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Career Profile: Veterinarian

Why Is a Veterinarian a Job of Tomorrow?
There will always be a need for animal health professionals as long as people have pets and farms, zoos and nature preserves keep animals. Employment positions for veterinarians are forecast to increase 35 percent, a much faster growth rate than the average for all U.S. occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Small-animal vets are expected to benefit the most, especially those who specialize in areas such as dentistry. The average annual salary for veterinarians is $71,990.

What Does a Veterinarian Do?
Veterinarians act as physicians for animals. They perform checkups, diagnose illnesses and conditions and treat injured or ill animals. Because animals cannot describe their symptoms, vets must be skilled at performing tests to decipher what their patients are feeling and the cause behind their discomfort. To do so, veterinarians perform X-rays, blood tests and physical examinations. Once a condition or illness has been diagnosed, the veterinarian will create a treatment plan that can include medication or physical therapy. Veterinarians also perform routine checkups on animals to ensure that they are in optimal health, as well as administer vaccinations to prevent species-specific diseases. The main goal of all veterinarians is to prolong the life and health of their animal patients.

What Kind of Training Do I Need to Become a Veterinarian?
Veterinarians must have a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from an accredited college of veterinary medicine. There are currently 28 accredited schools in the country, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Earning this degree typically takes four years. Although prospective students do not necessarily need to have a bachelor's degree to apply for admission into a veterinary program, most veterinary schools do require that applicants have completed a substantial number of college credit hours. The minimum requirements for previous education vary among schools. Courses cover business management, animal anatomy and specific types of veterinary medicine. For example, a marine mammal veterinary student will take classes focusing on the treatment of such animals as dolphins and whales. After completing veterinary school, graduates must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam.