Having a sense of adventure lends itself perfectly to veterinary medicine. You never know what’s going to walk through your doors, so you need to be ready for almost anything. Administering vaccines, providing nutrition advice, and tending to injuries are all potential scenarios for any given day.
If you crave an exciting career, diverse cases are just part of why veterinary medicine could be a great fit. And workplace settings can vary just as much as the tasks you perform.
But just where do veterinarians work? Keep reading to learn more about some veterinary career locations you may not have considered.
Let’s start with the obvious…
Before we cover some of the more surprising settings, let’s start with the most common veterinary work environment: animal hospitals and clinics. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the majority of veterinarians work in these facilities.
Some vets choose to operate their own clinic, while others join group practices. Clinics themselves can be relatively general or incredibly specific. Some operations may offer specialty services, such as dentistry, or even focus on a particular type of animal.
Mobile clinics are yet another option. Some veterinarians choose to take their practice on the road to make life more convenient for pet owners and less stressful for the animals. Mobile clinics are also less expensive to open.
"Some veterinarians may work in zoo settings, with the government, in industry, for the state, in wildlife, etc."
That’s not to say there aren’t other options. “Some veterinarians may work in zoo settings, with the government, in industry, for the state, in wildlife, etc.,” explains Dr. Justine Lee, a board-certified veterinary specialist in emergency/critical care and toxicology. “Some will work in drug research labs or for veterinary pharmaceutical or pet food companies. There’s a lot of opportunity; however, the majority work in a small-animal clinic setting.”
9 Unexpected locations where veterinarians work
Now that we’ve set the stage, it’s time to look more closely at some of the workplace settings you might not expect. Both your personal preferences and the type of veterinary role you pursue will influence where you end up working.
1. Zoos and aquariums
Keeping captive animals in good shape involves a lot more than replicating habitats. Zoos and aquariums hire staff veterinarians to ensure creatures stay healthy, but these medical professionals are also heavily involved in conservation efforts and public education.
Positions in zoos and aquariums are good options for veterinarians who have above-average observation skills. According to Veterinary Practice News, wild animals have keen survival instincts that typically prevent them from showing symptoms or signs of weakness.
2. Food-processing plants
Veterinarians can work in settings all along the food supply chain, including plants that process animals and animal products. Their jobs may involve ensuring animals are treated humanely, enforcing regulations, testing for drug residues, and evaluating facility conditions. The work they do helps to reduce foodborne illness and improve the lives of food animals.
3. Farms and ranches
Vets who specialize in large animals spend a good amount of time on farms and ranches treating cows, pigs, sheep, and similar animals. In addition to treating conditions and implementing preventive measures, these veterinarians may also be involved in livestock breeding. Large-animal veterinarians spend a substantial amount of time traveling to different locations, so it’s a particularly good role for those who don’t mind road trips.
4. Universities and colleges
Tomorrow’s great animal doctors need qualified instructors to help them acquire the skills and knowledge needed to succeed. Veterinarians who’ve been through the process themselves fill that role by teaching students pursuing their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. Vets involved in teaching may also instruct other medical professionals or scientists.
Research may also be a component of a teaching position, but it doesn’t have to be. It depends on school’s focus and faculty member’s interest.
Working in a lab is typical for those involved in research as well as veterinarians who work specifically with lab animals. Lab animal veterinarian responsibilities may include providing regular veterinary care for lab animals, monitoring disease control programs, serving on committees involved in animal care and use, and conducting research.
Some veterinarians pursue careers in biomedical research, working toward solutions that can improve both animal and human health. Their specific responsibilities are usually dependent upon advanced training in fields like toxicology and microbiology. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, some priority areas of research are food security and safety, infections and zoonotic diseases, and environmental issues related to animal and human health.
6. Animal shelters
While shelter medicine is relatively new, those who pursue this field play an important role in keeping pets healthy. They work specifically with pets in need of permanent homes. Though these DVMs may perform many of the same tasks as private practice vets, their role is focused on both individual and population care. Shelter veterinarians also face some unique challenges, such as not knowing an animal’s health history.
7. Race tracks
Some equine veterinarians, healthcare professionals who work with horses, choose to work exclusively with racehorses. Their work involves collecting samples for drug testing, tending to injuries, and monitoring the animals and facilities. They help ensure horses stay healthy, but also strive to maintain a level playing field. Because so much of their work is focused around events, racetrack veterinarians spend a lot of their time outside at racing facilities.
8. National parks and other open areas
While some wildlife veterinarians work in zoos, some prefer to focus their energy on natural habitat settings. These specialists may work in national parks and nearby facilities to help rehabilitate injured animals, address specific health concerns, and protect populations. If you’ve always dreamed of working outdoors, you might want to consider this type of position.
There are actually a surprising number of paths that can lead to a veterinarian working in an office setting. Some provide consulting services, which may be general or based around a specialty area of training, while others become involved in advocacy or public policy roles. Some DVMs even choose to turn their efforts toward writing or opening a small business related to veterinary practice.
An array of opportunities
So, where do veterinarians work? You can see there are many answers. “The unique thing about being a veterinarian is that there is a diversity of job opportunities,” Dr. Lee says. So even if you’d prefer not to be confined to a clinic, there are plenty of other options for you.
You might be getting excited about all the career paths available to veterinarians. While the field is brimming with opportunity, you want to be sure it’s a good fit for you. Learn more about what to expect on the job by reading our article, “8 Things You Should Know Before Becoming a Veterinarian.”
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