How to Become a Veterinarian


A veterinarian diagnoses and administers medical care to animals. These may be pets, farm animals, or wild animals. Generally, a veterinarian will specialise in a particular kind of animal, although they will have the knowledge to administer basic treatments on all of them.

Veterinarians work with animals to diagnose illnesses and treat them. They are generally involved in all aspects of animal welfare, although many specialise into a particular area.

Some veterinary specialisms are: dental, emergency care, surgical, cardiac, and orthopaedic. While any veterinarian will be able to administer basic treatment in these areas, some conditions will need an expert.

The duties of a veterinarian include: 

  • Working in a surgery to diagnose animals with illnesses and injuries at scheduled appointments. They may do this in the initial appointment, or conduct further tests such as blood samples and x-rays.
  • Prescribing medicine.
  • Arranging and performing operations on animals. 
  • Doing routine health checks on animals and giving them vaccinations to stop contagious diseases. 
  • Putting animals to sleep when necessary – this includes animals who are terminally ill or have had a significant injury.
  • Administrative duties, including recording appointments. 
  • Visiting farms, where they will examine animals and perform medical treatment.

To become a veterinarian, candidates must have a degree in veterinary medicine. This generally takes around five years, although some candidates may be able to fast track if they have a related educational or vocational background. They will then need to register with the relevant board for their country before applying for positions.

To achieve specialist status in a certain area, a candidate will generally need to take a postgraduate course. 

Work experience is crucial for anyone wanting to become a vet. Candidates can find vacancies in veterinary practices, potentially first working as a receptionist while training. They could also consider volunteering in local kennels, or with animal welfare charities. 

As well as a solid grounding of biology and animal medicine, which will be taught throughout the veterinary medicine degree, veterinarians should demonstrate a range of other skills. As they will be performing complicated procedures at times, they need to have thorough accuracy and attention to detail. They should also be independent, as they will have the authority to make quick decisions in regards to the animal’s welfare.

This is a customer-facing role; customers will either be paying upfront for their services or paying for pet insurance. Therefore, customer satisfaction is a priority for veterinarians. They may sometimes need to explain difficult situations to a customer, such as why their pet should be put down, so they should be able to express empathy and have a calm persona.

Veterinarians will generally work at a veterinary practice, although specialists may also work in a laboratory. Some veterinarians will progress to managing their own practice and may be in charge of a small team of other veterinarians, veterinary nurses, and receptionists. 

Working hours can be irregular, particularly for accident and emergency veterinarians, who will often work on-call. Other veterinarians may be expected to work evenings and at weekends.

Veterinarians can specialise in different illnesses and injuries throughout their career, or move to a focus on big animals or wild animals. Some veterinarians move into wildlife conservation. It is also possible to shift into a research or teaching role.

What degree is most commonly held by a Veterinarian?

  • Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine
  • Bachelor of Veterinary Science
  • Bachelor of Veterinary Science, Marine Biology
  • Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery

Career Transportability across Countries

Transportability: High
There are lots of opportunities for veterinarians to work abroad. If they are highly skilled in one particular speciality, they may be able to apply for positions in that speciality. Cultural awareness and local language knowledge will strengthen their application. Alternatively, wildlife conservationists often find work in areas with a range of specific animals, such as the Amazon rainforest in South America.

What is the Salary of a Veterinarian?

Experience Average salary | year
Veteranarian 1-3 yrs $73,098 £45,000 $55,460
Veteranarian 3-5 yrs $93,445 £49,500 $63,000
Veteranarian 5-10 yrs $122,098 £54,000 $150,000

What skills are needed to become a Veterinarian?

  • Veterinary Medicine
  • Animal Welfare
  • Veterinary
  • Surgery
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animal Nutrition
  • Client Education
  • Dogs
  • Animal Behavior
  • Pets
  • Research
  • Animal Work
  • Customer Service
  • Soft Tissue Surgery
  • Microsoft Office
  • Public Speaking
  • Veterinary Public Health
  • Internal Medicine
  • Anesthesia
  • Science
  • Pet Care
  • Medicine
  • Vaccines
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Management

Veteranarian Courses

As there is a vast amount to learn when becoming a veterinarian, it is very beneficial for candidates to take some relevant courses. At FutureLearn, we have plenty on offer, including some virtual work experience and courses about leadership in veterinary roles.
  • Virtual Work Experience and Exploring the Veterinary Profession

    Learn what it takes to become a vet and explore the challenges of the vet profession to decide if it's the right career for you

  • Antimicrobial Stewardship in Veterinary Practice

    How can good antimicrobial stewardship prevent antimicrobial resistance AMR in veterinary practices Find out on this course

  • Edward Jenner Leadership for Veterinary Professionals Part I: Your Leadership Self

    Explore the concept of leadership why it matters the types of issues faced by leaders and why you are already a leader

  • Edward Jenner Leadership for Veterinary Professionals Part II: Developing Leadership Foundations

    Enhance your understanding of effective leadership models and style and become a more effective leader at work as a veterinarian

Need even more evidence about why you should learn on FutureLearn?

We partner with over 170 world-class universities, institutions and industry leaders to create world-class courses to help you with your career. Whether you’re just starting out, wanting to deepen your knowledge or change direction, FutureLearn and our partners can help. These are just a few of our world-leading partners.