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Thousands of people depend on veterinarians to take good care of their precious animals. Vets may specialize in one area, like small animals for example, which includes dogs, cats, birds, rodents and reptiles. Those vets usually practice in a clinic or animal hospital. Other vets work with large animals, like horses and cows, and those vets are often mobile. Some vets work with companies that develop medicine and food to keep animals healthy and fit, and others work with animals that produce food on corporate and government-run farms. Some vets do medical research and run experiments with animals.

There is a bright future for women in veterinary medicine. The American Veterinary Medical Association published a study in 2002, which found that most new graduating vet students were women - and that they would dominate the profession within the next five years.
Here are some examples of a veterinarian's responsibilities:
  • Vets examine animals and make diagnoses.
  • Vets vaccinate animals against diseases and treat animals that are sick or injured. Sometimes that entails surgery, other times the vet prescribes medicine. Vets also teach animal owners how to care for their animals.
  • Vets have the sometimes-difficult job of practicing euthanasia, which means helping very old, sick and abandoned animals to die relatively painless deaths.
  • Vets answer emergency calls, which can happen any time, including the very late evening and very early morning.
  • Medical research and livestock inspection are responsibilities of vets who work in research labs and for farms sponsored by the government and large corporations.
  • Education
To become a veterinarian, you must go to veterinary school for four years and get your DVM degree-Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. [Admission to vet schools is highly competitive.] If you plan on working with a particular animal or you want to specialize in an area, like surgery for example, most likely you will have to complete a one-year internship. If you want to be certified as a specialist, you will have to do a two to three-year residency.
Work Environment
Veterinarians work eight to ten hours a day in addition to some weekends. It's usually a 50 to 60 hour week. Vets work nights as well, and the possibility of a four o'clock in the morning emergency always exists. Most small animal vets work in clinics and hospitals while large animal vets do a lot of their work on farms.
Average Starting Salaries
Starting salary for a veterinarian is $49,489 a year. This average takes into account those who work for small animal clinics, large animal clinics, hospitals, private clinics, corporations and the government. The average starting total compensation package (salary plus benefits) is $70,547.
For more information:
American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
AVMA's Care For Animals