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 110,000 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, preventive 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 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. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), about 17 percent of veterinarians work in food supply, which includes private and public practice veterinarians involved in the entire food chain.
In Oregon, the median income for all private practice associate veterinarians (not owners) is $85,000 (2016 data) with a median experience level of 10 years, and the median income for new graduates (up to 3 years of experience) is $70,000 (2016 data).
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in 2016 the median annual wage of all veterinarians in the US was $88,770. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,470, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $161,070.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of veterinarians is expected to grow 19 percent between 2016-2026, much faster than average. Candidates should expect very strong competition for available veterinarian positions, especially in companion animal care.
Gender in the Profession
Women represent 55% of veterinarians in public and private practice. Veterinary medical school classes average over 80% women.
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. Average educational debt for graduating veterinarians is over $140,000, with 20% of graduates leaving school with over $200,000 in student loan debt.
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
A practice manager supervises the business aspects of a veterinary clinic, including accounting,customer service, and staffing. A practice manager may also oversee the practice’s marketing and social media. 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 $21.00 per hour (2016 data). A certified veterinary practice manager (CVPM) will often earn more.
Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT)
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, employment of veterinary technologists and technicians is expected to grow 20 percent from 2016 to 2026, 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 $17.29 per hour (2016 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. 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.
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. Training requirements vary based on job duties, but a high-school diploma is often required. In Oregon, an unlicensed veterinary assistant earns a median wage of $13.00 per hour (2016 data), and a front office staff person earns a median wage of $13.50 per hour (2016 data).