and state). Therefore, a veterinarian needs to be fully prepared with the effective diagnoses and treatments.

Job Duties

Major duties and responsibilities of a clinical veterinarian are as follows:

  • Diagnosing and treating animals
  • Overseeing vaccine and medicinal provisions
  • Attending to and taking care of wounds
  • Performing surgeries when necessary
  • Documentation of surgical procedures carried out and treatments given
  • Assuring accurate processes are followed concerning data entry, legal compliances, query responses and use of databases
  • Carrying out research regarding treatments for different and complex diseases
  • Performing radiology procedures and ultrasounds
  • Ensuring the maintenance of up-to-date medical equipment
  • Advising animal owners about general healthcare of the animals
  • Prescribing treatments and medications



From an accredited institution of veterinary medicine, candidates should complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M) degree, which usually spans over 4 years. The United States have over 30 colleges which are authorized to award this degree.

While some candidates may hold bachelor’s degrees prior to the D.V.M degrees, veterinary medicine institutions require candidates to be well-versed in subjects such as humanities, social sciences, mathematics. Prerequisites in science courses usually consist of animal science, biology, chemistry, zoology, genetics, physiology and anatomy.


Veterinarian licenses are required by all states. Additionally, veterinarians are supposed to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. Some states require candidates to sit for an additional state-specific license exam along with the national exam. Those who want to practice in another state must sit for that state’s respective exam if the said state does not accept a license from another state.

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Some establishments require veterinarians to have 5 years of experience. 75% of this experience should be relevant to the category the veterinarian wants to specialize in. It is preferred to hold two recommendation letters which verify the expertise and skills of the veterinarian.

Certification is not mandatory for clinical veterinarians but it proves expertise in a specialty. This certification is awarded by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners.

Necessary Skills and Qualities

The following skills are important for veterinarians:

  • Decision-making Skills – with different diseases and varying treatments, veterinarians should identify the applicable ones, especially in situations where euthanization is a possibility.
  • Interpersonal Skills – animal owners are usually more concerned with animal healthcare because the procedures are highly different. Therefore, a veterinarian should put these owners at ease whenever necessary.
  • Problem-solving Skills – these involve identifying complicated everyday problems, evaluating the options available and finding relevant solutions
  • Management Skills – these come in handy when veterinarians operate independently or are in charge of delegating tasks
  • Motor Skills such as dexterity – these skills are especially important when performing surgeries

The following qualities should be displayed by veterinarians:

  • Compassion
  • Integrity
  • Commitment
  • Problem sensitivity
  • Resourcefulness
  • Ingenuity
  • Cooperation
  • Adaptability
  • Trustworthiness

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth for veterinarians is 12%. May 3013 estimates state the median hourly wage of veterinarians to be $41.66 and the median annual wage to be $86,640. From 2012 to 2022, job openings are projected to be 31,000. Veterinarians are paid the highest in Connecticut.

Overall, the job outlook and prospects for veterinarians seem positive. Clinical veterinary is a lucrative career opportunity which shows promising growth. However, the industry is characterized by strong competition which pushes prospective veterinarians to specialize in particular groups and categories. The production animal industry will see a rise in career opportunities as lesser veterinarians compete to work on bigger animals. Also, the federal government will have veterinarian vacancies because of increasing importance of public and animal health.

Further Reading

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