Veterinary surgeons (vets) diagnose and treat sick and injured animals, and provide preventive health care for healthy animals by conducting health checks, giving inoculations and advising owners on care and diet.
Most vets are based in general practice working with domestic pets; in rural areas they might also care for farm animals and horses. They are often sub-contracted for part-time work by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) or local authorities, inspecting hygiene and care standards in zoos, kennels, catteries, riding stables, pet shops and cattle markets.
Some work full-time for DEFRA, in either the Veterinary Field Service (VFS) or Veterinary Investigation Centres (VICs). This work involves control and eradication of animal diseases, and protecting public health interests.
Practice-based vets work on a rota system to provide 24-hour cover, seven days a week.
Much of the work is carried out in a surgery, although treatment of large animals requires travel, sometimes to remote establishments, so a driving licence is generally required. Vets could work at any time of day or night, and in all weathers – often in unpleasant conditions. Protective clothing is necessary.
To be a veterinary surgeon you should:
Working as a vet will mean that you will need a degree that is approved by the RCVS. You will also need to be registered with them too. It normally takes five years to complete a full-time degree in this area, however this may be reduced to four years if you already have a degree in a veterinary science related course.
Experience working within a veterinary practice will be valued.
There are about 9,000 practising vets registered in the UK. Over half work in general practice and are usually self-employed. Most start as assistants in private practices, are promoted to senior assistants in two to three years and later buy a share in the practice or set up on their own.
Outside general practice, opportunities exist in:
There are increasing opportunities for work in public health.
RCVS-registered vets have the right to practise elsewhere in the European Union. There may be opportunities in other countries, but professional requirements vary. Some work in developing countries with charities such as the International Development Administration (IDA) or the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
If you would like to learn more about becoming a veterinary surgeon that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)
62-64 Horseferry Road
Tel: 020 7222 2001
British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA)
46 High Street
Tel: 01223 836 970