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Vet Veterinary surgeon, veterinarian

Vets diagnose and treat sick or injured animals.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £30,000 to £50,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 40 to 45 per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll need to:

Full-time degrees usually take 5 years. If you already have a degree in a subject related to veterinary science, you may be able to take a 4-year degree course.

You'll also need experience working in a veterinary practice.

The RCVS has information on a career as a vet.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • excellent communication skills
  • problem-solving skills
  • practical skills to handle animals
  • the ability to make difficult decisions
  • management and business skills

3. What you'll do

You could work in general practice, or for a public and animal health department like the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) or the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). You could also work in teaching or research.

In general veterinary practice your day-to-day tasks will include:

  • diagnosing and treating sick and injured animals
  • performing operations
  • carrying out tests such as blood analysis, X-rays and scans
  • providing care for an animal in veterinary hospitals
  • carrying out regular health checks and giving vaccinations
  • checking farm animals and advising how to stop diseases spreading
  • supervising veterinary nurses and support staff
  • keeping records of treatments
  • communicating with pet owners and insurers
  • neutering animals to stop them breeding
  • putting severely injured or terminally ill animals to sleep

In public health, your day-to-day tasks will include investigating human and animal disease outbreaks like foot and mouth disease.

As a vet in industry, you'll develop and test drugs, chemicals and biological products. You may also check hygiene and care in stables, kennels or pet shops.

You'll follow public health and hygiene laws.

4. Salary

Starter: £30,000

Experienced: £35,000 to £44,000

Highly Experienced: £50,000 or more

You may sometimes get accommodation and transport.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

At a vets' practice you'll usually work about 43 hours a week. You could also be on call, day or night.

The job is physically demanding.

You may work outdoors if you're treating farm animals or horses.

6. Career path and progression

You could focus on treating particular animals, or specialise in areas such as dermatology or cardiology, by taking RCVS-approved postgraduate courses.

You could join the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) if you work with horses.

Experience in veterinary surgery could also help you to get a job in environmental conservation.

You could also move into a career in research and teaching with a university or research body.

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Last updated: 11 April 2017