I recently participated in a day of team building exercises for first-year veterinary students; they had a contagious excitement about embarking on their veterinary medical journey. Conversations with the students suggested that the vast majority plan to enter private clinical practice upon graduation; I suspect similar results would occur at any veterinary college. Our veterinary educational process is greatly skewed towards clinical medicine and surgery, and perhaps rightly so. In our Veterinarian’s Oath we pledge to use our knowledge and skills to protect animal health and relieve animal suffering. That Oath also obligates us to use our training to benefit society, improve public health, and advance medical knowledge. We are lucky to have degrees that provide us with a huge variety of career options outside of, or complementary to, clinical practice.
Research is a great way to flex your scientific muscles. Veterinary training is broad-based, and can be excellent preparation for a career in biomedical science. Sometimes research opportunities occur in conjunction with a teaching appointment, but experimentation can occur at facilities that do not teach, and teaching opportunities abound at locations where research is not a focus. So if the laboratory isn’t for you, consider options such as university extension offices, technical schools, community colleges, and high school STEM programs.
Industry is another way to put your veterinary education to use. Besides research, corporations can utilize veterinarians in a variety of positions. Agricultural firms, medical corporations, and equipment/drug suppliers may need sales, technical services, communications, and other staff with veterinary backgrounds. And don’t forget non-profit organizations such as AVMA, AAHA, and other national and more local groups with veterinary connections.
Don’t forget about the myriad of careers available in government as well, whether federal, state, or local. Agriculture departments, the FDA, and the CDC are just a few of the possible employers, with positions ranging from food inspection to emergency response to bio/agroterrorism. Some veterinarians even enter politics to help improve society.
Veterinary outreach opportunities can make an immediate impact on the world around us. Whether within the United States or in foreign countries, countless animals and people are in need of veterinarians to help improve their lives. International organizations such as Veterinarians Without Borders, Heifer International, and Christian Veterinary Mission, as well as local and state groups, are all striving to improve our world.
These ideas are just a beginning for those who are ready to broaden their horizons. Sometimes additional education is required, but sometimes all that is needed is a mind open to new possibilities. Today’s workers make an average of 12 job changes during their careers—don’t be afraid to follow a new path. Just remember that whatever course you chart, veterinary medicine offers wonderful ways to make a difference in the world around you!