A small number are equine veterinarians who treat horses, and food animal vets who work with farm animals. There are some vets who specialize in food safety and inspection. They check livestock for illnesses that can be transmitted to humans. Others are research veterinarians who do research on human and animal health conditions.
Although it is not required, many veterinarians choose to become certified in an area of specialization, for example surgery or internal medicine. Requirements vary by specialty but may include experience in that area, passing an examination, spending additional time in school or completing a three to four year residency program.
In addition to formal training, to be successful as a veterinarian one needs certain qualities he or she can't learn in school. Number one on this list is compassion, both toward the animals they treat and their owners. He or she also needs good decision-making skills to aid in choosing appropriate treatment methods. Good interpersonal skills are also a must as one spends time communicating with animal owners, staff members and colleagues. Manual dexterity and strong problem-solving skills are also important.
A Day in a Veterinarian's Life:
On a typical day a veterinarian working with small animals, for example dogs, cats, birds and reptiles, in clinical practice will:
- diagnose animals' health problems
- vaccinate their patients against diseases, such as distemper and rabies
- medicate animals suffering from infections or illnesses
- treat and dress wounds
- set fractures
- perform surgery
- advise owners about animal feeding, behavior and breeding
- euthanize animals when necessary
On a typical day a veterinarian working with large animals, primarily horses and cows, will:
- provide preventive care to maintain the health of food animals
- test for and vaccinate against diseases
- consult with farm or ranch owners and managers on animal production, feeding, and housing issues
- treat and dress wounds, set fractures, and perform surgery
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Veterinarians, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinarians.htm (visited November 16, 2012).
Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Veterinarians, on the Internet at http://online.onetcenter.org/link/details/29-1131.00 (visited November 16, 2012).