A Guide to Careers in the Vet Industry
When we think of the vet industry, a veterinary surgeon is probably the first job that comes to mind for most people. However, there are many more roles in the industry that all play a crucial part in providing animal care, including further specialisms for veterinarians themselves.
Veterinary Care Assistant (VCA)
Veterinary care assistant roles are great for getting a foot in the door of the vet industry because there are no formal qualifications required and most training is completed on the job. However, employers will want any applicants to have an interest in animal care and wellbeing and may even require evidence of some relevant voluntary work experience.
A veterinary care assistant is usually involved in a range of duties relating to animal care at a practice, such as feeding, exercising, grooming and monitoring the patients, as well as cleaning cages and preparing them for new patients.
Like the veterinary care assistant, a veterinary receptionist job can be a good way to get started in the industry, as no formal qualifications or training are usually required, but you do gain hands-on experience in a veterinary practice.
Rather than being involved in the medical treatment side of animal care, vet receptionists are the first point of contact for animal owners and will also have a range of administrative responsibilities. These are very transferrable skills, as well as being useful for the future should you decide to progress more into the veterinary office management route rather than patient treatment.
Roles that require qualifications:
Veterinary nurses work closely with veterinary surgeons to provide patient care. The exact responsibilities of a vet nurse will vary depending on the size of the practice they work in, but these will usually include administering medication, performing diagnostic tests, preparing animals for surgery and restraining them during the procedure, and general animal care tasks such as feeding and monitoring their health and behaviour post-treatment.
Vet nurses need to complete a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) accredited course before they are qualified. While this doesn’t require the completion of a degree, admission to these courses does require the applicant to have completed a certain number of work experience hours in a role working with animals, such as at a farm or volunteering at a veterinary practice. Once qualified, they will become a Registered Veterinary Nurse (RVN).
Roles with degree requirements:
A vet or veterinary surgeon is the doctor who provides the primary medical care to the patients. A vet’s responsibilities can vary greatly but usually include diagnosing illness, performing surgery, prescribing medicine, administering treatments, and carrying out tests.
To become a vet, you will need a degree in veterinary science or medicine, which usually takes 5-6 years to complete, and then register with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. Each university has its own admission requirements, though veterinary courses usually require A level results of AAA.
Veterinary technicians play an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. A vet technician’s responsibilities will vary depending on where they work.
A lab-based vet technician’s role, for example, will mostly revolve around running tests and analysing samples and results, though they may also be involved in research and experimental projects. A practice-based vet technician may be responsible for taking samples from patients, collecting medical histories, monitoring patients and recording data.
There is no set qualification path for a vet technician, although a degree in a related subject such as biology or pharmacology will be beneficial in many cases.
The role of a veterinary physiotherapist is much the same as a traditional physiotherapist, with a focus on treatment via investigating mobility and joint problems, prevention of recurring injuries, and helping to reduce the pain of any associated ailments. Some veterinary physiotherapists may work within a large practice, or they may work independently and visit clients.
To become a vet physiotherapist, you will need to complete a degree in veterinary physiotherapy or human physiotherapy followed by postgraduate training in veterinary physiotherapy
Specialist Veterinary Surgeon
Later in their careers, vets may want to specialise in a specific area of treatment, such as homoeopathy, osteopathy, or cardiology, or focus on treating certain types of animals.
A small animal vet usually works out of a practice and primarily treats pets such as dogs and cats. A large animal vet usually works with farm animals, visiting farms to check on and provide care to the livestock. A mixed practice vet often splits their time between treating small and large animals, and an exotic animal vet specialises in treating exotic animals, such as reptiles or zoo animals.
The veterinary practice manager is responsible for ensuring that a practice runs smoothly while providing the best possible standard of professional care to patients. The practice manager is a more business-orientated role that focuses on the operation of the entire practice and how patients are treated, rather than treating individual patients.
A practice manager may come from a veterinary background or a business background, but they are usually educated to a degree level. It is also possible for those in administrative roles within a practice to work their way up to a practice manager role, supported by external training.
Whatever level of qualification you have, there will be a role within animal care available to you. It is also possible to work your way up the ladder if you are able to put in the time to gain the required qualifications and relevant experience during your career.
SynergyVets is a dedicated veterinary recruitment agency, with almost 30 years of collective experience supporting the profession with locum and permanent personnel.