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Alternative Careers For Veterinarians

Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

Veterinarians are valued members of the medical community and often remain in healthcare. A career as a veterinarian can be rewarding, but is not for everyone. If you are considering a veterinary career, you may want to consider alternative careers that require similar skills. This article has several suggestions for alternative careers for veterinarians.

This article below is perhaps the best article out there with the latest information on alternative careers for veterinarians, jobs with a veterinary degree & fees for international students & veterinary course details. All you have to do is read on to know more.

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With an equal interest in both medicine and animals, you’ve always thought you’d eventually become a veterinarian. You’re already planning to obtain a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree. After that, you’re a little less sure of how to proceed. You aren’t certain practicing in a small animal clinic is what you want to do for the rest of your life.

You’re not alone. There are many people interested in becoming veterinarians, and they can have vastly different interests and strengths. It doesn’t make much sense that they would all end up in general practice. If you want to treat exotic animals, for example, working in a pet clinic probably isn’t a good fit.

There’s no need to worry if you don’t think you’re meant for a traditional practice setting. The good news is a DVM degree can lead you down many different career paths. You’ll soon see there are veterinarians working in just about every type of role and workplace setting.

Alternative Careers For Veterinarians

12 ALTERNATIVE CAREER PATHS YOU CAN PURSUE WITH A DVM DEGREE

You may be surprised at just how versatile a DVM degree is. While this is hardly an exhaustive list of the various veterinary careers, it can at least help you start to understand your options. Learn more about 12 paths you could pursue.

1. ANIMAL HEALTH INDUSTRY

Though only a small percentage of veterinarians work in industry, there are many opportunities available. DVMs employed by companies that offer products and services for pet owners and veterinarians may be involved in research, sales, technical services, and more. DVMs sometimes prefer industry to traditional practice, because it can allow for a better work-life balance. Some of these roles involve a fair amount of travel, which is definitely something to keep in mind.

2. CONSULTING

Veterinarians often turn to consulting roles after spending a substantial amount of time in practice, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Any vet with a specialized area of expertise can be a consultant. A veterinarian with advanced toxicology training may help general practitioners determine how to treat a poisoned pet, for example. A former practice owner might help a new clinic streamline their hiring process.

3. MANAGEMENT

Business-minded veterinarians can be great practice managers. Some take on this type of leadership role early in their careers, perhaps by obtaining an MBA in addition to a DVM degree. Others transition to management after gaining experience as a practicing vet. Managing could also be a good option if you enjoy educating in an informal setting, because you may spend a fair amount of time working with new veterinarians.

4. MILITARY SERVICE

There are multiple roles for DVMs in the US military. Army veterinarians may treat soldiers’ pets, go on missions to combat diseases, develop vaccines, or care for government-owned animals. DVMs in the US Air Force serve as public health officers. These professionals work to prevent and control the spread of disease. Vets interested in making a global impact may want to consider military service.

5. MOBILE PRACTICE

Mobile operations are different enough from brick-and-mortar clinics that they’re worth mentioning. Being able to receive at-home treatment can mean less stress for both animals and owners, according to PetMD. Veterinarians may even be able to develop closer relationships with their clients, which is a plus if you’re a people-person. Some veterinarians have even switched to mobile operations after finding it was a better fit for them than a traditional practice.

6. PUBLIC HEALTH

Obtaining education and training in veterinary medicine can help you develop the unique qualifications required to work in public health. Public health veterinarians may monitor vaccine development or respond to various disease outbreaks, many of which are zoonotic. You can find public health veterinarians within the US Public Health Service, state governments, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

7. PUBLIC POLICY

Who better to represent the needs of animals and veterinary professionals than DVMs? Veterinarians may opt to work with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) or other organizations to advance advocacy efforts at the federal and local levels. As a veterinarian focused on public policy, you could work to secure research and education funding, ensure animal welfare, and more.

8. REGULATORY MEDICINE

Regulatory veterinary medicine involves protecting certain animals and the people who consume animal products by inspecting animals and facilities, engaging in disease surveillance, and enforcing humane treatment laws. Many veterinarians in these roles work for the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food Safety and Inspection Service and the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Center for Veterinary medicine.

9. RESEARCH

Research opportunities obviously exist in university settings, but there are numerous other options. There are many biomedical research positions for veterinarians with additional training in a specific field, such as virology or parasitology. Veterinarians in research may also work with lab animals, so they’re responsible for ensuring those creatures’ health and well-being.

10. SHELTER MEDICINE

While shelter veterinarians work with companion animals, their role is significantly different than that of a vet working in a traditional clinic. One major difference is they don’t work with pet owners. Shelter vets also tend to encounter animals that don’t have any available medical history, so you need to be comfortable navigating the unknown in this particular position.

11. TEACHING

Tomorrow’s veterinarians and vet technicians need quality instructors—DVMs have the education and expertise those educational roles require. If you thrive in an academic setting, this could be a good fit for you. Formal classroom teaching isn’t the only option, either. There are also opportunities for qualified vets to speak at conferences, educate clients, and develop tests and assessments.

12. VETERINARY SPECIALTY MEDICINE

It’s also worth remembering that there are many different avenues veterinarians can take within clinical practice. There’s no need to become a generalist if you’re much more interested in a focused area of medicine like radiology or orthopaedic surgery. Veterinarians can also choose to work exclusively with wild animals, zoo animals, or even one specific species.

best jobs for veterinarians

Veterinary Specialties

In addition, there are a wide variety of veterinary specialties that have been recognized by the AVMA. In most cases, certification in a specialty requires extra education and the successful completion of a professional examination. Common specialties include the following:

  • Internal medicine.
  • Veterinary oncology.
  • Microbiology.
  • Surgery.
  • Exotic animal care.
  • Dentistry
  • Canine & Feline practice.

While not required, obtaining certification in these specialties demonstrates that the veterinarian has obtained a high level of skill in his or her specialty. In many cases, government and private agencies will prefer to hire certificated specialists when seeking to fill a career opening.

It is important to note that obtaining a certification as a veterinary specialist does not eliminate the need to maintain a current veterinary license in the individual’s state. Although these certifications demonstrate a high degree of skill in the specialty, they cannot be used in place of a state license.

career change veterinarian

Here are ten alternative vet tech careers that you may not have considered:

1. Work at a referral hospital or vet school

Referral hospitals and veterinary teaching hospitals typically employ veterinary specialists. These veterinarians have completed additional training in a specific area and treat only cases that fall within that area. Specialists typically treat the most complicated cases in veterinary medicine, which are referred to them by general practice veterinarians.

Therefore, working in a referral hospital or vet school means that you will likely be replacing the routine cases of general practice with complex medical and surgical cases typical of a specialty hospital. For some vet techs, this can be an excellent option.

The National Association of Veterinary Technicians of America (NAVTA) recognizes a number of vet tech specialties that work alongside veterinary specialists.(1) While specialization is not typically required for vet techs working in a specialty hospital, it might be something you want to consider if you plan to spend your career in specialty medicine.

Recognized vet tech specialties include Anesthesia and Analgesia, Clinical Practice, Dentistry, Dermatology, Diagnostic Imaging, Emergency and Critical Care, Internal Medicine, Ophthalmology, Physical Rehabilitation, and Surgery. Each specialty academy has its own individual requirements, involving some combination of education, experience, and testing.

2. Explore opportunities in veterinary behavior

In addition to the specialties mentioned above, the NAVTA also offers a vet tech specialty in behavior. Specializing as a veterinary behavior technician requires a combination of work experience, self-study, and attendance at veterinary behavior conferences.(2)

Veterinary behavior technicians can work in a number of settings. While many work with a veterinary behaviorist (a veterinarian who specializes in the treatment of behavioral conditions in pets), behavior technicians may also find themselves working with zoos, animal welfare organizations, research facilities, animal shelters, service dog organizations, and/or animal therapy organizations

3. Specialize in clinical pathology

Clinical pathology vet techs typically work at veterinary schools, state laboratories, and privately-owned veterinary reference laboratories. These vet techs spend their days analyzing lab samples for veterinarians and pet owners. While labs often employ entry-level vet techs, the NAVTA also offers a recognized specialty in Veterinary Clinical Pathology for vet techs that seek additional training in this field.(3)

4. Work for a research lab, providing care for laboratory animals 

Research studies conducted by universities and industry often involve the use of laboratory animals. Animal welfare laws require that these animals are under the care of a veterinarian; in many cases, this lab animal veterinarian is assisted by a lab animal vet tech. Lab animal vet techs may pursue specialty certification through the Academy of Laboratory Animal Veterinary Technicians and Nurses.(4)

5. Focus on veterinary nutrition

Veterinary nutrition is a popular topic, both within the veterinary profession and among pet owners. Vet techs with additional training in nutrition might work within a general veterinary practice (in a role focused on providing detailed nutritional information to pet owners), work with a nutritionist (providing nutritional consultations), or may work with a pet food company (developing and marketing new diets).

If you’re interested in veterinary nutrition, there are two ways that you can pursue additional training. The Academy of Veterinary Nutrition Technicians offers a route to specialization in veterinary nutrition, achieved through a combination of education, experience, and testing.(5) Vet techs within this specialty often work within animal nutrition companies or work with veterinary nutritionists.

If you’re interested in gaining practical pet nutrition information that you could use within a small animal practice setting, you might want to consider the North American Veterinary Community’s Pet Nutrition Coach certification.(6) This certificate program requires eight hours of nutrition-related continuing education and will help prepare you to discuss pet nutrition with small animal clients

6. Take a walk on the wild side

If you’re seeking an alternative to general practice, you might be interested in working at a zoo, aquarium, or wildlife rehabilitation community. These positions are often highly competitive, but they do exist! In many cases, the key to obtaining a role in the zoo/wildlife field is networking and flexibility.  

Specialization in zoo medicine is offered through the Academy of Veterinary Zoological Medicine Technicians.(7) This specialty requires five years of work experience within the zoo field in order to complete the qualifying examination, so vet techs that are first entering the zoo/wildlife field are not expected to be specialists.

7. Look for a position within industry 

Many animal health businesses employ veterinary technicians for a variety of roles. You may be able to find positions assisting a company with research, promotional/educational writing, or outreach to veterinary clinics. Each of these opportunities would provide a unique way for you to utilize your vet tech skills in a non-traditional manner.

8. Work with a professional association

Veterinary associations, such as NAVTA, your state vet tech association, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), and others, often employ a team of veterinary professionals that includes vet techs. Vet techs working for an association help set the organization’s goals, execute those goals, and perform outreach to veterinary professionals and students.

9. Teach future vet techs or vet assistants 

Vet tech colleges, as well as veterinary assisting programs, often employ vet techs for teaching roles. If you live near a vet tech college, you may be able to find employment opportunities teaching lectures or laboratories. If you aren’t located near a vet tech school, consider online vet tech programs; these programs may also need vet techs to write courses or serve as mentors to students.

10. Consider opportunities in practice management

If you’re looking for a different way to utilize your veterinary knowledge while still remaining within a practice setting, consider practice management. This field requires a wide variety of skills, including financial skills, employee management, client communication, and others.

If you wish to gain additional training in practice management, or make yourself more competitive for management opportunities in larger practices, consider becoming a Certified Veterinary Practice Manager (CVPM).(8) This program requires a combination of education, experience, recommendations, and an examination to ensure that you have gained the necessary skills and experience to be a CVPM.

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