A Guide to Help You Decide if a Career in the Veterinary Field Is Right for You

Making sure you are prepared for the day-to-day responsibilities of veterinarian clinics will aid your career choice

If you love animals and are considering a career in the veterinary field, you may be wondering if it’s the right path for you. Working in the veterinary field can be a fulfilling and rewarding career path, but it’s not for everyone. Before embarking on this journey, it’s important to understand the demands of the job, the educational and training requirements, and the potential career paths available.

According to UC Davis Veterinary Medicine, “Veterinarians are highly trained medical professionals who provide for the health and quality of life of all kinds of animals. Many veterinarians in the United States work in private practice, while others work in various fields. They also specialize in a particular breed of animal, like equine medicine or exotics, or a medical specialty, like ophthalmology, oncology, pathology, or dermatology.”

Deciding the veterinary path you want to take is one of the first steps in your vet career journey. This guide will go over the different types of veterinary fields and things you should consider when looking at a veterinarian career.

The different fields to look at include:

What you should know before becoming a vet includes:

The different veterinary fields to look into

This section will cover the various field choices you can explore in your veterinary career.

Private practice

Most people think of working in private practice when they think of a veterinarian. This is the vet you see for checkups or any minor concerns you have for your pet. Private practices usually only see small animals but, on occasion, will see larger animals or livestock.

Private practice vets can choose a specific field to focus on, such as surgery, allergist, or dermatology, or they can focus on particular breeds.

Public health

These veterinarians are not inside a true practice and aren’t in charge of yearly checkups or providing medication refills. UC Davis Veterinary Medicine defines public health vets as “Veterinarians that may work for federal or regional agencies that watch over the health and welfare of domesticated animals or monitor populations of free-ranging wildlife.”

Experts in this field will help diagnose diseases and oversee communicable disease programs — such as Rabies, BSE, viruses, etc. These experts will also partake in inspecting meats and poultry.


The research direction of the veterinary industry is by far the most hands off in terms of interacting with animals in their day-to-day duties, but it is one of the most critical roles for the industry.

Research veterinarians develop new vaccines, tests, and products that help prevent diseases in animals and humans, as well as help enhance food quality for your animals.

UC Davis Veterinary Medicine notes, ”Veterinary pathologists and toxicologists working in public institutions or private companies test the safety and efficacy of new treatments, monitor environmental conditions, and evaluate the effects of environmental pollutants.”


For there to be new veterinarians, someone has to teach them. There are opportunities to teach at veterinary schools and colleges offering veterinary education courses. Courses will teach professional-level students the skills and knowledge to aid in the veterinary profession.

What you should know before becoming a vet

According to St. George’s University, “Being a veterinarian is more involved than being good with pets and performing routine checkups. If you’re interested in becoming a veterinarian, know that you may need to develop business skills or work on building relationships.”

This section will cover what current industry professionals think everyone should know before starting a veterinary medicine and care career.

Interacting with people is a critical part of the job

Since most animals can’t communicate for themselves, you will spend more time than you think interacting with people. As a veterinary professional, you are committing to interacting with humans more than pets when you must relay information about a diagnosis, treatment, medical advice, etc., to the owner or other staff members.

You will learn an astonishing amount of material during vet school

Retaining most of what you learned in school is crucial, and if you worked hard in school, you can expect to work just as hard, if not harder, in your career.

By developing strong study habits in school, you will be able to retain most of what you learn, which will help advance your career after school.

Nothing goes as planned when working with animals

“The unique challenge of veterinary medicine is that there is never anything that happens according to plan,” Dr. Wystrach explains to St. George’s University. “To expect the unexpected on a daily basis has become my mantra.”

Even if you do everything to the best of your ability, it won’t change the fact that some things won’t work out how you want. Push past them and continue doing your job. As a vet, you have to learn to roll with the punches.

Nontraditional backgrounds abound on the path to becoming a veterinarian

While being a vet might be the career some people dreamed of from a young age, that won’t be the case for everyone. You will find people who have switched careers two or three times before pursuing vet medicine, and you will see people who have only ever had a career in this field. Whatever the case, you have no reason to worry that your pre-vet career will impact your future in the field.

There are way more career options than you might realize

While most vets choose to focus on one section of the career field, there are actually over 20 different vet specialties that you could pursue in your career — some of those include:

  • Animal welfare
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Preventive medicine
  • Laboratory animal medicine

Whatever your passion, there is a veterinary field to fit it.

Your career may evolve — even after you’ve spent time being a veterinarian

While you may have an idea of the direction and future of your career, don’t be surprised if it changes throughout your time as a veterinarian. You may start as a small animal vet and decide to be an ER vet or do animal welfare.

Just because you start in a particular field does not mean you are stuck in that one box for your career.

You need to be business savvy

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), most veterinarians choose the career route of private practice. Private practice veterinarians are often also required to do much more of the business side than expected.

Taking business courses while in veterinary school could help you tremendously in a future career in the private practice vet field.

You’ll forge lifelong friendships

Whether you are in vet school or already trailblazing your career, the vet industry is complex, and the people you surround yourself with will become lifelong friends. They will be there to help you study in school or hold your hand through a tough day on the job. Having someone in your corner will always make a difference in a successful career.