Dr. T. J. Dunn, DVM, answers frequently asked questions about what it's like to be a veterinarian. Being a veterinarian can be a challenging and hard career, but it is so rewarding to be able to help animals.
What made you decide that you wanted to become a veterinarian? I really enjoyed studying sciences, especially Biology. Veterinary medical school required studying many courses in the biological sciences. Plus I was really interested in being able to help animals recover from diseases and injury.
How many different types of veterinarians are there and give a brief description of each? There are veterinarians engaged in pet animal practice, called Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, and others in farm animal practice. There are zoo animal veterinarians, veterinarians in research and pharmaceutical companies, military veterinarians, teachers, private practitioners, and more. The American Veterinary Medical Association website has a good list of all the different categories of veterinary medical work that is being done today. See www.avma.org.
Is there a specific certification needed to become a veterinarian? Specific education and a state license is required. In order to practice veterinary medicine, a veterinarian needs to graduate from an accredited College of Veterinary Medicine (there are less than twenty-five in the USA) and pass certifying exams in order to be licensed in any state in which the doctor wants to practice.
On average, how much money does a veterinarian make each year? It can be from $45,000 to over $200,000 annually depending on the kind of practice a veterinarian is in. Being an employee usually indicates less income potential than a veterinarian that owns numerous practices and employs many veterinarians.
What is the difference between a veterinarian assistant and a veterinarian? To be a veterinarian the person has to be a graduate of the doctoral program at a college of veterinary medicine, which usually takes eight years of college study. A veterinary assistant can be anyone the veterinarian trains to assist. A licensed Veterinary Technician needs to graduate from a two-year college level course of instruction to be called a licensed Veterinary Technician.
Dr. Dunn has loved his career as a veterinarian.
Why is it important to society to have licensed veterinarians? Licensure protects the society from anyone who might pose as a veterinarian and who does not possess the training and education required to perform expected tasks. Since animal health issues often impact human health, the general public is entitled to competent veterinary care, so specific regulations need to be enforced.
Which classes would be best for a student wishing to become a veterinarian? Becoming proficient in mathematics and science courses will be very helpful. Biology and Chemistry especially will prepare the student for college work.
Does being a veterinarian involve long working hours on a daily basis? Usually a veterinarian in private practice will put in a full 8 to 10 hours a day. Often, too, weekends are taken up working on emergency cases or caring for sick patients. Other fields of veterinary medicine, such as teaching, may be less time-demanding.
What is the hardest thing about being a veterinarian? As a small animal practitioner, the fact that your patients often need help 24 hours a day can be the biggest strain. Often there is a lack of personal free time.
What makes it worth going to work every day? There is a substantial satisfaction knowing that you are helping an animal patient regain optimal health. Along with that, very appreciative and thankful pet owners can brighten up a veterinarian’s day. Pets are surely part of the family!
About Dr. Dunn
Dr. Dunn graduated from the University of Illinois with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree in 1970. After working in a Chicago suburb he established the first small animal hospital in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. He also directed a mobile animal hospital that serviced outlying towns in northern Wisconsin in the early 1980s. He established another animal hospital in Eagle River, Wisconsin, and a third hospital in Rhinelander with a pet food and supply store attached. In 1997 Dr. Dunn focused on the Internet to provide pet owners with sound advice about pet health care. That effort resulted in creation of ThePetCenter.com, The Internet Animal Hospital, in 1998, which he sold to PetFoodDirect.com. Dr. Dunn was appointed Director of Veterinary Services for PetFoodDirect.com, where he recruited and directed a nine veterinarian staff for the "Ask The Vet" program. He practices small animal medicine and surgery in Naples, Florida, and northern Wisconsin. He wrote a monthly column for Dog World Magazine and continues to write feature articles on pet health care for various pet publications. Dr. Dunn is a member of several professional associations and is licensed to practice in Wisconsin and Florida. He enjoys internet commerce, veterinary medical photography, website design and content writing, fishing, and a variety of outdoor activities. Website: TheAnswerVet.com.