Summary

Please enable javascript to play this video.

Video transcript available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVADsUt6474.
Quick Facts: Veterinarians
2016 Median Pay $88,770 per year
$42.68 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2016 79,600
Job Outlook, 2016-26 18% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 14,400

What Veterinarians Do

Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to improve public health. They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals.

Work Environment

Most veterinarians work in private clinics and hospitals. Others travel to farms, work in laboratories or classrooms, or work for the government.

How to Become a Veterinarian

Veterinarians must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from an accredited veterinary college, as well as a state license.

Pay

The median annual wage for veterinarians was $88,770 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Employment of veterinarians is projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Overall job prospects are expected to be very good.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for veterinarians.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of veterinarians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about veterinarians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Veterinarians Do About this section

Veterinarians
Veterinarians use x rays to diagnose animals.

Veterinarians care for the health of animals and work to improve public health. They diagnose, treat, and research medical conditions and diseases of pets, livestock, and other animals.

Duties

Veterinarians typically do the following:

  • Examine animals to diagnose their health problems
  • Treat and dress wounds
  • Perform surgery on animals
  • Test for and vaccinate against diseases
  • Operate medical equipment, such as x-ray machines
  • Advise animal owners about general care, medical conditions, and treatments
  • Prescribe medication
  • Euthanize animals

Veterinarians treat the injuries and illnesses of pets and other animals with a variety of medical equipment, including surgical tools and x-ray and ultrasound machines. They provide treatment for animals that is similar to the services a physician provides to treat humans.

The following are examples of types of veterinarians:

Companion animal veterinarians treat pets and generally work in private clinics and hospitals. They most often care for cats and dogs, but also treat other pets, such as birds, ferrets, and rabbits. These veterinarians diagnose and provide treatment for animal health problems; consult with animal owners about preventive healthcare; and carry out medical and surgical procedures, such as vaccinations, dental work, and setting fractures.

Food animal veterinarians work with farm animals such as pigs, cattle, and sheep, which are raised to be food sources. They spend much of their time at farms and ranches treating illnesses and injuries and testing for and vaccinating against disease. They may advise farm owners or managers about feeding, housing, and general health practices.

Food safety and inspection veterinarians inspect and test livestock and animal products for major animal diseases, provide vaccines to treat animals, enhance animal welfare, conduct research to improve animal health, and enforce government food safety regulations. They design and administer animal and public health programs for the prevention and control of diseases transmissible among animals and between animals and people.

Work Environment About this section

Veterinarians
Most veterinarians work in veterinary clinics.

Veterinarians held about 79,600 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of veterinarians were as follows:

Veterinary services 79%
Self-employed workers 13
Government 3
Social advocacy organizations 1
Educational services; state, local, and private 1

Most veterinarians work in private clinics and hospitals. Others travel to farms or work in laboratories or classrooms.

Veterinarians who treat horses or food animals travel between their offices and farms and ranches. They work outdoors in all kinds of weather and may have to perform surgery, often in remote locations.

Veterinarians who work in food safety and inspection travel to farms, slaughterhouses, and food-processing plants to inspect the health of animals and ensure that the facility follows safety protocols.

The work can be emotionally stressful, as veterinarians take care of sick animals and offer support to the animals’ anxious owners. Working on farms and ranches, in slaughterhouses, or with wildlife can also be physically demanding.

Injuries and Illnesses

When working with animals that are frightened or in pain, veterinarians risk being bitten, kicked, and scratched. In addition, veterinarians working with diseased animals risk being infected by the disease.

Work Schedules

Most veterinarians worked full time in 2016, and they often work additional hours. Some work nights or weekends, and they may have to respond to emergencies outside of scheduled work hours.

How to Become a Veterinarian About this section

Veterinarians
A veterinary medicine program generally takes 4 years to complete and includes classroom, laboratory, and clinical components.

Veterinarians must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from an accredited veterinary college, as well as a state license.

Education

Veterinarians must complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD) degree at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. There are currently 30 colleges with accredited programs in the United States. A veterinary medicine program generally takes 4 years to complete and includes classroom, laboratory, and clinical components.

Most applicants to veterinary school have a bachelor’s degree. Veterinary medical colleges typically require applicants to have taken many science classes, including biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, zoology, microbiology, and animal science. Most programs also require math, humanities, and social science courses.

Admission to veterinary programs is competitive.

In veterinary medicine programs, students take courses on animal anatomy and physiology, as well as disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Most programs include 3 years of classroom, laboratory, and clinical work. Students typically spend the final year of the 4-year program doing clinical rotations in a veterinary medical center or hospital.

Some veterinary medical colleges weigh experience heavily during the admissions process. Formal experience, such as previous work with veterinarians or scientists in clinics, agribusiness, research, or some area of health science, is particularly advantageous. Less formal experience, such as working with animals on a farm, at a stable, or in an animal shelter, can also be helpful.

Although graduates of a veterinary program can begin practicing as soon as they receive their license, some veterinarians pursue further education and training. Some new veterinary graduates enter internship or residency programs to gain specialized experience.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Veterinarians must be licensed in order to practice in the United States. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all states require prospective veterinarians to complete an accredited veterinary program and to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. Veterinarians working for the state or federal government may not be required to have a state license, because each agency has different requirements.

Most states not only require the national exam but also a state exam that covers state laws and regulations. Few states accept licenses from other states, so veterinarians who want to be licensed in another state usually must take that state’s exam.

The American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes certification in 41 specialties, such as surgery, microbiology, and internal medicine. Although certification is not required for veterinarians, it can show exceptional skill and expertise in a particular field.

Important Qualities

Compassion. Veterinarians must be compassionate when working with animals and their owners. They must treat animals with kindness and respect, and must be sensitive when dealing with the animal owners.

Communication skills. Strong communication skills are essential for veterinarians, who must be able to discuss their recommendations and explain treatment options to animal owners and give instructions to their staff.

Decisionmaking skills. Veterinarians must decide the correct method for treating the injuries and illnesses of animals.

Manual dexterity. Manual dexterity is important for veterinarians, because they must control their hand movements and be precise when treating injuries and performing surgery.

Problem-solving skills. Veterinarians need strong problem-solving skills because they must figure out what is ailing animals. Those who test animals to determine the effects of drug therapies also need excellent diagnostic skills.

Pay About this section

Veterinarians

Median annual wages, May 2016

Veterinarians

$88,770

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

$77,980

Total, all occupations

$37,040

 

The median annual wage for veterinarians was $88,770 in May 2016. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,470, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $161,070.

In May 2016, the median annual wages for veterinarians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Social advocacy organizations $90,610
Veterinary services 88,750
Educational services; state, local, and private 88,000
Government 86,860

Most veterinarians worked full time in 2016, and they often work additional hours. Some work nights or weekends, and they may have to respond to emergencies outside of scheduled work hours.

Job Outlook About this section

Veterinarians

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Veterinarians

18%

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners

16%

Total, all occupations

7%

 

Employment of veterinarians is projected to grow 18 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations. Increases in consumers’ pet-related expenditures are expected to drive employment in the veterinary services industry, which employs most veterinarians.

Veterinary medicine has advanced considerably. Today’s veterinarians are able to offer many services that are comparable to healthcare for humans, including more complicated procedures such as cancer treatments and kidney transplants.

Job Prospects

Overall job prospects are expected to be very good. In addition to projected employment growth, job opportunities will also become available as veterinarians retire, opening up positions for new veterinarians.

Employment projections data for veterinarians, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Veterinarians

29-1131 79,600 94,000 18 14,400 employment projections excel document xlsx

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of veterinarians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
Agricultural and food scientists

Agricultural and Food Scientists

Agricultural and food scientists research ways to improve the efficiency and safety of agricultural establishments and products.

Bachelor's degree $62,920
Animal care and service workers

Animal Care and Service Workers

Animal care and service workers provide care for animals. They feed, groom, bathe, and exercise pets and other nonfarm animals.

High school diploma or equivalent $22,230
Dentists

Dentists

Dentists diagnose and treat problems with patients’ teeth, gums, and related parts of the mouth. They provide advice and instruction on taking care of the teeth and gums and on diet choices that affect oral health.

Doctoral or professional degree $159,770
Medical scientists

Medical Scientists

Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health. They often use clinical trials and other investigative methods to reach their findings.

Doctoral or professional degree $80,530
Microbiologists

Microbiologists

Microbiologists study microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, fungi, and some types of parasites. They try to understand how these organisms live, grow, and interact with their environments.

Bachelor's degree $66,850
Optometrists

Optometrists

Optometrists examine the eyes and other parts of the visual system. They also diagnose and treat visual problems and manage diseases, injuries, and other disorders of the eyes. They prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses as needed.

Doctoral or professional degree $106,140
Physicians and surgeons

Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons diagnose and treat injuries or illnesses. Physicians examine patients; take medical histories; prescribe medications; and order, perform, and interpret diagnostic tests. They counsel patients on diet, hygiene, and preventive healthcare. Surgeons operate on patients to treat injuries, such as broken bones; diseases, such as cancerous tumors; and deformities, such as cleft palates.

Doctoral or professional degree This wage is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year.
Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers

Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers

Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers care for animals by performing routine tasks under the supervision of scientists, veterinarians, and veterinary technologists and technicians.

High school diploma or equivalent $25,250
Veterinary technologists and technicians

Veterinary Technologists and Technicians

Veterinary technologists and technicians perform medical tests under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to assist in diagnosing the injuries and illnesses of animals.

Associate's degree $32,490
Zoologists and wildlife biologists

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Zoologists and wildlife biologists study animals and other wildlife and how they interact with their ecosystems. They study the physical characteristics of animals, animal behaviors, and the impacts humans have on wildlife and natural habitats.

Bachelor's degree $60,520

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about careers in veterinary medicine, a list of U.S. schools and colleges of veterinary medicine, and information on accreditation policies, visit

American Veterinary Medical Association

For more information about veterinary education, visit

Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges

For information about the licensing exam, visit

International Council for Veterinary Assessment

For information about veterinarian positions with the federal government, visit

USAJOBS

O*NET

Veterinarians

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Veterinarians,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinarians.htm (visited November 19, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, October 24, 2017

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's CareerOneStop.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.