How To Become a Veterinary Doctor (With Skills and FAQs)

Updated 29 August 2023

A veterinary doctor helps animals heal from injuries, manage their health conditions or maintain overall wellness. Also called veterinarians or vets, these doctors often feel rewarded by their careers because they are improving an animal's quality of life. If you enjoy science and spending time with animals, you might like a career as a veterinarian. In this article, we will discuss how to become a veterinary doctor, what their average salary is and what skills they need to excel in their career.

Related: Guide: How To Choose a Career

How to become a veterinary doctor

Here are 6 steps on how to become a veterinary doctor:

1. Complete higher secondary education or join a diploma course after 10th

You must complete your 10+2 with physics, chemistry and biology to be eligible to get admission to a veterinary college. Many colleges have a minimum marks requirement, which could be anywhere between 50% and 60%.

Alternatively, after class 10, you can pursue a veterinary diploma course. These diploma programmes offer specialisation in veterinary science or animal husbandry, which is the science of caring for farm animals.

2. Take the NEET exam

Apply for and complete the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET). All medical courses in India require candidates to take the NEET before being admitted. You can sit the NEET exam after finishing either class 12 or your veterinary diploma programme.

3. Get a bachelor's degree

Once you have cleared the NEET exam, you can get admission to a veterinary college for a bachelor's degree course in veterinary science and animal husbandry (B.V.Sc. & AH). The course usually covers subjects like:

  • Veterinary pathology

  • Animal genetics and breeding

  • Veterinary surgery and radiology

  • Animal husbandry

  • Veterinary medicine

  • Animal nutrition

  • Veterinary gynaecology and obstetrics

  • Veterinary parasitology

  • Veterinary microbiology

4. Pursue a master's or doctorate degree

Get a master's or doctorate degree in veterinary sciences or a related course. You do not need a master's or doctorate degree to become a veterinary doctor. However, a Master of Science (M.Sc), Master of Veterinary Science (M.V.Sc) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree may help you advance your veterinary career.

5. Receive a license

Apply for a veterinary license. The exact licensure requirements vary depending on where you plan to practise veterinary medicine. You may first need to complete a regional or national exam and pay a licensing fee.

Related: Veterinary Assistant Resume Samples (Plus Tips And Skills)

6. Pursue a specialisation

Complete a certification programme for a veterinary specialisation. If you want to specialise in a type of veterinary medicine, such as surgery or dentistry, consider pursuing a speciality certification. To complete a certification programme, you may first need a few years of experience as a veterinary doctor.

Related: Tips On How To Work Hard for a Successful Career

What does a veterinarian do?

A veterinarian helps animals recover from diseases, heal from injuries, manage health conditions and maintain overall health. Their duties vary based on what type of veterinarian medicine they specialise in, but may include:

  • Diagnosing medical conditions or illnesses in animals

  • Prescribing medications or assigning treatment methods

  • Conducting diagnostic tests, such as x-rays and ultrasounds

  • Analysing the results of medical tests, such as of an animal's blood or urine

  • Giving owners instructions on how to care for their animals

  • Administering vaccinations

  • Dressing wounds or setting fractures

  • Performing surgeries

Salary for veterinary doctors

Veterinarians make an average of ₹5,87,269 per year. However, your actual salary will depend on many factors, such as your years of experience, education level, specialisation and location. For example, New Delhi is one of the highest-paying cities for veterinarians. The average salary of a veterinary doctor in New Delhi is ₹11,41,902 per year.

Related: Gross Income: What Is It and How To Calculate It Per Month

Skills for veterinarians

Skills that veterinary doctors or candidates can benefit from developing include:

  • Knowledge of animal science and healthcare: you must have a thorough understanding of the various sciences and medical practices related to animal healthcare. This includes animal anatomy, nutrition, pathology and microbiology.

  • Empathy: veterinarians treat animals with a variety of personalities and medical needs. You should show compassion both to the animals and their owners.

  • Teamwork: most veterinarians work with a team of veterinary assistants, technicians and other animal healthcare professionals. As a vet, you will often need to use your teamwork skills, such as listening actively to others, in order to successfully collaborate and work alongside your team members.

  • Leadership: veterinarians are typically the leaders of a veterinary team. You will often need to lead your team by delegating tasks, communicating clearly and supporting other medical professionals.

  • Analytical skills: vets need to observe minor details and evaluate those details to diagnose and treat animals. Since animals cannot speak, this often includes noticing and analysing an animal's body language, posture or behaviour.

  • Willingness to learn: veterinary medicine is a continually evolving field. As such, you should be willing to continue learning new veterinary practices, techniques and information throughout your career.

  • Communication: as part of your job, you will often need to communicate your treatment instructions and medical updates concisely to an animal's owner or caregiver. You also need to give clear directions to your vet technicians and assistants.

  • Physical stamina: a veterinary doctor may spend most of their shift on their feet, so they need to have physical endurance skills. Some doctors also need physical strength to move or pick up larger or heavier animals.

  • Technology skills: you may need to operate diagnostic tools and technology, such as radiographs and x-ray machines. You may use technology during some animal surgeries.

Related: Importance of Soft Skills in the Workplace

Types of veterinary doctors

Here are some of the main types of veterinarians:

  • Companion animal vet doctors: a companion animal vet is what many people think of when they hear the word veterinarian. Companion animal vet doctors typically work in animal hospitals or clinics and treat pet animals such as cats, dogs, rabbits and birds.

  • Food animals veterinarians: a food animals vet helps animals that live on farms, like cows, goats, pigs and sheep. Food animals veterinarians may travel around to various ranches, farms and other extensive properties to bring veterinary care directly to these larger animals.

  • Veterinary dermatologist: a veterinary dermatologist specialises in animal skin conditions. They help diagnose and treat various animal skin conditions through medical procedures such as biopsies, skin scrapings and cultures.

  • Research veterinary doctors: a research veterinarian conducts clinical animal research in a laboratory. Research veterinary doctors help find new drugs, surgeries and other treatments to help various animal medical issues and conditions.

  • Food safety and inspection veterinarians: food safety and inspection veterinary doctors ensure that food animals, such as cows or pigs, remain free of diseases that could infect humans. These professionals may administer vaccines to animals, test livestock and animals products for transmissible diseases or perform inspections.

  • Equine veterinary doctors: this type of vet doctor specialises in treating horses, as horses have unique health, dietary and fitness needs. Equine doctors provide medical care to horses and help mitigate the rapid spread of disease among horses living in stables or on farms.

FAQs about veterinarians

Here are some frequently asked questions about becoming a veterinary doctor:

How many years does it take to become a veterinary doctor?

It typically takes about eight years to become a veterinarian. Completing a B.V.Sc usually takes around four years. Veterinary candidates typically need another four years to complete their DVM program.

Is NEET required to become a veterinarian?

You do need to take the NEET exam to become a veterinary doctor in India, as all medical courses in the country require this exam. However, if you plan to receive your bachelor's degree abroad, you may not need to complete the NEET. Check the specific admission requirements for the schools you want to apply to and the licensure requirements for the nation where you plan to practise veterinary medicine.

Is becoming a veterinarian harder than earning an MBBS?

Pursuing a veterinarian career and earning a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree can both be challenging. The courses to become either a veterinarian or a doctor for humans teach candidates about complex medical subjects, such as anatomy and pharmacology. Both courses also can last longer than some other degrees, with veterinary school typically lasting four years and medical school lasting five.

Since both getting an MBBS or a DVM can provide challenges, think about which career you would find more rewarding. If you want to work with animals, you may prefer a career as a veterinary doctor. However, if you are more interested in helping people, consider becoming a doctor for humans.

Related: Veterinarian Skills: Definition And Ways To Improve Them)

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing

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