Job Description:

Vets diagnose and treat sick or injured animals.

Job Category:
Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing

What you will do:

You could work in general practice, or for a public and animal health departments. You could also work in teaching or research.

In general veterinary practice your day-to-day tasks will include:

  • diagnosing and treating sick and injured animals
  • performing operations
  • carrying out tests such as blood analysis, X-rays and scans
  • providing care for an animal in veterinary hospitals
  • carrying out regular health checks and giving vaccinations
  • checking farm animals and advising how to stop diseases spreading
  • supervising veterinary nurses and support staff (leadership skills)
  • keeping records of treatments
  • communicating with pet owners and insurers
  • neutering animals to stop them breeding
  • putting severely injured or terminally ill animals to sleep

In public health, your day-to-day tasks will include investigating human and animal disease outbreaks like foot and mouth disease.

As a vet in industry, you’ll develop and test drugs, chemicals and biological products. You may also check hygiene and care in stables, kennels or pet shops.

You’ll follow public health and hygiene laws.


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of animal medicine and dentistry
  • knowledge of biology
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • customer service skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations (adaptability skills)
  • the ability to work well with your hands
  • the ability to use your judgement and make decisions
  • management and business skills (organisational skills)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a veterinarian (vet) in the UK, you need to complete a university degree in veterinary science. Specific subject requirements may vary slightly between veterinary schools, but generally, you’ll need to have a strong foundation in science and related subjects. Here are some typical subjects that are relevant to pursuing a career as a vet:

  1. Biology: This subject is typically essential for a veterinary degree. You should aim for a strong foundation in biological concepts and processes.
  2. Chemistry: Chemistry is another key subject. Veterinary science involves understanding chemical processes within the body and how they relate to health and disease.
  3. Physics: While physics is not always a strict requirement, it can be beneficial as it provides a basis for understanding some aspects of animal physiology and medical equipment.
  4. Mathematics: Mathematics skills are important for analyzing data, measurements, and performing drug dosage calculations.
  5. English: Good communication skills, including writing and speaking, are important for any healthcare profession, including veterinary medicine.

Post School

You’ll need to:

  • have a veterinary degree (in the UK this needs to be approved by the RCVS)

You will also need to be registered with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) to practise in the UK. These types of requirements will vary from country to country.

Full-time degrees usually take 5-6 years. If you already have a degree in a subject related to veterinary science, you may be able to take a 4-year degree course.

Entry to courses is highly competitive. For this reason the selection process is very thorough. You can expect to be interviewed and to take screening tests at most universities. You’ll need to show that:

  • you are able to meet the academic requirements of the course
  • you understand what the role involves
  • that you are highly motivated
  • that you have gained some relevant work experience

Working Hours and Environment:

At a vets’ practice you’ll usually work about 43 hours a week. You could also be on call, day or night.

The job is physically demanding.

You may work outdoors if you’re treating farm animals or horses.

Career Path & Progression:

You could focus on treating particular animals, or specialise in areas such as dermatology or cardiology, by taking postgraduate courses.

In the UK, you could join the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) if you work with horses.

Experience in veterinary surgery could also help you to get a job in environmental conservation.

You could also move into a career in research and teaching with a university or research body.