Veterinarians examine, diagnose, and treat the health problems of animals, both large and small. Veterinary technologists and technicians assist the veterinarian with a wide variety of procedures and examinations. The job is ideal for animal lovers, but veterinarians, veterinary technologists and technicians all need to earn a degree before working in the field.
Educational requirements for a career in veterinary science
Veterinary technicians typically need an associate degree, while veterinary technologists generally earn a four-year bachelor's degree. Although technologists and technicians earn different degrees, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, reports that their job duties are similar when working in a veterinary practice. However, the BLS notes that while veterinary technicians are often employed in private practice, technologists have the opportunity to pursue research-oriented jobs in settings such as diagnostic laboratories, biomedical facilities and wildlife facilities.
Veterinarians typically earn a bachelor's degree before going on to veterinary school. Competition for admission to veterinary school is fierce--according to the BLS, only one of every three applicants in 2008 was admitted to veterinary school. Although a bachelor's degree may not be required for admission to every school, students who hold a bachelor's degree are more likely to gain admission.
Veterinary school typically takes four years and results in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. A license is also required. Veterinarians who seek board certification must complete a residency program of three to four years. The residency focuses on in-depth training in one of 39 specialties approved by the AVMA.
Online healthcare degrees in veterinary science & animal care are sometimes available for technicians and technologists. However, veterinary training requires a great deal of hands-on experience in addition to classroom instruction. Therefore, a hybrid education--combining some online courses with classes taken in the traditional classroom or laboratory setting--is likely the best approach.
Veterinarians must love animals and also get along well with people. The best candidates for the job are patient, compassionate and perceptive. They must be detail-oriented, have a firm grasp of biology and animal anatomy, and be prepared to make difficult decisions within a short time frame.
What to expect from a career in veterinary science & animal care
Jobs in veterinary science & animal care are as varied as the types of animals for which they care. Some veterinarians work a typical 40-hour week in comfortable offices. Others choose to specialize with large animals, which often means travel to farms in their area. Still others choose to work with animals in zoos, which can encompass a wide range of specialties.
No matter the course of a veterinarian's career, she might have to deal with late hours, emergency patients and difficult cases that can test her emotions. Veterinary technicians and technologists can face the same challenges. However, they do so under the direction of a veterinarian and usually have fewer responsibilities.
Veterinary technicians and technologists face excellent job prospects, with growth of 36 percent projected between 2008 and 2018, according to the BLS. A limited number of graduating veterinary technicians and technologists should keep demand for these professionals high. Similarly, the small number of accredited veterinary schools in the U.S.--28, according to the BLS--is expected to result in strong demand for veterinarians, who are projected to see 33 percent growth from 2008 to 2018.
According to the BLS, veterinarians made a mean annual income of $92,570 in 2010. Veterinary technologists and technicians made a mean income of $31,030 per year. Other careers available to those with a degree in veterinary science & animal care include zoologist, rancher, zoo curator, wildlife technician and biological scientist.