There’s a big difference between being idealistic and optimistic. Fortunately, you’ve always had a firm understanding of the distinction. This is a serious advantage, given your interest in veterinary medicine. You understand that while there will be difficult days, providing great veterinary care can be extremely rewarding.
Some have attempted to dampen your optimism with stories of veterinarians who are overworked and underappreciated. But what about the perks? You can’t help but think there have to be just as many (or more) benefits of being a veterinarian as there are downsides.
Your suspicions are right on track. We reached out to some doctors of veterinary medicine (DVMs) to ask which perks make their difficult job worth it. Keep reading to hear about why they enjoy what they do.
8 Benefits of being a veterinarian
There are many reasons a veterinarian career is worthwhile. Get the inside scoop as seasoned veterinarians explain just why they love going to work every day.
1. You can have as much variety as you want
Students pursuing a career in human medicine need to choose their intended career path well before graduating from medical school. The same is not true for veterinarians, and some find that to be a huge benefit.
“Veterinarians don’t have to choose a specialty,” explains Dr. Lori Pasternak, co-founder of Helping Hands Affordable Veterinary Surgery & Dental Care. “Every day we get to be dermatologists, cardiologists, surgeons, internists, neurologists, ophthalmologists, and more.”
Veterinarians can seek even more variety if they so choose, focusing on a wide spectrum of animals. Dr. Allison Tuttle, Diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine and Vice President of Biological Programs at Mystic Aquarium, particularly enjoys this freedom.
"I work with more than 4,000 animals of 500 different species in my day-to-day practice, which is incredibly exciting and fulfilling."
“I work with more than 4,000 animals of 500 different species in my day-to-day practice, which is incredibly exciting and fulfilling,” Dr. Tuttle explains.
Even small-town veterinarians can work with a wide array of animals. Dr. Rexanne Struve, owner of Veterinary Associates of Manning, runs a mixed-animal practice that will treat just about any type of creature. Dr. Struve says they get all sorts of referrals, even cold-blooded creatures.
“I love reptiles,” Dr. Struve says. “I love seeing snakes, lizards, and turtles.”
2. There’s considerable job security
Veterinary medicine has advanced substantially over the last few decades. Treatments that were once reserved for human health care have now spilled over into veterinary practice, including advanced diagnostic procedures like echocardiograms.
"As animal care standards continually increase, there is an additional need for veterinarians."
“As animal care standards continually increase, there is an additional need for veterinarians,” Dr. Tuttle explains.
Need more convincing? According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of veterinarians is expected to grow 18 percent through 2026. This more than twice as fast as the seven percent average growth for all occupations.
3. You can effect real change
Many vets talk about how rewarding their careers are. While different circumstances may contribute to that feeling, their ability to make a difference is usually an important factor. Consider how expensive veterinary care can be when an animal needs an advanced procedure. Dr. Pasternak started her hospital as a way to help pet owners seek treatment without emptying their bank accounts.
“We only offer advanced surgery and dental care,” she says. “And we do it in a high-volume capacity so we can do it affordably.”
Veterinarians can positively impact wildlife as well. In fact, Dr. Tuttle explains that ocean animal conservation is a huge part of she pursued a career working at an aquarium in the first place.
“With a mission to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education, and research, Mystic Aquarium is in line with my personal passions and philosophies,” she explains.
"With a mission to inspire people to care for and protect our ocean planet through conservation, education, and research."
4. You’ll likely have fantastic colleagues
It takes a certain kind of person to become a veterinarian. You need to be dedicated to animal care and willing to work hard, so it’s unlikely you’ll be burdened by colleagues who don’t pull their weight or don’t care.
“The people in the industry are generally super compassionate, caring, and soft-spoken,” Dr. Pasternak points out. You can expect to work alongside individuals who share your passion for animals.
5. Learning is part of the job
Veterinarians tend to be naturally curious. They love to learn new things, which is a huge advantage for this career path. Veterinarians need to stay on top of new technologies, techniques, and treatments as they emerge.
“Veterinarians are required to partake in annual continuing education to maintain their license,” Dr. Pasternak reminds. The state of Virginia where she practices requires 15 hours annually. She adds that there are many conferences available at the local, state, and national level.
Even beyond fulfilling continuing education requirements, veterinarians may need to learn new skills to effectively serve their community. Dr. Struve found herself wanting to learn more about treating ostriches during a time when many farmers were raising the birds.
“I made a trip to Oklahoma City to spend some time with a veterinarian who was working exclusively with ostriches at the time,” Dr. Struve explains. After the brief mentoring opportunity, she went on to complete a lot of necessary surgeries back home.
6. You have the opportunity to shape your own career
Though many of us think of small animal practitioners when it comes to veterinary careers, that’s just one option. DVMs are also qualified to pursue numerous other careers that you might not have considered.
“A veterinary degree opens the door to all kinds of careers, even beyond a practicing clinician, including public health, research, and teaching,” Dr. Tuttle offers.
"A veterinary degree opens the door to all kinds of careers, even beyond a practicing clinician, including public health, research, and teaching."
Even veterinarians who want to work with pet animals can shape a career around their interests. That’s exactly what Dr. Pasternak did.
“I was able to create a hospital that specializes in the parts of veterinary medicine I loved the most –after 13 years of full service – and not have to practice the parts I did not enjoy as much,” she says.
7. You may have a hand in educating the next generation of vets
The path to becoming a veterinarian is long and challenging. Future DVMs need to start gaining exposure to the field long before they even apply to school. Fortunately, many practicing vets are happy to help younger generations succeed.
“For any students who think they might want to be veterinarians, we encourage them to come shadow with us,” Dr. Struve says. She adds that offering this opportunity to potential vet students helps them understand all facets of what it means to be a veterinarian, which involves more dirty work than TV shows would have us believe.
Once students obtain their DVM, they may choose to pursue more education in order to specialize. Dr. Tuttle went this route in order to care for aquatic animals. Now she works with interns completing a post-graduate training program.
“Teaching and mentoring, and then ultimately seeing my veterinary interns secure jobs at various aquariums and marine mammal rehabilitation facilities is tremendously satisfying,” she reflects.
8. You can form wonderful relationships within your community
Some veterinarians particularly enjoy the human interactions they experience on the job. “Once people know I am a veterinarian, they always want to ask questions or tell me about their pet or an animal experience they have had,” Dr. Tuttle says.
"Sometimes they trust their veterinarians more than they trust their own doctors."
Dr. Struve feels similarly, pointing out how much the community respects her and trusts her judgement. “Sometimes they trust their veterinarians more than they trust their own doctors,” she reveals.
Help improve animal care
There’s no denying the amount of hard work and dedication it takes to study and practice veterinary medicine. Despite occasional hard days on the job, many practitioners think the benefits of being a veterinarian far outweigh the drawbacks. Most of them are so devoted to animal care that they wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.
If you’re just as passionate about animals, you might want to start looking into vet school. The applicant pool is competitive, so make sure you understand what programs expect. Learn more about what goes into a well-rounded application by taking a look at our article, “The Vet School Requirements Aspiring Animal Doctors Need to Know About.”
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