Dr. Doolittle, Where Are You?
Now is an ideal time to enter the field of veterinary medicine. U.S. employment opportunities for veterinarians are expected to increase faster than the overall average for all occupations through the year 2012. California, alone, will need more than 700 new veterinarians per year to keep up with retirement and the ever-growing pet population. The veterinarian shortage is not unique to California. It is estimated there will be a nationwide shortage of 15,000 veterinarians over the next 20 years.
There are excellent opportunities in veterinary medicine today. Several factors contribute to this, including a demand for more veterinarians and pet owners taking better care of their pets. With a limited number of accredited veterinary schools, we see more job opportunities than there are graduates.
According to the 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey, 63 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 71.1 million homes. People consider pets a part of their family and are spending more on them, from food and routine veterinary visits to dental care products and travel accommodations. Approximately $40.8 billion was spent on pets in the U.S. in 2007, compared to $28.5 billion in 2001.
The road to becoming a veterinarian involves several years of study in social sciences, humanities, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics. Prospective veterinarians are required to graduate with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) degree from a four-year program at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. California has two accredited veterinary schools — the University of California Davis and Western University of Health Sciences.
Individuals don’t have to be a veterinarian to find a rewarding career working with animals. There are a number of other positions in high demand, including registered veterinary technicians, veterinary assistants and veterinary hospital managers. A variety of employment opportunities in the veterinary medical field are expected to increase for many years.
A Day in a Veterinarian’s Life:
According to information compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a veterinarian working with small animals on a typical day in clinical practice might:
- Diagnose animal problems;
- Vaccinate against diseases such as distemper and rabies;
- Medicate animals suffering from infections or illnesses;
- Treat and dress wounds;
- Set fractures;
- Perform surgery;
- Advise owners about animal feeding, behavior and breeding; and
- Euthanize animals when necessary.
A veterinarian working with large animals might:
- Provide preventive care to maintain the health of food animals;
- Test for and vaccinate against diseases;
- Consult with farm or ranch owners and managers on animal production, feeding and housing issues; and
- Treat and dress wounds, set fractures and perform surgery.