As you begin working toward your goal to become a veterinarian, you’re likely busy ensuring you’ve completed all the necessary vet school requirements before it’s time to apply. But there are some veterinary qualifications you’ll need that won’t necessarily be listed as prerequisites for admission.
Like any career, there is a combination of required hard and soft skills to be successful as a veterinarian. So, what veterinary skills should you work to hone while you complete your undergraduate courses and gain animal experience? Join us as we explore four fundamental qualities that will help you stand out.
4 Vital veterinarian skills you should master
Many people seek to become veterinarians due to their love of animals. But working in this field requires a lot more than interacting with furry and feathered patients. From communicating with pet owners and other practitioners to demonstrating proficiency with the tools used on the job, the veterinarian skills needed to be successful are vast.
1. Interpersonal communication skills
Contrary to what it might seem like on the surface, veterinarians are constantly working with people. Small animal vets, for example, are responsible for not only caring for pets but also communicating clearly with pet owners. Primary care teams will also interact with veterinary specialists on a regular basis who can consult on everything from dentistry and dermatological concerns to surgical or radiological needs.
Skilled veterinarians have an innate ability to discuss their diagnoses and recommendations, succinctly explaining treatment options to animal owners. They also need to provide clear instructions to fellow members of the animal care team.
Proficient communication combined with empathy and compassion—toward animals and pet owners alike—enables practitioners to build trust and form connections with the people they help. Interpersonal communication skills like these help animal owners feel more at ease, decrease the chance for miscommunication or error among the care team, and can help foster a more effective work environment.
2. Technology skills
Even veterinarians who don’t intend to work in high-tech sectors of the field like radiology or neurology will benefit from a solid repertoire of technology skills. In addition to a general proficiency with basic tools like spreadsheet and presentation platforms, practicing vets will also need to maintain a working knowledge of medical and database user interface software they may use on the job.
Technology skills are also important because all veterinary practitioners should continually stay abreast of updates across the field—and the technological advancements in vet medicine have been rapid. Not only are MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds used regularly in the treatment of animals, but newer inventions are becoming much more commonplace. Up-and-coming tools like wearable devices, 3D printing, minimally invasive surgical procedures, and microchip fracture detection should be on the radar of all aspiring and practicing veterinarians.
3. Problem-solving skills
A veterinarian’s job isn’t quite as cut-and-dry as it may seem. The process of treating an animal requires a practitioner to perform an examination, consult with specialists if needed, determine a diagnosis, consider the costs and benefits of the possible next steps, and then provide care options that will lead to the best outcome. Problem-solving skills like judgment and decision-making are key throughout this process.
Successful veterinarians also possess a keen ability to adapt as circumstances shift. Care teams in all sectors of veterinary medicine face obstacles and unexpected changes in their day-to-day work—things like moving locations for a call, unpredicted weather, or needing to travel on short notice. If you hope to thrive in your veterinary career, it’s important that you learn how to work around changes like these to complete the task at hand.
4. Business skills
While the veterinarian job description typically consists of helping animals directly through diagnoses and treatment plans, there are a number of different career options for those within this field that require a strong set of business skills. Some paths focus more heavily on research, such as regulatory veterinarians who work for the government.
But vets who go into private practice will need a solid business acumen to be successful. Working in a veterinary practice requires an understanding of financial management, client communication, marketing, and more. This is true even for vets who aren’t practice-owners. In fact, some evidence suggests that employers in this field base many of their hiring decisions on business skills and other nonclinical competencies.
Start building your veterinary skills today
Veterinarians are highly skilled professionals who spend years honing their ability to be effective in their field. If you have hopes of finding your own success as a vet, you now know which fundamental veterinary skills to focus on as you prepare yourself for application season.
In the coming months, you might begin to feel overwhelmed with the multitude of tasks you have to focus on. But be sure to maintain that drive to succeed as you push forward in pursuing your veterinary career goals.
Ensure you have all your bases covered by reviewing our article “The Do’s and Don’ts of Applying to Vet School.”