Clinical Veterinarian: Job & Career Information

Oct 20, 2021

Job Description for a Clinical Veterinarian

A clinical veterinarian diagnoses and treats pets, animals, and livestock. Veterinarians also do research to improve the spectrum of knowledge on animal biology and animal science. Clinical veterinarians help animals with health problems, diseases, infections, illnesses, wounds, and fractures.

Education Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree
Licensing and Certification State licensure required; voluntary specialty certification available
Job Skills Diagnostic and surgical skills, communication skills, business and money management skills
Median Salary (2019)* $95,460 for veterinarians
Job Growth (2019-2029)* 16% growth for veterinarians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Clinical veterinarians must receive a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from an accredited 4-year program at a college of veterinary medicine. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 30 colleges in the U.S. that meet accreditation standards. A portion of the curriculum includes zoology, microbiology, embryology, vertebrates, genetics, and animal nutrition coursework. Laboratory and clinical training are also necessary. After earning their DVM, veterinarians commonly complete internships to gain additional and/or specialized experience.

Licensing and Certification

After graduating from an accredited program, veterinarians must acquire their state license in order to practice, which involves passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam and typically also passing a state-specific exam. Specialized knowledge in an area of veterinary medicine and multiple years of experience or additional formal training may prepare veterinarians to earn voluntary certification.

Job Skills

A clinical veterinarian is required to have diagnostic and surgical skills. Thorough knowledge of a large variety of animals is essential. Often pet owners are very emotional when bringing in their pets, and it is important for veterinarians to have excellent communication skills. Because most clinical veterinarians manage their own practice, business and money management skills are very beneficial.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most clinical veterinarians work in private clinics and hospitals. The BLS projected employment opportunities for veterinarians would increase by 16% between 2019 and 2029, which would add 14,200 new jobs. The BLS published the median annual salary of veterinarians as $95,460 in May 2019.

Alternative Career Options

If you would prefer to work with animals but don't want to go through as much school, check out these other career choices:

Veterinary Assistant or Laboratory Animal Caretaker

Working with veterinarians, assistants and caretakers perform a variety of tasks, such as monitoring animals, helping with surgical procedures and bathing animals. While they usually learn on the job, a high school diploma is necessary. These workers may pursue professional certification. The career outlook for this category was 16% growth from 2019 to 2029, based on BLS data. In 2019, the median salary was $28,590 for these professionals.

Veterinary Technologist or Technician

Depending on whether the goal is to become a technologist or technician, a 4-year or 2-year training program is required, respectively. Many technologists and technicians become certified. Their job duties are similar to that of veterinary assistants, but technologists focus more on research, while technicians handle laboratory-related tasks, like testing. According to the BLS, this career option could experience much faster-than-average job growth of 16% from 2019-2029. The median salary was $35,320 in 2019.

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