A Career as
a Veterinarian

The Role of a Veterinarian

Veterinarians do much more than just keep your pets healthy. Veterinarians have a wide range of career choices that include:

  • Private Practice—either a general practice or focusing on a specialty such as emergency medicine or orthopedics.
  • Corporate Veterinary Medicine—for example, with corporations that provide veterinary care, test drugs for safety, or produce animal-related products.
  • Government—this include places like the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) where veterinarians work on biosecurity, environmental quality, public health, meat inspection, regulatory medicine, herd health, and investigation of disease outbreaks.
  • Military—the US Army Corps and US Air Force employ veterinarians for food safety and military working dog veterinary medicine.
  • Research—either at a university or at a company that produces animal-related products or drugs.
  • Teaching—either in academia or non-professional schools.
  • Public Health—particularly with government agencies such as the United States Public Health Service, which works to control the transmission of animal-to-human (zoonotic) disease.
  • Food Supply Medicine—either with a government agency or an animal food company.
  • Global Veterinary Medicine—in private practice or with international agencies working in areas such as food production and safety or emerging diseases.
  • Public Policy—working for governments on animal and zoonotic diseases, animal welfare, public health issues, or as consultants with non-government agencies.
  • Shelter Medicine—working with communities and private or public agencies to ensure the health and well-being of animal populations housed in shelters.
The Road to Becoming a Veterinarian

Students should perform well in general science and biology in junior high school and pursue a strong science, mathematics, and biology program in high school to prepare for pre-veterinary coursework at a college or university. Before applying to veterinary college/school, students must successfully complete university-level undergraduate prerequisites.

Each college or school of veterinary medicine establishes its own pre-veterinary requirements, but typically these include demonstrating basic language and communication skills, and completion of courses in the social sciences, humanities, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics.

Admission to veterinary school is highly competitive, with the number of qualified applicants admitted varying from year to year. Applicants may be required to take a standardized test (e.g., the Graduate Record Examination or GRE).



Most veterinary schools require applications through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS). For information about application requirements, applicant data statistics, and other admissions resources, click here. After completing the required veterinary medical curriculum (usually over four years), many graduates choose to pursue additional education in one of 20 AVMA-recognized veterinary specialties such as surgery, internal medicine, animal behavior, dentistry, ophthalmology, pathology, or preventive medicine.

A Bright Future

Excellent employment opportunities for veterinarians are expected to continue. The number of animals kept as pets continues to grow, providing a consistent need for quality veterinary care. The benefits of using scientific methods to breed, raise and manage livestock, poultry and fish, together with growing awareness of public health, animal welfare and disease control programs, will continue to demand the expertise of veterinarians.

Be sure to check out the AVMA’s brochure on becoming a veterinarian.


A Career as a Certified
Veterinary Technician

The Role of a Certified Veterinary Technician

The role of a veterinary technician combines elements of many disciplines such as nursing, imaging, lab work, and customer service. Typical duties include:

  • Providing first aid and nursing care
  • Assisting veterinarians during examinations and procedures
  • Performing or helping with diagnostic tests such as X-rays, urinalysis, and blood counts
  • Conducting routine procedures like dental cleanings and immunizations
  • Preparing animals for surgery
  • Monitoring the condition of patients
  • Educating pet owners on animal care and welfare
  • Ensuring that lab animals receive humane treatment

For animal lovers with a passion for science, a career as a veterinary technician is extremely rewarding. Technicians often see the same patients throughout their entire lives and develop close, caring relationships with the animals and their owners. The care and education technicians provide makes an immense difference in an animal’s quality of life, both in the medical setting and in the animal’s home environment.

Due to a growing interest among veterinary technicians to attain a higher level of recognition for advanced knowledge and skills in specific disciplines, NAVTA developed the Committee on Veterinary Technician Specialties (CVTS). The Committee provides a standardized list of criteria and assistance for societies interested in attaining Academy status.

Veterinary Technology Programs Accredited by the AVMA CVTEA

The NAVTA Committee on Veterinary Technicians Specialties (CVTS) was formed in 1994 and is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association. The CVTS provides guidelines to veterinary technician organizations to facilitate the formation of a specialty organization. Academies develop advanced pathways, which a candidate must follow and complete in order to be awarded the designation of VTS (Veterinary Technician Specialist) in their specific discipline.

View Accredited Schools

A Career as a
Veterinary Assistant

The Role of a Veterinary Assistant

While every position within the veterinary practice team is important, veterinary assistants play a pivotal role, literally.

In the course of a single day, an assistant provides help to veterinarians and veterinary technicians which in turn allows those team members to perform the tasks and responsibilities of their positions. The next minute, the assistant may be helping a client understand why having their pet’s teeth cleaned is so important or providing a receptionist with a second set of hands at the front desk. Helping to fill scripts, keeping exams rooms cleaned and prepped, setting up lab work, helping with inventory, updating medical records, assisting with nursing care – there are more things that veterinary assistants do in a day than most people realize.

What is the Approved Veterinary Assistant Designation?

In recognition of the contributions veterinary assistants make to the practice team and to the health of pets, the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) has created the Approved Veterinary Assistant (AVA) designation. This designation is currently used across the United States.

Upon graduation from a NAVTA-approved veterinary assistant program, a participant is eligible to sit for the Approved Veterinary Assistant examination. Upon successful completion of the exam, the participant is to use the designation AVA and receives a documenting certificate.

How Do I Take the Approved Veterinary Assistant Examination?

The AVA designation examination was written by NAVTA’s AVA Committee. The regulations and requirements have been determined by NAVTA. The designation examination is through VetMedTeam, on behalf of NAVTA, and is open to all graduates of a NAVTA-approved training program.

In order to qualify to sit for the final exam, participants must obtain a code from their assistant program, which would be used in the VetMedTeam shopping cart. An exam mentor will need to proctor the examination by observing the candidate as the exam is taken. The exam mentor may be a veterinarian, a credentialed technician, an instructor from the student’s program, or a licensed testing center. Please visit VetMedTeam for more information.

NAVTA-Approved Training Programs

In order to be eligible to take the Approved Veterinary Assistant designation examination, candidates must complete a NAVTA-approved training program. NAVTA’s Veterinary Assistants Program provides a list of approved options.

Veterinary Mentorship

Do You or Does Your Organization Offer Mentoring Opportunities?

Does your veterinary practice, shelter, or organization offer mentoring opportunities to high school or college students?

Here are some examples of mentoring opportunities within your practice or organization:

  • Job Shadowing – This is a great opportunity for students interested in pursuing the veterinary industry post-graduation, whether they are considering a veterinarian or veterinary technician career. Students visit the practice or organization and observe daily operations and different aspects of the profession.
  • Kennel Volunteers – Students may assist in kennel duties such as cleaning, feeding, socializing, walking, and spending time with animals.

Add your name to our list of veterinary professionals who provide mentorship: