Approximately 89,200 veterinarians are employed in the United States. Veterinarians work for schools and universities, wildlife management groups, zoos, aquariums, ranches, feed lots, fish farms, pet food or pharmaceutical companies, and the government (mainly in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, but also for the Department of Homeland Security). The vast majority, however, are employed by veterinary clinical practices or hospitals. Many successful veterinarians in private practice are self-employed and may even employ other veterinarians. An increase in the demand for veterinarians is anticipated, particularly for those who specialize in areas related to public health issues such as food safety and disease control. Cities and large metropolitan areas will probably provide the bulk of new jobs for these specialists, while jobs for veterinarians who specialize in large animals will be focused in remote, rural areas.
The only way to become a veterinarian is through the prescribed degree program, and vet schools are set up to assist their graduates in finding employment. Veterinarians who wish to enter private clinical practice must have a license to practice in their particular state before opening an office. Licenses are obtained by passing the state's examination.
Information about employment opportunities can be obtained by contacting employers directly or through career services offices of veterinary medicine colleges. Additionally, professional associations such as the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and the American Veterinary Medical Association offer job listings at their Web sites.
New graduate veterinarians may enter private clinical practice, usually as employees in an established practice, or become employees of the U.S. government as meat and poultry inspectors, disease control workers, and commissioned officers in the U.S. Public Health Service or the military. New graduates may also enter internships and residencies at veterinary colleges and large private and public veterinary practices or become employed by industrial firms.
The veterinarian who is employed by a government agency may advance in grade and salary after accumulating time and experience on the job. For the veterinarian in private clinical practice, advancement usually consists of an expanding practice and the higher income that will result from it or becoming an owner of several practices.
Those who teach or do research may obtain a doctorate and move from the rank of instructor to that of full professor, or they may advance to an administrative position.
Tips for Entry
Read the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical (https://avmajournals.avma.org/loi/javma), Journal of Zoo & Wildlife Medicine (https://bioone.org/journals/journal-of-zoo-and-wildlife-medicine), and the Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine (https://www.journals.elsevier.com/journal-of-exotic-pet-medicine) to learn more about the field.
Visit the careers sections of professional associations' Web sites to search for job listings.
Join the American Veterinary Medical Association to access member-only career and practice development resources, publications, continuing education and networking opportunities, and other resources.
Participate in an internship, externships, and residencies to obtain valuable experience. For information on internships, visit: https://www.avma.org/education/internships-externships.
Visit https://www.avma.org/education/tips-veterinary-jobseekers for topics on finding a job, crafting a resume, and the interview process.