Career opportunities with a Veterinary Medicine degree

If you’re interested in studying Veterinary Medicine you’ll know that you’ll have a challenging, and sometimes difficult, career ahead of you. However, you’ll also know that the rewards can be big, both emotionally and financially, making it a worthwhile career if you love animals and have a passion for biology.

As a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) member you’ll be required to keep your skills updated throughout your career and you’ll also have plenty of opportunity to study more specialist areas of Veterinary Medicine.

Graduate employment rates for Veterinary Medicine students are excellent, so you shouldn’t find yourself struggling for a job after graduation.

The most obvious career path after graduation is to become a practicing veterinary surgeon, usually as part of a veterinary practice. Many graduates choose to become a general practice vet after graduation to gain further clinical experience before moving on to a more specialist area of Veterinary Medicine.

This doesn’t have to be your only option though, as although there are only 26,000 RCVS members in the UK, there are a number of varied and vital roles within the veterinary profession.

Here’s more about your career opportunities with a Veterinary Medicine degree:

General practice vet

This is the most common career option for graduates with a Veterinary Medicine degree and the reason the majority of students study for their degree.

You’ll be responsible for the prevention of disease and for the medical and surgical treatment of a number of species of animals. This could include household pets, farm animals, horses, or zoo animals.

Most general practice vets work in mixed practices that deal with both small and large animals. In this role you’ll usually offers vaccinations, surgical treatment, health checks, medical treatment and emergency care for a variety of species from hamsters to horses.

Vets that choose to specialise can further their knowledge with additional qualifications offered by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and may move to practices that offer more specialist care than just general animal treatment.

Teaching and research

If you particularly enjoyed the research aspects of studying for your Veterinary Medicine degree then further education might be the right career choice for you.

As a veterinary researcher you’ll carry out vital research in our understanding of diseases. The work of researchers influences a variety of industries including food production and comparative investigations could influence studies into human diseases and medical care.

There are a number of places that research is carried out including universities, research institutes, Government financed departments, and private enterprises.

Many researchers then combine their work with teaching other veterinary and medical professionals about their specialist area of research.

Public sector work

There are a number of opportunities within Government departments that involve protecting public health or working within agencies such as the Food Standards Agency or the Department for Environmental, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

You could find yourself advising Government ministers on new policies or talking to medical journalists about the latest advances in research that could impact how we treat human diseases such as Cancer.

Alternative career opportunities

If none of the above options appeal to you then there are other alternatives that will use your Veterinary Medicine degree.

These opportunities include:

  • Pharmaceutical sales
  • Charitable organisations (RSPCA etc.)
  • International animal aid organisations
  • Wildlife organisations
  • Environmental organisations

I don’t know what I want to do when I graduate, have you got any advice?

There’s still plenty of time to decide where you might like to specialise once you’ve graduated and even if you do know what you want to do, you might change your mind.

The best advice we can give is to get as much work experience in different areas of Veterinary Medicine as possible. By doing work experience placements you might discover an area that you’d never considered before or you might realise that the area you thought you wanted to specialise in isn’t right for you.

For example, you might discover that small animal practice is just endless vaccinations and castrations and isn’t for you. Alternatively, you might never have considered working with zoo animals before, and after a work experience placement decide you have a passion for penguins!