Your Veterinary Career – Is It Time for a Fresh Approach?
If it seems like every day is the same with that sneaky puppy who presents with a foreign body at closing time, the chronically vomiting cat, or the rabbit who is suddenly inappetent, it may be time to change things up. It’s not that you don’t care about these cherished pets or their owners’ peace of mind – we know you always will. It’s just that, after years of the same routine, some vets find themselves wanting something new; different challenges, new procedures, fresh ways to learn and grow…and with that, maybe a little more balance in their work-life balance too!
If you’re willing to explore new horizons with an open mind, you’ll find a host of exciting and often surprising veterinary career options that you may not have considered, or maybe didn’t know existed or didn’t even exist at all when you started…
Put on Your Detective Hat
Veterinary forensics is an exciting field where veterinary medicine and law intersect. Think CSI…but for veterinary professionals and animals. Increased awareness of animal welfare has created a niche where veterinarians and vet nurses can use their skills to advise law enforcement on animal crimes. As a specialist in veterinary forensic pathology, you’ll help detectives and lawyers collect, preserve and analyze critical evidence that can make or break one of these cases. Investigations can range from animal hoarding situations to dogfighting rings, to individual cases of neglect or abuse. An increasing number of schools, like the University of Florida, now offer advanced degrees in areas like veterinary forensic sciences. You can also check out the British Veterinary Forensic & Law Association to learn more.
Become an Expert among Experts
You probably rotated through a number of specialty services during your training, but did you know there are a total of 41 veterinary specialties recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association and 16 veterinary technician specialties recognized by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America? Animals, like people, sometimes need the help of a veterinary professional with additional training to utilize specialized (and expensive) diagnostic equipment, treat rare illnesses, and perform complex surgeries. Most of us in general medicine know a lot about all the different elements of surgery and medicine, but sometimes it may feel like we don’t know everything about any area of medicine. Completing a board certification requires more study and clinical training, so if you feel there is one area of medicine that fascinates you and you want to learn everything about it, a specialty can open doors to a whole new career. This could be the opportunity for you to change gears…and earn those bragging rights!
Put Your Love and Care to Best Use
There are countless reasons people decide to pursue a veterinary career and for many, the reason is their love of animals and desire to alleviate their suffering. If you’re motivated by a desire to advocate for animals in this way, you might consider a career in animal welfare. As an animal welfare specialist, you’ll tackle a wide variety of issues, such as creating more humane environments for livestock, like the world-famous animal welfare specialist, Temple Grandin. Other opportunities in animal welfare include working to protect wildlife, getting involved in policy work to change the laws surrounding animal rights, and/or working for a nonprofit such as an SPCA. You can even become board certified by the American College of Animal Welfare.
Protect your Country and Fight Terrorism
When you think about the fight against terrorism, you may not envision a veterinarian as the defender of your homeland. However, veterinary professionals play a critical role in protecting our food supply and understanding the risks and transmission patterns of zoonotic diseases. If bioterrorists released a lethal bovine virus, what could happen to a country’s milk and meat supply? Our knowledge of herd management and disease identification places us in a unique position to perform surveillance in this area. And this pandemic has certainly increased everyone’s focus on public health matters. If helping to protect your country and food supply appeals to you, you could become a specialist in this area. You’ll often find jobs in this sector through military and government organizations such as the USDA and DEFRA. You’ll be pleased to learn that the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine now certifies this specialty too.
Help Shelter Animals Thrive
Most veterinary professionals have rotated through an animal shelter at some point, whether it was part of your schooling, an opportunity to learn high-volume spay/neuter techniques, or a volunteer role that helped you find your way into veterinary medicine in the first place. Some vets also go on to become dedicated shelter medicine specialists. Shelter facilities and staff face diverse challenges and the veterinary specialists who navigate these obstacles can have rewarding and energizing careers. As a shelter medicine specialist, you’ll create healthier and more comfortable conditions for the animals to ensure their chances of being adopted. Check out the Association of Shelter Veterinarians to discover more and/or consider volunteering in your local shelter to see firsthand what the day-to-day of a shelter vet is all about.
Promote Humane Conditions for Laboratory Animals
Most of us come across laboratory animal research through our readings of scientific literature but some may not realize the role veterinary professionals play in the care of these animals. Since the 1960s, veterinarians have been formalizing guidelines to protect lab animals by minimizing the number of animals required in these studies, as well as ensuring they have humane treatment, comfortable housing, and that pain is avoided at all costs. Many countries have strict laws that regulate the humane treatment of laboratory animals, requiring vets and technicians to ensure these protocols are carried out properly. A lab animal veterinarian also helps to design and implement protocols that are most appropriate for each species in each study. This is a specialized field in which you can complete a board certification from the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine.
Serve your Feathered, Scaly, and Aquatic Friends
If you’re a general practitioner, no doubt you’ve encountered a worried owner with a beloved critter other than a dog or cat… for some of us that is a terrifying moment of delving into the unknown, but maybe you loved the challenge of treating your first (or only!) Sugar Glider, Lovebird, or Axolotl. If treating them is your passion, you can consider a specialty in avian medicine, exotic companion animals, or reptiles and amphibians. Even if pursuing a board certification is not an option at this time, many practitioners elect to treat these animals in their practices as they gain experience in their care. There are many continuing education opportunities available to learn more about their nuanced medical needs, diseases, husbandry, and surgical considerations.
Sink Your Teeth into Dentistry
You likely encounter dental problems in your patients every day, whether it is simply age-related periodontal disease, traumatic tooth fractures, or congenital malformations. And you’ve certainly seen the relief those pets (and their owners!) experience when their painful dental problems are resolved. It may feel like you could make a whole career strictly out of dentistry given how much time you dedicate to it… and you really can. Check out the British Veterinary Dental Association to learn more. This is also an area of general practice where you can really expand your knowledge base through continuing education courses. With access to basic equipment, including dental radiographs and a high-speed dental drill, you can perform many of the routine procedures to treat common dental ailments and add a whole new skill set to your career.
Care for the Homestead
If you live in an urban or suburban area, you may never have encountered opportunities to care for farm animals. Then along came the pandemic, and with it, a renewed interest in self-sufficiency for many people. This has led to a boom in homesteading, and increased demand for backyard chickens, honeybees, and even small ruminants like goats and sheep. If you’ve been wanting to add some new species to your practice, this may be the perfect opportunity to do so without completely changing jobs (or location!). There are many continuing education opportunities to learn basic husbandry and medical care for these animals. You will also find great resources through professional organizations such as the Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium and the American College of Poultry Veterinarians. You might even get some local honey and fresh eggs out of the deal!
Take Baby Steps
If a total 180-degree career change feels daunting, consider ways to get involved in new opportunities without completely leaving your current role. There are so many ways to get hands-on experience, whether by volunteering, interning, taking a class, and/or picking up the occasional relief shift. That way, you can feel confident in your decision when you decide to take the plunge.
Taking a new path in your career can feel challenging at times, but odds are you didn’t choose a career in Veterinary Medicine because you like to take the easy way out. You did it because you care about animals and put in the hard work and dedication to enhance the quality of their lives and become an expert in their health.
If you truly want to freshen up your veterinary career, now is an excellent time to explore new options and consider making a change…you’ll be so glad you made the decision to hit refresh on your veterinary career!
- About the International Veterinary Forensic Sciences Association – https://www.ivfsa.org/about
- Veterinary Forensic Sciences Online Graduate Programs – https://vetforensics.med.ufl.edu/about/
- A Perspective on Veterinary Forensic Pathology and Medicine in the United Kingdom 2016 – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304714161_A_Perspective_on_Veterinary_Forensic_Pathology_and_Medicine_in_the_United_Kingdom
- AVMA Veterinary Specialties – https://www.avma.org/education/veterinary-specialties
- NAVTA Specialties – https://www.navta.net/page/specialties
- About the American College of Animal Welfare – https://acaw.org/content.aspx?page_id=0&club_id=86378
- APHIS Careers – https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/banner/careers
- Working for APHRA – https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/animal-and-plant-health-agency/about/recruitment
- About the ACVPM – https://acvpm.org/page/about
- History of the ASV – https://www.sheltervet.org/history-of-the-asv
- About AALAS – https://www.aalas.org/about-aalas
- Training Programs in ACLAM – https://www.aclam.org/education-and-training/training-programs
- ABVP Recognized Veterinary Specialties – https://abvp.com/veterinary-certification/recognized-veterinary-specialties/
- BVDA Education – https://bvda.co.uk/education
- Honey Bee Veterinary Consortium – https://www.hbvc.org/content.aspx?page_id=0&club_id=213546
- About the AAAP – https://aaap.memberclicks.net
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