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Blog>Guides>8 Benefits of Being a Veterinarian and How Much it Costs

8 Benefits of Being a Veterinarian and How Much it Costs

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Many compassionate people dream of lending their career paths to the service of animals. While there are only 32 accredited veterinary schools in the United States, it's reassuring to know that nearly 50 percent of those who apply end up attending, a percentage on par with human medical schools.

With a mandatory prerequisite of an undergraduate bachelor’s degree and the expectation of roughly four years of veterinary school, the total time commitment associated with acquiring a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree can seem daunting, as can the mountain of debt that often looms afterward. However, the rewards of a career in protecting the health of many families’ most cherished members know few equals.

Becoming a Veterinarian: An Overview

It goes without saying that helping animals is at the top of the list of why most people go into a career as a veterinarian. However, the profession is highly nuanced, spanning multiple disciplines and numerous specializations. A love of animals is only the prerequisite. From there, your doctorate might take you in many different directions. Our guide outlines them below.

The Schooling

While earning a specified pre-vet major or animal science major is not required before applying to veterinary school, the requisite maths and sciences must be passed ahead of time. The difficulty of being accepted into a veterinary program remains on par with the difficulty of entering human medical school.

The curriculum in veterinary studies also closely mirrors that of human medical topics in several facets, notwithstanding veterinarians being required to learn the anatomical workings of multiple species. General course requirements are no less demanding.

Close-up of a white Labrador dog at vet clinic with male veterinarian stroking his head.

Students begin with the basics, such as pathology, physiology, and immunology, veterinary studies, before moving into systems-specific learning as they progress through the curriculum. Neurology and gastroenterology represent upper-level courses. The final segment of a veterinary degree typically includes a clinical or residency component wherein the student must demonstrate a practical application of all the medical knowledge from the previous courses.

Beyond these requirements, veterinary students must pass courses centered on ethics and professionalism that may include the passing of a state-based jurisprudence exam. Classes also include learning how to manage a practice and properly communicate with clients, the community, and their medical peers.

The final step of obtaining official licensure via the successful passage of the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) marks a student’s legal right to practice veterinary medicine in the United States and Canada. This 360-question exam is taken via computer and based on practical clinical knowledge.

Finding a Specialization

Like human doctors, most veterinary students lean toward a preference or area of expertise during their four-year program. The specialization process may be as broad as emphasizing small or large animal medicine. It may also be as highly precise as engaging in further clinical exposure to one of the 22 official veterinary medicine specialty areas recognized by the American Veterinary Medicine Association's (AVMA) American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS). A few of the more common board-certified specialties include:

  • Veterinary Nutrition emphasizes what and how animals should eat, helps design proper commercial food choices, and decodes deficiencies in pet diets.
  • Veterinary Dental maintains pet teeth, conducts dental surgeries, extractions, and animal research, and provides resources for owners with elderly pets.
  • Veterinary Ophthalmology helps save pet eyes and vision, performs ability tests on service animals, and common ocular exams.

A student may choose to specialize his or her approach to veterinary medicine by choosing between agricultural animals or exotic zoo animals, focusing on aquatic versus terrestrial creatures, or even homing in on domestic or lab-based, as opposed to wild species.

8 Benefits of Being a Veterinarian

As outlined above, it's no easy task to become a veterinarian. But if a fascination with animals and a deep interest in science have propelled you to graduate with a degree in this field, you can expect many benefits.

1. Helping Animals

A sick or injured pet is a nightmare for most people. Your pet can't communicate exactly what's wrong, so many people can feel paralyzed by inaction and an inherent understanding of what to do. As a vet, you will. Your education has provided the tools to affect the lives of the animals you serve and the families caring for them. This realization can lift spirits during even the most stressful of moments.

2. Job Security

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the employment of veterinarians is projected to grow 20% over the coming decade, or much faster than other occupations. Couple that with the high degree of burnout in this field due to labor shortages, and you'll understand why job security has never improved.

3. Good Salary

Ranked in the top 10 best health care jobs by U.S. News & World Report, veterinarians enjoy robust salaries that are steadily rising. The median salary for vets is about $100,000, with some in the profession enjoying well north of $125,000.

4. Career Options

A vet can specialize in numerous disciplines, resulting in a fair amount of versatility. While many will go into private practice, you'll be happy to know that that career path isn't the only option. Other options will come from various sectors, including pharmaceutical sales, feed suppliers, wildlife agencies, laboratories, and academic institutions.

5. Committed Teams

Leading a team of passionate animal lovers is a dream come true for most people. In this line of work, the overwhelming majority are genuinely committed to helping animals in whatever way they can. Such a positive dynamic fosters goodwill amongst the people you'll be working with and can make the long days seem less burdensome.

6. No Two Days Are Alike

Most veterinarians in private practice see a wide range of small- to medium-sized animals, including dogs, cats, gerbils, ferrets, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. You'll treat various injuries and conditions across a spectrum of species by utilizing fine-tuned problem-solving skills. You'll never know what will come through your doors on any given day.

7. Telehealth Services Are on the Rise

Verizon might have put it best: "Telehealth has gone to the dogs." Because of the pandemic, the use of pet telehealth services increased by 379% between March 2020 and February 2021. The trend shows no signs of slowing. That's due to the benefits, such as shorter in-person wait times for owners and less stress and work that can be performed anywhere for vets.

8. An Integral Part of the Community

Like a human doctor, a veterinarian performs a vital service for the local community. From appointments to emergencies, a vet will come into contact with many people who will come away deeply grateful for the long-term care being provided to their pet.

4 Cons of a Career in Veterinary

Unfortunately, it's not so easy to work in the veterinary field. Young and experienced vets alike face various challenges, the least of which is the time and commitment required to graduate from veterinary school. We outline the biggest ones below.

1. Demanding Studies

While a love of animals typically unifies the desire to train as a vet, it's far from the only requirement. An aspiring veterinarian must overcome a litany of rigorous science-based courses that require long hours in the classroom and lab. While a doctor must familiarize herself with the anatomy of only one creature — a human — vets must familiarize themselves with multiple species. The material will demand a good memory and strong work ethic, not to mention a strong stomach when dissecting a dead animal.

2. Emotional Distress

The loss of a cherished pet is burned into the minds of many owners. Now multiply that feeling by 1,000, and you have a closer understanding of the guilt, sadness, and self-doubt a veterinarian goes through after surgery or a routine medical procedure goes awry, leading to an animal's death. According to the AVMA, some never recover from the trauma of these events.

3. High Attrition Rate

After school, vets face the real potential of burnout, which is rising after nearly one in five families nationwide adopted a pet during the pandemic. Almost half of all vets who recently switched careers cited a lack of work-life balance, as prices for quality care remain stagnant since adjusting them would exclude many pet owners. This cyclical effect leads to downsizing the veterinary team to stay profitable, leading to higher workloads and stress.

4. Financial Hurdles

Many people may have the heart to help animals but feel they might not have the wallet that veterinary school demands. That's for good reason, as the Veterinary Information Network (VIN) estimates that the total cost of attendance for four years in the U.S. can range from $150,000 to $420,000. And unlike physicians, who make twice as much on average as their animal-minded counterparts, vets have comparatively lower salaries.

Fortunately, many loan forgiveness, financial aid, and grant programs exist to support the veterinary community. Students and new vets can search aid options by state to find networks that may offer financial relief and innovative means for offsetting costs.

The Job Market

While historically, the need for new veterinary practices has existed in more rural areas, we’re facing a veterinarian shortage that will be exacerbated over the coming decade. In a recent survey, Mars Veterinary Health forecasted a shortage of at least 15,000 vets by 2030.

Fortunately, professional entry into these areas of need can often be subsidized by the Veterinary Loan Repayment Program (VLRP) and the Veterinary Services Grant Program. These organizations designate shortage areas annually and allow willing students to work in them in exchange for offsetting tuition costs. Options for starting one’s own practice are evolving daily. Spurred on by COVID-19, mobile veterinary clinics are on the uptick, as is pet hospice care.


The decline of the racing industry, both horse and dog-related, has negatively restructured the need for veterinarians in the athletic arenas of animal life. Meanwhile, the expectations for quality of care continue to rise annually, as does the number of specialty animal charities and shelters seeking skilled practitioners.

All of this lends itself to a world of possibilities and obstacles for newfound vets. Joblist helps eliminate the guesswork of searching for a new veterinary position. Skilled veterinary applicants can post resumes and view jobs all over the country with a simple click.

Joblist also sorts only the most relevant results for any specific veterinary job search and allows users to refine and filter the findings. No matter where a veterinarian chooses to make his or her career, working erratic night and weekend hours, putting in far more than a standard 40 hours per week, and being on call for emergencies can be expected.

The Special Rewards

Outside of the daily chance to improve the lives and status of animals, veterinarians also enjoy intense emotional bonds with the pets they treat, as well as with the owners of those pets. Good relationships with pet owners translate to long-term clients and a near-immediate, tangible return on effort invested daily.

Veterinarians do not go home at night wondering if they have made a difference. A veterinarian’s days are spent, quite literally, saving the lives of beloved animal family members and, in turn, many of their adoring humans.

Happy young pet owner consulting with African-American male veterinarian in blue medical scrubs.

There is latent job security in the veterinary world as there will never not be sick or suffering animals in the world. Most vets enjoy leading a team of like-minded animal enthusiasts in the form of their office staff and veterinary technician assistants. Spending long work hours with people who are passionate about what they do often feels less like work and more like a calling, or even an honor.

A Digital and Integrative Future

The advent of pet telehealth services has begun to match their equivalents in human digital health trends. While serious emergencies will always call for a visit to a brick-and-mortar veterinary clinic, small ailments or pressing questions can now be addressed via video and text. Digital communication allows veterinarians to observe pets within their homes rather than during the common stress of an office visit. Screen time with four-legged patients may well be a daily part of vet life in the near future.

Opportunities to participate in cutting-edge advancements in research, such as the One Health Initiative, are placing veterinarians in a more centralized role within the developments of human medicine. Data submitted to such projects by even the smallest participating veterinary practices can influence discovery on the global stage, benefiting animals, environments, and people alike. In a world increasingly driven by connective data and ecological empathy, new veterinarians have the chance to promote animal welfare in ways never before possible.

Achieve Your Dreams of Working With Animals

Are you still interested in helping animals? Or have you finished studying to be a veterinarian and are looking for opportunities? Joblist can help! Head on over to our vet database, where you'll find a comprehensive list of positions all over the country. Start planning your future today.

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