Types of Veterinarians and What They Do (2023)

When many people think about what do veterinarians do, their only frame of reference is whatever they’ve seen or experienced when they’ve taken their pet to a local animal clinic for care. The reality of the veterinary profession is much broader, with career opportunities for licensed veterinarians available in a wide variety of settings, from private-practice clinics to public-health research organizations to biopharmaceutical firms to community animal shelters. Furthermore, the types of veterinary specialists are nearly as wide-ranging as in human medicine.

The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) currently recognizes22 veterinary specialties. These encompass the types of vets and specialty areas most people are familiar with from human medicine—internal medicine, ophthalmology, radiology, surgery, and emergency and critical care, for instance—as well as those unique to the veterinary profession: animal welfare, poultry veterinary medicine, laboratory animal medicine and theriogenology (animal reproduction), for example.

“You do see kind of a continued trend of super-specialization” in veterinary medicine, says Dr. Ryan Cavanaugh, associate professor for small-animal surgery at Ross Vet in St. Kitts. Cavanaugh compares it with the trend of hyper-focused specialization in human medicine. Parents of a child who requires stomach surgery, he says, increasingly will seek out not merely a general surgeon but a board-certified pediatric surgeon who has experience in gastroenterology to perform the procedure.

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Cavanaugh himself is a board-certified veterinary surgeon, “but I had a specific interest beyond that,” he notes, “so I did additional training, and now I’m a board-certified surgical oncologist”, specializing in veterinary cancer surgery.

Cavanaugh notes that the question many ask, ‘what does a veterinarian do?’ now has a much broader definition. “I see it as a very exciting advancement in our profession,” Cavanaugh says. “A lot of people don’t realize how sophisticated our medicine is. We’re learning the same techniques and the same medical interventions that a human physician would. … We are doing the same level of medicine that is being done on the human side.”

Dr. Andrea Peda, an assistant professor at Ross Vet, echoes Cavanaugh’s comments and adds that there is a growing need for different types of veterinarians and different types of veterinary practices. “All aspects of veterinary medicine are in demand, whether (you’re looking at) food inspection, biomedical research, shelter medicine” or other veterinary fields, she says. “There so many opportunities” for all types of vets, Peda offers.

TYPES OF VETERINARIANS

So, what types of vets are there and what do vets do? The 22 different organizations recognized by theAmerican Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), represent 41 distinct veterinary medicine specializations and subspecialties. These specializations require training beyond attaining your initial DVM degree, but they are well worth it if you discover a passion for a particular area. Generally speaking, most specialty organizations require veterinarians to spend one year in an internship practicing in their area of interest and to complete a residency training program for two to three years.

To help uncover a bit more of what do veterinarians do, we have provided introductions to the types of veterinarians there are within the context of specialization you could pursue. The sky's the limit when it comes to a degree in veterinary medicine!

1. Anesthesia and Analgesia

All veterinarians are trained in anesthesia and pain relief.Veterinary anesthesiologistspursue additional studies in this area to become experts on administering and monitoring anesthesia, mitigating the risks of anesthesia, and advanced techniques in providing pain relief.

2. Animal Welfare

Veterinarians who pursue additional training in animal welfare can provide vital insights for overall animal wellbeing. They provide animal welfare expertise by balancing scientific knowledge with ethical and societal values.Diplomates of the American College of Animal Welfareis essential in educating other veterinarians and the public about current animal welfare issues.

3. Behavior

Veterinary behavioristsfocus exclusively on animal behavior. These veterinarians may be called upon for behavior issues more extensive than house training or basic obedience. Veterinary behaviorists thoroughly review their patient’s medical history to identify issues and may use a variety of behavior modification techniques and medications as part of a treatment plan.

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4. Dentistry

​​​​​​​As do humans, animals also need dental care.Veterinary dentistsare specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions related to the teeth and the oral cavity. Veterinary dentists may perform advanced surgical extractions of teeth or even root canals.

5. Dermatology

The skin is the largest organ in the animal (and human) body, so naturally, there are veterinary specialists to address the many conditions that affect the skin.Veterinary dermatologistsspecialize in treating skin conditions in a variety of species. These veterinarians also receive advanced training in immunology and internal medicine so they can accurately address skin conditions that may result from other underlying health issues.

6. Emergency and Critical Care

​​​​​​​Animal emergencies are inevitable.Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Careundergo specialized training to handle the most critically ill patients. These veterinarians, often found in emergency hospitals or intensive care units, are experts in the stabilization, treatment, and monitoring of critical patients.

7. Internal Medicine

Internal medicine covers several different specialty areas for veterinarians.Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicinecan choose from such specialties as:

  • Cardiology
  • Neurology
  • Small or Large Animal Medicine

8. Laboratory Animal Medicine

Lab animal veterinariansare critical in a research setting. Lab animal veterinarians ensure that such lab animal species as rodents, rabbits, and primates are treated ethically and humanely.

9. Microbiology

Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Microbiologistsare infectious disease experts. These veterinarians often work in a lab setting and play an important role in public health because many animal diseases also affect humans. Choosing this path results in such areas of specialization for veterinarians as:

  • Bacteriology/ Mycology
  • Immunology
  • Parasitology
  • Virology

10. Nutrition

Veterinary nutritionistsare highly trained in the diet and nutritional needs of animals. These veterinarians consider the individualized nutritional needs of each patient and formulate diets for them. Veterinary nutritionists are often employed by pet food companies to ensure accurate, healthy, and safe diet preparations.

11. Ophthalmology

It may seem to be a small area of specialization for veterinarians, but maintaining healthy eyes is an important aspect of animal health.Veterinary ophthalmologistsutilize medical and surgical techniques to handle a wide range of complex and chronic eye conditions.

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12. Pathology

Veterinarians commonly sample tissues or fluids for analysis, but it is often an expert in pathology who analyzes and interprets the samples. Veterinary pathologists may also conduct necropsies—post-mortem animal examinations.Veterinary pathologistscan be found in industry and government organizations and are often involved in pharmaceutical research.

13. Pharmacology

Just as there are individuals who specialize in understanding human medications, there are veterinarians who specialize in animal medications.Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Clinical Pharmacologyplay an important role in drug development and studying medication interactions.

14. Poultry

If you want to work in a food production setting,poultry medicinemay just be the veterinary specialization for you. These veterinarians work with such species of fowl as chickens, turkeys, and ducks to ensure the safety of meat and egg products.

15. Preventive Medicine

The prevention of diseases is equally important as the treatment of diseases.Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicineare trained in surveillance, recognition, outbreak investigation, and management of animal diseases.

16. Radiology

Veterinary radiologistsare specialists in such forms of diagnostic imaging as X-ray, ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These experts are invaluable to other veterinarians seeking advanced imaging and interpretation.

17. Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation

Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitationfocuses on the unique needs of athletic and working animals and provides physical therapy. These types of veterinary specialists aim to sustain health or return animals to normal health and function after surgery or injury. Specialists within animal sports medicine may choose to work with dogs or horses.

18. Surgery

General practice veterinarians perform such routine surgeries as spays, neuters, and dental cleanings, but many complicated surgical procedures require the hands of a specialist.Veterinary surgeonsmay choose a small or large animal path and they often have specialized equipment and facilities to perform the most complicated procedures.

19. Theriogenology

These types of veterinary specialists handle all aspects of animal reproductive health.Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Theriogenologistsmay be involved with artificial insemination, pregnancy checks, and surgical procedures.

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20. Toxicology

Animals may encounter poisons in numerous situations outside of the home, so the veterinary medicine specialization in toxicology is vitally important.Veterinary toxicologistsstudy poisons and toxins and can provide superior advice on how to treat animals exposed to these substances.

21. Veterinary Practitioners

Many types of veterinarians are required to address the unique needs of different animal species. By becoming aDiplomate of the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, you may choose from such areas of specialization for veterinarians:

  • Avian Practice
  • Beef Cattle Practice
  • Canine and Feline Practice
  • Dairy Cattle Practice
  • Equine Practice
  • Exotic Companion Mammal Practice
  • Feline Practice
  • Food Animal Practice
  • Reptile and Amphibian Practice
  • Shelter Medicine Practice
  • Swine Health Management

22. Zoo Medicine

Have you dreamed of working with tigers, polar bears, or giraffes?Diplomates of the American College of Zoological Medicineare experts in all manner of zoo, wildlife, and aquatic species. These veterinarians also play an important role in conservation efforts around the world.

WHICH VETERINARY SPECIALTY IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

You may be overwhelmed after reading about all the types of veterinarians, but rest assured, you have time to figure out which veterinary specialty is right for you. The first step to becoming a veterinary specialist and learning exactly what do veterinarians do is to graduate from veterinary school and obtain licensure.

During veterinary school, you will be exposed to classes on many subject matters that can help you determine if pursuing a specialty is something you want to do. You may also have opportunities during veterinary school forexternshipswith various specialists, so definitely take the chance to learn about these specialties and discover where your passion lies within the field of veterinary medicine.

Ross Vetis dedicated to helping students achieve their fullest potential and engage in the veterinary career that best suits their goals. Take the next step on your path to becoming a veterinarian.Apply for admissionto Ross Vet.

Related Resources:

  • What Do Veterinarians Do
  • Animal Sports Medicine
  • What is an Emergency Veterinarian

*Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine confers a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree, which is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA COE), 1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173, Tel: 800.248.2862. For more information please visit:https://www.avma.org/education/accreditation-veterinary-colleges.

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The AVMA COE uses defined standards to evaluate veterinary medical education programs, including facilities, clinical resources, curriculum, faculty, student outcomes and research programs. The standards are interpreted and applied by the AVMA COE-accredited veterinary medical education programs in relation to its mission.

FAQs

What type of vets make the most? ›

The highest paid veterinary specialty is: Ophthalmology

You'll need to work for those specialties, though — certification requires an additional 2 to 3 years of study on top of vet school at veterinary colleges with accreditation, plus passing an intensive exam.

What are 4 different roles you can have while working in a vet clinic? ›

Veterinary health care team
  • The veterinarian – Leading the team. Veterinarians are doctors trained to protect the health of both animals and people. ...
  • The veterinary technician. ...
  • The veterinary hospital manager. ...
  • The veterinary assistant. ...
  • The receptionist. ...
  • Other team members.

What kind of vet does not do surgery? ›

Radiology: Although the work of radiology veterinarians helps guide the work of surgeons, radiologists do not perform surgery. Rather, veterinary radiologists study CT scans, X-rays, ultrasounds, MRIs, and other imaging procedures.

Which veterinary course is best? ›

Here are the top diploma courses to become a Veterinary Doctor after 10th:
  • Diploma in Veterinary Pharmacy.
  • Diploma in Veterinary Lab Technician.
  • Diploma in Animal Husbandry and Dairying.
  • Diploma in Veterinary Assistant.

Is it harder to be a vet than a doctor? ›

Though aspiring med students have to take the MCAT before applying to medical school, most people agree that vet school is harder than medical school. Vet school isn't harder because it requires more strenuous work. Medical school is just as demanding.

How long does it take to become a veterinarian? ›

Aspiring vets can expect to devote about eight years to their higher education if they spend four years in college and four years in vet school earning a doctor of veterinary medicine, or D.V.M., degree.

What are 3 careers in veterinary medicine? ›

Career Opportunities in Veterinary Medicine
  • Overview. Veterinarians are dedicated professionals who care for the health and well-being of animals. ...
  • Private Practice. ...
  • Research. ...
  • Education. ...
  • Diagnostic Laboratories. ...
  • Consultation. ...
  • Public Health and Regulatory Medicine.

What is the head vet called? ›

Four years of professional experience in the practice of veterinary medicine, two years of which involved the supervision of veterinary staff is required for Chief Veterinarian. Appointment to this position is subject to a one-year probationary period as provided by Section 109 of the City Charter.

Is veterinary good job? ›

Veterinary is a great job and has a great career. We have compiled all information on the Veterinary field regarding the educational qualifications, salary, job profile, and future scope.

Is Vet School Hard? ›

Compared to most undergraduate curriculums, veterinary school is hard. Most veterinary students take 25-30 credits per semester of rigorous science-based courses. This means that veterinary students can expect to be in a classroom or laboratory 35 to 40 hours per week, and will need to study several hours more.

Do you call a veterinarian a Doctor? ›

Address a veterinarian as “Doctor” when speaking to her,​ unless she has told you otherwise.

Do Vets treat all animals? ›

Most vets treat small pets, including dogs, cats, and gerbils. But a few focus on large animals, such as sheep, cows, and horses. Large-animal vets usually drive to ranches and stables where their patients live. They check for infections in the animals and give advice to the animals' owners.

Can a vet operate on a human? ›

Yes in emergencies vets can operate on humans, it can actually be ok because they've studied so much comparative anatomy.

What is a vet surgeon called? ›

A veterinarian (vet), also known as a veterinary surgeon or veterinary physician, is a medical professional who practices veterinary medicine.

Can vet students do surgery? ›

In the advanced veterinary programs, students may perform surgeries if they have completed the surgery course in vet school. All students can assist during surgical preparation, in patient physical exams, catheter placement, sedation techniques, anesthesia induction and intubation.

What is the difference between VMD and DVM? ›

A VMD is the exact same degree as Doctor of Veterinary Medicine; however, the letters “VMD” stand for the Latin terminology, Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris. A VMD degree is currently only conferred on veterinarians who have attended the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia, PA.

What is a veterinarian Major called? ›

In the US, a four-year DVM degree such as Bachelor of Veterinary Science, Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine or Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery follows a four-year undergraduate degree (eight years of study after high school).

Are vets called Doctor? ›

So, yes sir or madam, veterinarians are real doctors. Veterinarians are doctors in a different field of specialty. In fact, the veterinarian curriculum is more diversified than human medicine because of the amount of different species and physiologies we have to study.

Do veterinarians treat all animals? ›

Most vets treat small pets, including dogs, cats, and gerbils. But a few focus on large animals, such as sheep, cows, and horses. Large-animal vets usually drive to ranches and stables where their patients live. They check for infections in the animals and give advice to the animals' owners.

How long does it take to become a veterinarian? ›

Aspiring vets can expect to devote about eight years to their higher education if they spend four years in college and four years in vet school earning a doctor of veterinary medicine, or D.V.M., degree.

Is a DVM a Phd? ›

They can pursue a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, also known as a D.V.M., and/or a doctorate in veterinary medicine, also known as a Ph. D. Most students pursue a Ph. D.

What does RVT stand for in veterinary? ›

2034. Animal Health Care Tasks Definitions.

(b) "R.V.T." means a registered veterinary technician. (c) “Veterinary assistant” means any individual who is not an R.V.T. or a licensed veterinarian.

Is vet school Hard? ›

Compared to most undergraduate curriculums, veterinary school is hard. Most veterinary students take 25-30 credits per semester of rigorous science-based courses. This means that veterinary students can expect to be in a classroom or laboratory 35 to 40 hours per week, and will need to study several hours more.

What should I study to become a veterinarian? ›

Bachelor of Veterinary Science (BVSc) is the degree you need to pursue a career as a Veterinary Doctor in India. After graduating with a degree in Veterinary Science, you have to further study an MD in Veterinary Science or its related specialisation to become a certified Veterinary Doctor.

How hard is it to be a vet? ›

It's clear there is a lot more to being a veterinarian than petting puppies and bonding with bunnies. It's a demanding profession that can involve long days and unpredictable cases. For the right person, though, a career in veterinary medicine can be extremely rewarding.

Can a vet treat a human? ›

A spokeswoman for the British Veterinary Association pointed out that animals could not give their permission to have someone other than a vet treating them, whereas vets could treat humans, if the patients agreed.

Is vet harder than Doctor? ›

Though aspiring med students have to take the MCAT before applying to medical school, most people agree that vet school is harder than medical school. Vet school isn't harder because it requires more strenuous work. Medical school is just as demanding.

Why do people become veterinarians? ›

One of the best things about being a veterinarian is the opportunity it provides to help animals. If you're an animal lover, the ability to relieve the suffering of animals that have experienced injuries or chronic illnesses is extremely fulfilling.

Do vets go to med school? ›

To become a vet, you need to go to university and take a veterinary science or medicine degree. The course normally takes 5 years. To be considered for a place at vet school, you will need to have a strong science background. It's important that you enjoy and are good at subjects such as biology, chemistry and physics.

What is a veterinarian salary? ›

Veterinarians made a median salary of $99,250 in 2020. The best-paid 25 percent made $126,260 that year, while the lowest-paid 25 percent made $79,430.

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