If you’re an animal lover then chances are that you will have thought about what it takes to become a vet. Veterinarians frequently make an appearance on top ten lists of children’s dream jobs, but there’s also a lot of hard work along the way. Working as a vet can be extremely rewarding, but any potential veterinarians must be prepared to dedicate a lot of time and effort to studying. To become a vet, you will need a degree in veterinary medicine from an approved university, but there are several routes you can take to get there.
If you want to know more about what it takes to become a vet, from qualifications and training to how to find your first veterinary job, read on for our handy guide.
What is a vet?
Veterinary surgeons (often abbreviated to vets for short), look after and maintain the health of animals. This can cover a wide range of services, including operations, prescribing and administering medicines, and treating wounds and illnesses.
The world of veterinary medicine covers a wide range of roles however, and qualified vets can choose to specialise in one in several avenues. You might choose to specialise in treating farm animals, zoo animals or domestic pets, or some vets choose to focus on just one animal, such as horses. Vets aren’t confined to working in a veterinary practice either, you might work on a farm, for an animal charity, for the military or in research and public health.
Education and qualifications
As we’ve mentioned, becoming a vet takes several years of study and hard work. However, many people choose to change careers at a later point in their lives, so if you’re truly passionate then don’t be put off or think that it’s ‘too late’. All vets in the UK must be a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS); this means you’ll need to complete a five year degree at one of the UK’s recognised veterinary colleges. We will describe this in more detail later, but first you’ll need to know what qualifications and skills you need to gain a place on a vet course.
There are several qualification routes you can take to gain the necessary entry requirements, including A levels and vocational qualifications. If you’re choosing to study A levels, a high grade in biology is usually required, alongside two other science related subjects such as chemistry or maths. Many degree courses require AAA at A level, alongside five GCSEs at A* to C grades, including maths, English and science.
If you’re over the age of 19 then you could take an Access to Higher Education Course instead, but be aware that not all vet schools accept Access to HE qualifications. Many do however, and you’ll usually require a distinction with a heavy focus on science subjects. Many people are eligible for loans to cover the cost of these courses, and some colleges will wipe the cost altogether if you go on to successfully complete a degree in veterinary science.
Another route you can take is a vocational qualification like a BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma. This will need to be in a relevant subject such as Applied Science or Animal Management and you may also need to complete additional A levels, depending on the university’s entry requirements.
Finally, some universities accept a degree in another subject as an acceptable entry requirement. In most cases you’ll need at least a 2:1 and a science degree is advantageous. However, some universities now offer change of career programmes which allow graduates of any subject to apply.
Qualifications are vital, but you’ll also need several key skills if you want to become a vet. You’ll need to be relaxed and confident when handling a wide range of animals and calm under pressure. Excellent communication skills are also a must, as well as the ability to communicate sensitively with owners. You’ll also need strong academic ability and great written communication for administrative tasks such as writing emails or reports. It’s also important to be able to distill and explain complex medical knowledge to those who may not have the same qualifications and medical training as you.
Any experience working with animals is advantageous, and the more you have before you apply, the better. Many courses will include experience of working with animals as a requirement, in addition to the qualifications you need. You can contact local veterinary surgeries in your area to enquire about work experience, and don’t be afraid to work in more than one if you have the time.
Ideally, candidates should have experience working in a veterinary practice and further experience or placements in another area, such as a farm, zoo, kennel or cattery.
After you’ve gained the relevant qualifications and experience, you can apply for a place on a veterinary university course. To become an officially qualified vet, you must complete a degree at a university that runs a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) approved course. As it stands, the following universities offer RCVS approved courses:
- University of Bristol
- University of Cambridge
- University of Edinburgh
- University of Glasgow
- University of Liverpool
- University of Nottingham
- Royal Veterinary College London
- University of Surrey
- Keele University & Harper Adams University
Most veterinary courses run for five years, or four if you already have a degree in a relevant science subject. Students will also be expected to complete practical placements known as Extra-mural Studies (EMS) as well as their class time. EMS placements allow students to gain real-life work experience to enhance their university studies and they must complete a minimum of 38 weeks of EMS during their course. This usually consists of 12 weeks pre-clinical and 26 weeks of clinical placements.
How to register with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
After completing their degree, vets will need to register with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) before they can legally practice veterinary medicine in the UK. The application process consists of three steps; first you’ll need to submit a registration form along with the required documents.
You should then receive an email response within three days to confirm that your application has been received and is being processed. You’ll then need to confirm an appointment date and make a new account on the RCVS website to pay the registration fee.
The final stage involves travelling to an appointment at the RCVS offices in London. You’ll need to bring original copies of any requested documents that you submitted in your application and your passport.
Applying for work placements
Once you’re all registered - congratulations! You can now start applying for a role as a vet. As mentioned above, vets don’t necessarily work in a veterinary practice, so where you apply will depend on your interests and whether you’ve chosen to specialise in a certain area e.g farm animals.
It’s a good idea to sign up with a specialist vet recruitment agency, who can help find the right job for you quickly and efficiently. Companies, such as Vet Pro Recruitment, offer comprehensive databases of veterinary vacancies across the UK, and can help match you with the perfect job based on your skills and criteria.
Another advantage of using a professional agency is that they can tailor their services to you and your needs and help you secure a role that’s the perfect fit. You’ll also save a lot of time and energy applying for jobs which might not be a match, and they can help you hone your CV and job interview skills too.
Vet Pro Recruitment - Specialist Recruitment for Vets and Vet Nurses
If you’re looking for ‘vet jobs near me’, get the help and advice you need from the experts at Vet Pro Recruitment. Our highly experienced recruiters are proud to offer friendly, professional and efficient recruitment services, to help you land that perfect job as soon as possible. Whether you’re looking for a veterinary surgeon job or student veterinary nurse jobs, we can help.
For jobseekers, you’ll find a large online database of the latest vacancies, on either a permanent or contract basis. If you’re a veterinary practice looking for the perfect candidate, then we can help with that too. We’ll screen potential candidates quickly and efficiently to ensure we match your practice with the best person for the job and you’ll also have your own recruitment consultant on hand to manage all your needs. For more information about any of our services or to browse our database for the latest jobs, visit our website today or give us a call on 01392 824667.