When a person decides to become a veterinarian, the road they travel is similar to the education and training of our human medical doctor counterparts. After undergraduate college studies, and with the acceptance into veterinary school, they begin an intense four year program in the study of veterinary medicine.
Career options after veterinary school
After completion of their professional studies, a veterinarian has several career path options to consider. The majority of veterinarians go into private general practice and treat animals (pets and livestock) in their community. To practice, they must become licensed in the state(s) in which they wish to work. Other options include working for the government (e.g. food inspection), in the armed forces, allied industry (e.g. pharmaceutical or pet food companies), or academia (e.g. to teach or become involved in research). Some of these options require additional studies, training or certification.
Veterinarians can also choose to further their education and specialize in a field of interest. Just as we have in the world of human health care, there are specialists in the veterinary profession to help in caring for animals. In fact, there are over 21 recognized specialty organizations by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
The training to become a specialist varies depending on the particular field of interest. Typically, a specialist will have attended four years of veterinary school, completed a one-year post-graduate internship and a residency training program (usually 3 or 4 additional years) in which they concentrate their training in their chosen specialty. To achieve board certification status, individuals must successfully complete a rigorous examination administered by their specialty College.
Veterinary specialists support and serve as an extension of the care provided by veterinarians in general practice. Animals requiring the care of specialists are typically referred when the expertise of a veterinary specialist is necessary or could benefit the care or treatment of patients with complex medical or surgical needs.
The recognized specialties in veterinary medicine include: