10 Fulfilling Jobs in the Veterinary Field

Jobs in the veterinary field come in many different types of roles, making it easy to find one that matches individual goals. Read on to learn about veterinary jobs in demand.
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Updated on March 28, 2023
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  • A wide spectrum of veterinary jobs exist for many different types of candidates.
  • Jobs for vet techs and veterinarians are projected to grow in the coming years.
  • Salaries vary based on education levels, qualifications, and experience.

Not all people who love animals are cut out for the veterinary field, but loving animals is a prerequisite for pursuing a career in this healthcare discipline. Whether focusing on small or large animals, veterinary professionals help patients and their owners navigate health decisions.

Entry-level jobs may focus on administrative and limited clinical work, while licensed veterinarians spend nearly all their time working directly with animals. On this page, readers can learn about the wide spectrum of roles available.

How to Enter the Veterinary Field

Individuals who want to enter the veterinary field should first think about the type of roles they're interested in. While veterinary technicians typically only need an associate degree, those who want to become licensed veterinarians must complete a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) program. Many students who know they want to pursue this path start with a bachelor's degree in pre-veterinary studies or a complementary subject such as biology.

Individuals who decide to pursue a DVM enter a competitive field, with more students vying for spots than are available at colleges and universities. If accepted, learners spent an additional four years completing clinical, practical, and laboratory components. Many also participate in practicums or field placements during this time.

Students who want to become veterinary technologists typically pursue a bachelor's degree in veterinary technology. During this time, they also apply for and complete an internship, although some schools may also use a co-op model. Vet professionals at all levels may also consider certifications focused on specialty topics to build more niche knowledge.

10 Types of Veterinary Jobs

Veterinary Medical Director

  • Annual Average Salary (August 2022): $125,480
  • Job Outlook: N/A
  • Licenses/Certifications: Veterinarian licensure

Acting as head veterinarians in practice groups, veterinary medical directors oversee associate veterinarians, provide consultation on medical and surgical cases, review cases to find ways of improving the quality of patient care, and ensure regulations and protocols are closely followed.

Depending on the size of the clinic, some veterinary medical directors may also oversee administrative aspects such as budgets, staffing, operations, and financial management.

Veterinary Technician

  • Annual Median Salary (May 2021): $36,850
  • Job Outlook (2020-2030): 15%
  • Licenses/Certifications: Varies by state, but most require vet techs to pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination

Veterinary technicians typically possess an associate degree in veterinary technician practices and spend their days supporting licensed veterinarians by completing a variety of tasks. These vary from clinic to clinic, but typically include providing nursing care to injured or recovering animals, cleaning and bathing animals, collecting specimens to perform laboratory tests, and administering medications and treatments as directed by a veterinarian.

These professionals may specialize in small or large animals, or even specific disciplines such as emergency care, dentistry, or anesthesia.

Veterinary Assistant

  • Annual Average Salary (July 2022): $30,130
  • Job Outlook (2020-2030): 14%

Veterinary assistants typically possess a high school diploma or GED certificate and help veterinarians and vet techs care for the animals in their charge. They frequently clean cages and kennels, prepare operating rooms for procedures, sterilize equipment used during examinations and operations, and monitor animals recovering after a surgery.

Other responsibilities include feeding animals regularly, bathing them as needed, and offering opportunities for exercise. They do not hold as much responsibility as vet techs and therefore do not need to hold licensure or certification.

Animal Nutritionist

  • Annual Average Salary (January 2022): $71,790
  • Job Outlook: N/A
  • Licenses/Certifications: Licensure depends on qualifications, but typically follow those of vet techs or veterinarians

Like human nutritionists, most animal nutritionists hold a bachelor's degree — common options include animal health and behavior or animal science. They may work in several different specialty areas, including:

  • Livestock nutrition, including farm animals
  • Equine nutrition, including high-performance horses
  • Pet nutrition, including mostly domesticated animals

These professionals get to know the animals in their charge by analyzing their diets, exercise regimes, living areas, and other factors that can affect nutrition. They create recommendations and diet plans based on their findings.

Veterinary Cardiologist

  • Annual Average Salary (May 2019): $145,000
  • Job Outlook: N/A
  • Licenses/Certifications: Licensure as a registered veterinarian in state of practice and board certification

Veterinary cardiologists possess specialized knowledge of how to support animals with cardiac and/or circulatory issues. Whether addressing congenital or acquired heart conditions, these specialized veterinarians work with their owners to diagnose and treat ailments.

Common responsibilities include conducting echocardiography with a color flow doppler, introducing heart monitoring devices, monitoring blood pressure, taking X-rays, and installing pacemakers to help keep pets' hearts at the correct rhythm.

Associate Veterinarian

  • Annual Average Salary (July 2022): $85,070
  • Job Outlook: N/A
  • Licenses/Certifications: State licensure as a veterinarian

Associate veterinarians perform all the same clinical and diagnostic duties as veterinarians, but unlike veterinary practice owners, associate veterinarians typically work at clinics. In these roles, they usually have fewer administrative responsibilities and typically maintain more normalized hours. That said, they also earn less, as they do not usually share in profits and losses from the business.

As with other veterinarians, associate vets can specialize in areas such as:

  • Livestock
  • Small Animals
  • Large Animals
  • Exotic Animals

Veterinary Criticalist

  • Annual Average Salary (August 2022): $117,500
  • Job Outlook: N/A
  • Licenses/Certifications: State licensure as a veterinarian

Also known as emergency room veterinarians, these professionals work in high-stress situations, in which owners are seeking emergency care for their pets. Whether addressing a medical trauma, acute illness, or other conditions, veterinary criticalists must spring into action quickly to assess the animal and determine a course of action.

Most emergency veterinarian practices offer hours outside the standard operating hours, meaning many professionals work on rotating schedules across nights, early mornings, and weekends. They may also be on call during these times and over holidays.

Animal Chiropractor

  • Annual Average Salary (August 2020): $80,000
  • Job Outlook: N/A
  • Licenses/Certifications: State licensure as a veterinarian

These professionals work with large and small animals, domestic and wild, to treat illnesses and traumas related to the musculoskeletal system. Whether adjusting vertebrae or massaging muscles to help improve performance, these individuals develop individualized treatments for each animal patient.

Animal chiropractors can find work in veterinary clinics and hospitals, zoos, or working for large farms or barns that house livestock, racehorses, or other animals who commonly face chiropractic issues. Others decide to open their own practices and seek out clients.

Military Veterinarian

  • Annual Average Salary (July 2022): $88,900
  • Job Outlook: N/A
  • Licenses/Certifications: Licensure as a veterinarian

Military veterinarians provide services to working animals employed by the military as well as the pets of military members. Working as a military vet requires individuals to join the military, but they typically enlist as officers rather than soldiers. These professionals can always be called into combat settings if necessary.

They may work at domestic or overseas military bases, and their assignments can change over time. Those who want to make a career out of being in the military can often get their specialized education paid for, making it an attractive option for some.

Veterinary Practice Manager

  • Average Annual Salary (July 2022): $51,740
  • Job Outlook: N/A

Veterinary practice managers oversee the day-to-day operations of individual practices and clinics, ensuring everything runs smoothly. In addition to interacting directly with clients, handling billing, and managing front-of-office staff, practice managers also order supplies as needed, set practice policies and guidelines, and ensure the practice complies with all state and federal regulations.

In smaller practices, veterinary practice managers may also perform some vet technician services. In this case, they must comply with individual state licensure requirements.

Veterinary Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that veterinarians in the top 10% of earners received more than $165,600 as of 2021. The BLS reports that animal care and service workers earned just $28,730 during the same year. In many cases, earning a higher degree can lead to better salaries.

How to Find Veterinary Jobs

Several respected websites provide links to veterinary jobs across the country, making it easier for recent graduates and career veterans to find positions. The American Veterinary Medical Association hosts an online career center, as does iHireVeterinary and the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

In addition to exploring online job boards, students can also take advantage of the career services office provided by their college or university. They may also review generalist job search sites such as Indeed, SimplyHired, ZipRecruiter, or Glassdoor, as many companies post on these sites.

Landing a job after college can be difficult, but it is by no means impossible. Some employers may also participate in virtual career fairs, making it easier to get to know what they are looking for in a new veterinary hire.

Professional Veterinary Organizations

American Veterinary Medical Association: AVMA offers members access to education and career services, virtual and in-person events, industry news, insurance, and information on jobs in the field.

United States Animal Health Association: Members of USAHA can take advantage of industry publications, committees and meetings, symposia, local chapters, and an active bulletin board.

American Animal Hospital Association: AAHA arranges an annual conference alongside providing an online, members-only community, in-person and virtual events, educational services, and publications.

Frequently Asked Questions About Veterinary Jobs

What is the highest-paid veterinary job?

Salaries within the veterinary field vary substantially based on factors such as education level, title, amount of experience, employer, and location. While the BLS found that veterinary assistants earned median salaries of $29,780 per year in 2021, the BLS also found that veterinarians in the top 10% of earners took home more than $165,600 during the same year.

In general, the highest-paid veterinary medicine jobs are those that require doctoral degrees. These programs provide the training needed to work directly with animal patients, supervise veterinary assistants and technologists, perform surgeries, prescribe medications, and provide day-to-day health services for animals large and small.

What veterinary career is the most popular?

The BLS projects jobs for veterinarians will expand by 17% between 2020 to 2030, leading to the creation of 14,500 new positions. Meanwhile, jobs for veterinary technicians and technologists are projected to expand by 15% and create more than 17,000 new roles.

Rather than considering the most popular career, students interested in this path should think about which one best aligns with their skill sets, interests, education level, and salary requirements. Students may also find that niche areas, such as veterinary cardiology or equine massage interest them.

Can I become a veterinarian with an online bachelor's degree?

Any person hoping to work as a veterinarian can start their educational journey with an online bachelor's degree as long as the school they attend holds proper institutional accreditation. Failing to check for accreditation can result in issues transferring credits, pursuing higher degrees, and finding a job.

That said, any person who wants to start a career as a veterinarian must complete a doctoral program in veterinary medicine. These programs last four years and admissions remain competitive.

How much money can I make with a veterinary job?

Veterinary job salaries run the gamut from minimum wage to six figures. Therefore, it's important for those thinking about this career to consider which role best aligns with their financial expectations. Positions for veterinary assistants or animal workers, which usually only require a high school diploma or GED certificate, typically pay the least within this field with salaries below $30,000 annually.

Individuals who want a higher salary but do not want to complete a DVM may consider working as a veterinary practice manager, as these professionals currently earn average salaries of more than $50,000 per year.

What is the fastest way to become a veterinarian?

Becoming a veterinarian requires individuals to earn a bachelor's degree before enrolling in a doctor of veterinary medicine program. Each of these requires four years of full-time study, meaning the majority of students spend eight years completing educational requirements.

From there, they must meet the licensing requirements of their state. These vary from place to place, but every state requires applicants to have completed a DVM from a program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association's Center for Veterinary Education Accreditation and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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