If you love animals and truly care about their health and well-being, then a job at a veterinary clinic may be for you. Working in a vet office job is a great place to get hands-on experience interacting with all types of animals.
While these jobs aren’t as plentiful as other occupations, you have a better chance at landing one if you are schooled in the different types of positions available, as well as their educational criteria and responsibilities. It’s also helpful if you know what to expect when you go for an interview.
Types of Veterinary Jobs
There are four levels of veterinary jobs available in most vet clinics with each one requiring a different level of education and work experience.
A veterinarian (vet for short) is doctor who cares for the health of animals and who also works to improve public health. The vet researches, diagnoses, and treats various medical diseases, illnesses, and conditions of animals including livestock, pets, etc. Most vets work in animal hospitals or private clinics, while others prefer classrooms or laboratories. Some vets even work for the government or travel to farms to care for livestock. Here are some other job details:
- How much do veterinarians make? The average annual wage for a veterinarian is about $84,000, but it can be higher.
- Education required: Veterinarians are required to have a state license and a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from an accredited veterinary college or university.
- Typical hours worked in a week: Veterinarians work long hours, with roughly one-third of them spending over 50 hours per week on the job. Group practices often have vets rotating their on-call times, which are normally evenings, nights, and on weekends. Private practice veterinarians usually extend their hours, working evenings and weekends so they can tend to emergencies and unexpected appointments.
- Job outlook: Veterinarian jobs are expected to increase 12 percent by 2022, which is about as fast as the average occupation. It is expected to also be a competitive industry, so if you have past work experience and a specialization, you will have a better opportunity at finding a veterinarian’s job.
Veterinary Technician or Technologist
If you are interested in this type of vet job, you will be required to perform medical tests to diagnose the injuries, diseases, and illnesses of animals while under the supervision of a licensed doctor of veterinary medicine. Veterinary technicians and technologists work in animal hospitals, laboratories, and private clinics, and their jobs are emotionally and physically demanding. Here are some things to know about the vet tech position:
- How much do vet techs make? The average annual salary for a veterinary technician or technologist is about $30,000.
- Education required: Vet technologists need a four-year bachelor’s degree, while technicians are only required to have a two-year AAS degree from an accredited vet-tech school. Both technologists and technicians must also complete a postsecondary program in veterinary technology. In addition, both occupations require candidates to pass a credentialing examination and become licensed, credentialed, or registered in their field, depending on the requirements set forth by their home state.
- Typical hours worked in a week: Most vet technicians and technologists work at least 40 hours a week. The exact shifts can vary depending on where you work, and many specialists in this position tend to work evenings, weekends, and holidays.
- Job outlook: Projections in these fields are expected to increase by 30 percent by 2022, which is much faster than the average job or occupation. This is due to veterinarians utilizing technologists and technicians to take care of the lab work and general care of the animals as they continue to replace lower-skilled veterinary assistant jobs.
Veterinary Assistant/Laboratory Animal Caretaker
Workers in this position take care of animals in clinics, hospitals, and laboratories. They care for the animals’ well-being under the supervision of a veterinarian, scientist, or veterinary technologist or technician. It is a very emotionally and physically demanding position. To be a vet assistant or an animal caretaker, you can expect the following:
- How much do vet assistants or animal caretakers make? The average annual salary for a vet assistant or animal caretaker is about $23,000.
- Education required: Vet assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are required to have a high school diploma or its equivalent, but most of the duties required for this position are learned while on the job.
- Typical hours worked in a week: Hours vary depending on the type of animal facility you are working in. Evenings, nights, and weekends may be required if the clinic is open during those hours.
- Job outlook: Positions for veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers are expected to increase by 10 percent by 2022, which is about average for this type of job. However, these jobs have a high turnover rate which results in better opportunities for those seeking this type of employment.
This person is usually the first one you see when you walk into a veterinary office. The duties of this position include those of a typical receptionist such as answering phones, scheduling appointments, opening mail, receiving customer payments, and managing vet office job functions. This person also needs to be comfortable and familiar with cats, dogs, and other domestic pets, as well as understand the type of care they require. Some details for the veterinary receptionist position are:
- How much does a veterinary receptionist make? A veterinarian receptionist’s average annual salary is about $25,000.
- Education required: No formal or special education or skills are required. Depending on the rules of the clinic, practice or facility, a high school diploma may or may not be needed.
- Typical hours worked in a week: Workers in this position usually work normal business hours, although it’s not unusual for them to work evenings and weekends if needed.
- Job outlook: Veterinary receptionist positions are expected to increase by 14 percent by 2022, which is normal for this type of work. However, those with related veterinary experience, education, and computer skills have better job prospects.
Types of Veterinary Animal-Care Facilities
There are a variety of animal-care facilities you could be a part of. It all depends on where you live, your experience, and the type of animal care you want to provide. Here are some of the most common animal-care locations:
- Clinic: This is a private or group practice that includes inpatient or outpatient diagnoses and treatment of animals. It may be open only specific hours or provide round-the-clock animal care.
- Outpatient clinic: This clinic typically includes short-term admission of animals with discharge occurring at the end of the day. Overnight stays are not permitted. It is only open specific hours, although some facilities may be open 24 hours.
- Hospital: This 24-hour facility includes both inpatient and outpatient diagnoses and treatment. Animals may be admitted for overnight care.
- Veterinary teaching hospital: This teaching facility includes consultations, clinicals, and hospital services that are performed under a large staff of veterinary scientists and teachers. Scientific research and teaching professional veterinary students are typically offered in this type of hospital.
- Office: This is a limited veterinary practice that often offers consultations and performs minor and common procedures and surgeries. They typically offer only outpatient services as they usually don’t have the space for in-house or overnight treatments.
- Mobile practice: This type of veterinary medicine is usually practiced from a vehicle modified for special medical or surgical procedures. It is used to make house or farm calls. Mobile practices are required to have a permanent base of operation to make appointments and respond to emergencies.
- Emergency facility: The primary function of an emergency facility is to receive, treat, and monitor emergency pet patients during its hours of operation. A doctor of veterinary medicine is always available and is typically assisted by various technicians/technologists, assistants, and caretakers. Some emergency services may be independent, an after-hours service, part of an animal hospital, or a 24-hour service.
- On-call emergency service: This type of service usually does not have veterinarians or staff members on location during hours of operation, but it is available to provide initial triage and treatment.
- Zoo: The veterinarians at a zoo or other animal park provide routine and emergency diagnoses and treatments to exotic animals living there. They constantly observe the animals’ behavior, provide physical examinations, diagnose illnesses, and give treatment to all the zoo’s animals. Extensive procedures and treatments may require the animal to be transported and treated at a specialty animal hospital.
- Shelter/Kennel: Also sometimes called the pound, this is a facility for lost, stray, abandoned, or surrendered dogs and cats, as well as wounded or sick wildlife. Unfortunately, they are normally overpopulated and operate on tight budgets. They are independent facilities and are not monitored by a government or animal organization.
How to Find a Vet Job
Once you have decided on the type of vet job you want and the kind of clinic or facility you want to work in, you now want to find a job, entry-level or otherwise, based on your experience. Your best bet would be to start looking at some local animal clinics as they typically have a larger support staff and tend to house animals overnight, thereby needing staff to handle the pets after hours.
You can also browse the classified advertisements in the newspaper or at an online job board. However, most vet clinic positions are not advertised, and you will need to seek these jobs. Find all animal clinics and other facilities in your area and start calling or emailing. Some may post a “help wanted” ad in their window. Word-of-mouth is also a pretty powerful tool, so get the word out to your friends and family who have pets that you’re looking for a vet office job.
Be prepared to work your way up the ladder, too. Unless you have the education and qualifications, expect to start working as an assistant or caretaker cleaning cages, trimming nails, feeding, bathing, and providing basic daily care. Once you’ve proven you can do this job and, if applicable, taken some veterinary classes, you may have the chance to move up and assist the veterinarian with exams, x-rays, and treatments.
Preparing for Your Vet Clinic Job Interview
It’s important to be prepared for a job interview at a vet clinic. When you put your resume together, include related personal and professional references as well as a brief introduction letter that talks about your passion for animals and their health. You also want to highlight relevant experience working with animals. This can include:
- Pet sitting
- Dog walking
- Volunteering in an animal facility
- Grooming/bathing animals
- Working at a riding stable, farm, or zoo
You also want to point out your education, especially if you’ve taken classes related to veterinary medicine or the animal industry. If you have any certifications, it is good to highlight those as well. Make sure you bring attention to the fact that you want to pursue a career in veterinary medicine or work as an assistant or technician.
Once you get called for the interview, do your homework and research the clinic. You will probably be asked why you chose that clinic to apply to. Does it have a special service you like? The clinic’s website and corresponding online reviews should provide all the relevant information you need. Then, when appropriate, ask for a tour of the facility and be ready to ask your own questions. Show you’re interested in working there!
Some veterinary clinics may ask you to do a working interview to watch how you interact with staff members and the animals. It is also to make sure you were truthful on your resume about your experience. You typically will assist a technician and provide basic duties such as cleaning up rooms, emptying trash, and helping where appropriate. A working interview is not always required, but it’s a good idea to be prepared for one.
Consider an Internship or Volunteer Position
If you are considering a job as a doctor of veterinary medicine, you will be required to complete an internship. However, if you are thinking about becoming a vet assistant or technician/technologist and want to gain some experience, consider a voluntary or paid internship at a local veterinary facility. The American Association of Veterinary Clinicians sponsors an internship and residency program where those who are interested are matched with a participating veterinary college or private practice.
Volunteering also allows you to network with many animal lovers and professionals who want to help make the world safer and more humane for all animals and pets. Volunteer jobs usually include:
- Stuffing envelopes
- Making phone calls
- Stocking shelves
- Cleaning up exam rooms
- Walking dogs
- Feeding the animals
- Giving baths
- Cleaning up animal pens
Volunteering at an animal hospital or shelter will also give you valid experience, allowing you more opportunities in this field.
Taking the Next Step
If you are serious about a career at a vet clinic, we encourage you to look into getting your two- or four-year degree to help your chances at getting a better paying position. In the meantime, you can seek an internship or spend some time volunteering as a way of gaining some valuable experience. You can also start with an entry-level position and work your way up as you further your education.