How to become a Veterinarian

Veterinarians diagnose, treat and help to prevent disease and injury in animals. They advise on measures to prevent the occurrence or spread of diseases and on ways to improve the health and productivity of animals, and supervise safety standards on food supplies.

Personal requirements of a Veterinarian

  • Interested in the health and welfare of animals
  • Observant
  • Good analysing and problem-solving skills
  • Good communication skills
  • Aptitude for science
  • An inquiring mind
  • Organisational and supervisory skills

Education & Training for a Veterinarian

To become a veterinarian you usually have to complete an accredited veterinary science degree at university. Alternatively, you can complete a relevant degree such as science, animal science or veterinary bioscience, followed by a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics are normally required. A number of universities in Australia offer degrees in veterinary science. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.

Duties & Tasks of a Veterinarian

Veterinarians may perform the following tasks:

  • examine sick and injured animals and perform diagnostic tests
  • examine tissue and samples from sick animals to identify the cause of disease
  • treat animals by using drugs, surgical procedures and nursing care
  • vaccinate animals to prevent disease
  • certify viability of animals for breeding and performance
  • give advice about animal health and care to owners and breeders
  • euthanise animals in a humane fashion to end pain and suffering or to prevent the spread of disease
  • advise on feeding and breeding strategies to achieve maximum production
  • notify authorities of outbreaks of animal diseases and certify animals for exportation
  • attend horse and greyhound tracks, animal-related sporting events, and dog and cat shows to monitor and/or advise on the condition of animals
  • supervise the handling and health of livestock destined for export
  • supervise quarantine for incoming livestock, genetic material and animal products
  • assist in public education programs, promoting the welfare of animals.

Working conditions for a Veterinarian

Veterinarians may work indoors or outdoors depending on the location of their employment. They usually work long and irregular hours, especially those in private practice who may be called upon to treat sick animals at any hour of the day or night.

Employment Opportunities for a Veterinarian

Most veterinarians concentrate on a specific area of work such as small animals, horses or livestock. They generally work as principals or associates in private practices. These are small businesses that typically employ one to six veterinarians. Most of the work in private practices involves pet dogs and cats, although there are also some practices specialising in horses. Practices dealing mainly with farm animals are usually based in country towns and provide services to cattle, sheep, pigs and occasionally other farm animals, as well as to domestic animals. Veterinary graduates are often employed by government departments. They may be involved in monitoring, controlling and eradicating animal disease; diagnostic service work; research into animal disease, genetic material, animal products and meat quality; hygiene inspection to ensure the health of animals and the safety of food; livestock quarantine; and regulating agricultural and veterinary chemicals. Veterinarians may also contribute to programs relating to animal production, disease control, environment management and public health. The demand for veterinarians depends on the level of pet ownership and the willingness and ability of pet owners to pay for veterinary services. Government staffing policy, the viability of farm animal practices, the effect of natural conditions on animals (floods, droughts and fire, for example) and developments in livestock management also affect the demand for veterinarians.

Additional Information
Veterinarians abide by a code of practice put in place by the Australian Veterinary Association. They must re-register annually with the Veterinary Surgeons Board or Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board of each state or territory in which they intend to practise.
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