How Long Does It Take to Become a Vet? (With Skills and Education)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you love animals and wish to pursue a career in the medical field, then being a veterinarian may be a suitable career choice. Becoming a veterinarian requires a lot of education, hard work and dedication, but for those passionate about animals, it can be worth the effort and time. Before pursuing this career path, it's important to understand the qualifications and skills required to become a successful veterinarian. In this article, we answer the question, "how long does it take to become a vet?" and highlight the qualifications, experience and skills required to become a veterinarian.

How long does it take to become a vet?

If you're interested in beginning a career as a veterinarian, consider learning the answer to the question "how long does it take to become a vet?" It's important to remember that most of the courses in the field of medical science require several years of education and hands-on experience. It may take a minimum of six to eight years to complete your degree and start your career, but it can take more depending on the skills and certifications you're trying to acquire.

With six years of higher education, you can earn a bachelor's degree in veterinary medicine. If you wish to pursue a more senior research role, you can also pursue a doctorate in veterinary medicine. It may take three to four years to complete this degree, depending on your background. As you gain experience on the job, you may be interested in selecting a specialisation. This may require additional training and can take two or more years of schooling before you can practise as a specialised veterinarian.

Read more: How to Become a Vet in 7 Steps (With Salary and Skills)

What is a veterinarian?

A veterinarian, or vet, is a medical professional who practises veterinary medicine by treating diseases, injuries and disorders in animals. They study animal medicine in school and can treat many types of animals. In addition, veterinarians practise preventative treatment such as regular check-ups, treat sick animals with medication and perform surgery on animals if required. They also offer advice to pet owners on proper care of their pets and livestock.

Veterinarians can work in various work environments. They offer their services in private practice, research, teaching, government service, public health, military service and private industry. While some veterinarians involve themselves in education, others conduct basic and clinical research, contribute to scientific publications and create educational programmes to help graduate veterinarians gain new skills and knowledge. Veterinarians also work in public health to help prevent and contain animal and human diseases and promote good health. Veterinarians involved in environmental health programmes evaluate and study the effects of various contaminants, pesticides and industrial pollutants on people and animals.

Read more: 16 of the Highest Paying Animal Careers (With Job Duties)

How to become a veterinarian

Here are the typical steps to become a veterinarian:

1. Complete your high school education

During your high school education, focus on subjects like science and maths. If possible, take advanced level classes in these fields to increase your knowledge. Having a strong foundation in the sciences can help you build a solid career as a veterinarian.

Read more: Science Career List: 14 Jobs to Consider (With Salaries)

2. Earn a bachelor's degree in Veterinary Medicine

The next step would be to complete your bachelor's degree from an accredited institution recognised by the Veterinary Surgeons Board of Hong Kong (VSBHK). This provides you with a bachelor's degree in veterinary medicine (BVM). This programme requires around six years of intensive study to earn your degree and the maximum study period is eight years. Some common courses in the programme include animal welfare, aquatic animal health, food safety and emerging infectious diseases.

3. Complete further studies

If you're interested in advancing your skills and knowledge in the field of veterinary science, consider applying for a PhD in veterinary medicine. This programme aims to provide you with an understanding of advanced developments in the field of biology, veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences. Earning this credential also helps you to meet local and regional requirements in the industrial, government, commercial or education sectors. Students who possess a master's degree usually take three to four years to complete a PhD, while students without a master's degree can take four years to complete their PhD.

4. Register with the Veterinary Surgeons Board of Hong Kong

Before you can practise veterinary medicine, employers require you to register with the VSBHK. Registration with the Board allows you to diagnose and treat animal injuries and ailments legally. The Board requires veterinarians to complete at least 40 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) credit points over two years to ensure their continuing competency.

5. Undertake an internship

Many vets prefer to undertake an internship with a seasoned veterinarian once they earn their license. These internship experiences can provide recent graduates with practical knowledge and guidance before they begin working independently at a clinic or private practice. Most internships last for about a year.

6. Become specialised

Similar to traditional medicine, vets can also specialise in areas such as surgery and anaesthesia. Most veterinarians earn their specialisation after practising for a year or two. However, a specialisation programme can take about two to three years to complete, depending on what your discipline is. Though specialisation is not mandatory for vets, many choose to specialise to increase their job opportunities and salary. Here are some common areas of specialisation for a veterinarian:

  • toxicology

  • anaesthesia

  • surgery

  • dentistry

  • behaviourism

  • clinical pharmacology

  • laboratory medicine

  • poultry

  • dermatology

  • internal medicine

  • microbiology

  • nutrition

Average salary of vets

Veterinary medicine can be a rewarding and enjoyable career option. Individual veterinarian salaries depend on location, type of practice, years of experience and educational qualifications. On average, a veterinarian can earn a salary of $63,641 per month, according to Indeed Salaries.

Skills and qualities required for a veterinarian

Veterinarians often share a wide range of skills and qualities that make them ideal candidates for their job. Successful veterinarians are often:

Animal lovers

Being an animal lover is a primary quality required for a veterinarian. They typically love and show care for many types of animals. Often, veterinarians treat a range of patients, so it's essential that they enjoy being in the presence of pets and animals.

Compassionate

Many people consider their pets as close family members, so veterinarians require compassion and empathy when working with clients and their pets. To do this, consider being mindful of the pet owner's feelings when examining their pet's medical condition. You can also use positive language while offering realistic information about their pet's medical condition.

Organised

Being organised is very critical in the role of a veterinary doctor. In addition to seeing patients, you may also be responsible for office management and other administrative practices. This is especially important if you're leading a team of veterinarians. In such situations, being organised can help you manage a business while maintaining your veterinary job duties.

Managerial

Experienced veterinarians may choose to open their own private clinic. They may employ several team members for assisting in routine procedures, helping with checking in patients and scheduling and handling phone calls. A veterinarian's job duties may include overseeing daily operations, hiring and training staff members, delegating work, keeping track of appointments and following safety protocols.

Read more: What Does a Veterinary Assistant Do? (With Career FAQs)

Aware of and able to follow safety procedures

In their role, veterinarians are often at risk of being scratched, bitten or kicked by animals. Following specific safety procedures can help them prevent injuries while performing their duties. For instance, they can understand the warning signs of animals and how to safely diffuse any unsafe situations.

Read more: Important Soft Skills Employers in Hong Kong Look For

Analytical thinkers

Unlike human beings, animals are unable to communicate their pain and share what's bothering them. In such situations, veterinarians look at the information and data available to them to understand what troubles the animal and what treatment to employ. Keenly observing and evaluating the animal's situation and behaviour can help them understand their issues. They can also conduct tests such as blood work and stool samples to get an in-depth understanding of the animal's condition.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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