A veterinarian is a medical doctor who has attended four years of veterinary school after college to obtain a doctorate. Your veterinarian also has passed a national examination and must acquire a license issued by the state in which he or she practices. There are about 95,000 veterinarians in the United States and about 1,300 in the state of Oregon.
Your Veterinarian: The Other Family Doctor™
Your veterinarian can advise you on every aspect of your animal’s health. This includes diet and exercise, preventative measures to ensure your animal’s health, and interaction with other animals and family members.
To a broad extent, today’s veterinary practices parallel medical doctor practices and hospitals for humans. Many veterinary practices are state-of-the-art facilities that use technologies such as digital ultrasound, endoscopes, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scans, laser surgery, EKGs and state-of-the-art monitoring equipment.
From the birth to death of your pet, veterinarians are equivalent to many doctors in one. They can be your pet’s obstetrician, pediatrician, dentist, dermatologist, internist, surgeon, radiologist, anesthesiologist, gerontologist, and ophthalmologist, to name but a few. Veterinarians need to know about all of these areas of animal medicine and more.
Some veterinarians extend their knowledge and expertise and become specialists in areas such as behavior, cardiology, internal medicine, oncology and surgery. This requires additional education, examinations, residencies and certification.
Veterinarians and Public Health
Veterinarians have a vital role in public health. Veterinarians play a critical role in identifying zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that could be transmitted from animals to humans. They are a part of our first line of defense against diseases such as BSE (Mad Cow Disease), West Nile Virus, avian influenza (H5N1) and others. They also develop medications that can benefit both animals and people.
Veterinarians also maintain the health of livestock animals and poultry to keep our food supply safe and clean. However, there is a critical shortage of veterinarians working within our nation's food supply chain. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), only about 17 percent of veterinarians work in food supply, which includes private and public practice veterinarians involved in the entire food chain. Research forecasts a shortfall of four percent to five percent per year in the ranks of food supply veterinarians. This puts our nation's food supply at risk. If you are interested in the veterinary profession, you are encouraged to take a look at the AVMA's resource center on food supply veterinary medicine.
In Oregon, the median income for all private practice associate veterinarians (not owners) is $70,000 (2012 data) with a median experience level of 7 years, and the median income for new graduates (up to 3 years of experience) is $65,000 (2012 data). The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the median annual wage of veterinarians in the US was $82,040 in May 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,910, and the top 10 percent earned more than $145,230.
According to a survey by the American Veterinary Medical Association, average starting salaries for veterinary medical college graduates in 2011 in different private specialties were as follows:
|Food animal exclusive||$71,096|
|Companion animal exclusive||69,789|
|Companion animal predominant||69,654|
|Food animal predominant||67,338|
The average annual wage for veterinarians in the federal government was $88,340 in May 2010.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of veterinarians is expected to grow 36 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job opportunities should be particularly good in government and in farm animal care. Detailed job outlook information is available on the Bureau of Labor and Statistics Web site.
Gender in the Profession
Female veterinarians now outnumber men in the profession and veterinary classes average 75% women. The class of 2015 at Oregon State University's College of Veterinary Medicine is 93% female.
A typical veterinary student spends about 4,000 hours in the classroom, laboratory, clinical study, and internships. The Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine is Oregon's only veterinary college; their Web site offers information on the scholastic requirements students must meet to be eligible to enter their veterinary program, as well as information on the application process.
According to the AVMA's 2008 survey of veterinary school graduates, almost 40 percent of new veterinarians plan to go into advanced education—89.2 percent of those into internships and 6 percent into residencies. Average educational debt for graduating veterinarians is over $140,000.
Even after graduating from veterinary school, veterinarians continue to learn about animal health by reading scientific journals and attending professional educational seminars. Oregon requires veterinarians licensed by the state to receive a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education every two years.
Other Members of the Veterinary Team
Detailed job outlook information is available on the Bureau of Labor and Statistics Web site.
A practice manager supervises the business aspects of a veterinary clinic, including accounting, customer service, and staffing. A practice manager can help streamline the clinic’s workflow to maximize revenue. At some larger practices, this is a dedicated position. In smaller practices, a veterinarian, CVT, or others may handle some of these duties. There is a certification program for veterinary practice managers. In Oregon, a practice manager earns a median wage of $19.23 per hour (2012 data). A certified veterinary practice manager (CVPM) earns a median wage of $22.36 per hour (2012 data). The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.
Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT)
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of veterinary technologists and technicians is expected to grow 52 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job opportunities are expected to be excellent, particularly in rural areas. In Oregon, the median wage for CVTs is $17.00 per hour (2012 data).
A CVT obtains patient histories, assists the veterinarian with diagnostic and surgical procedures, takes X-rays, performs lab work, can administer the rabies vaccine, and more. In Oregon, a CVT has a veterinary technician degree from an accredited program, or at least 6,000 hours of on-the-job training and experience as a veterinary technician while employed by a licensed veterinarian. All candidates must pass an examination administered by the Oregon Veterinary Medical Examining Board. Certified technicians must obtain 15 hours of continuing education every two years. Oregon has administrative rules governing certified technicians.
Assistants & Office Staff
Assistants and front office staff are also vital parts of the practice team; duties vary by the size of practice and experience levels. Non-certified staff can perform many of the same duties as a CVT; however, they may not induce anesthesia, take X-rays unless they have completed a radiation safety course, nor administer the rabies vaccine. Veterinary team members schedule appointments, check patients in, and assist the veterinarian and technicians. Traninig requirements vary based on job duties, but a high-school diploma is often required. In Oregon, an assistant earns a median wage of $11.00 per hour (2012 data), and a front office staff person earns a median wage of $13.00 per hour (2012 data). The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.