If you’re a caring person who loves animals, a career as a vet might be just the job for you.
However, while there’s no denying the positives of being a vet are numerous, it’s important to consider all the pros and cons if you’re seriously contemplating a career in the veterinary industry.
The chance to work with your four-legged friends, to help them feel well when they’re sick, to vaccinate them against disease and to educate pet owners on how to best care for their fur pal sounds like a great job doesn’t it? But, as with any role, there are ups and downs. Becoming a vet requires years of training. Once in the role, you’re expected to work long hours. Yes, the pay can be fairly decent but let’s not forget the emotional roller coaster of dealing with ill and injured animals.
So, if you are keen on pursuing a career as a vet, read on to discover some of the key pros and cons.
Image source: Vet Pet Jobs
A career as a vet: PROS
Rewarding – Becoming a vet can be an incredibly gratifying role. Diagnosing, treating and helping our furry pals to feel better can be both satisfying and worthwhile. As a vet you can also educate pet owners and human animal carers on the preventative measures they can take to promote optimum animal wellbeing.
High demand — Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the word; more than 62% of households own a pet. As a result, vets should be in fairly high demand. Indeed, news reports in the last year have referred to the shortage of vets and the high number of roles available.
Versatile — A career as a vet involves more than just treating sick and injured animals. There’s also an education and customer service side to the role, as well as a focus on personal and business development.
Indeed, if you go on to run your own veterinary practice, you will need to hire and manage staff and assist with training and professional development.
Good salary — Being a vet isn’t a badly paid job. In fact, the average vet salary in Australia is $95k a year. Entry-level vet positions start at approximately $59k a year with some experienced vets earning as much as $140k a year.
Working with animals — Of course, if you’re an animal lover, possibly the very best part of working as a vet is being with animals day in day out.
Image source: Vet Pet Jobs
A career as a vet: CONS
Lengthy training — To become a vet you need to complete appropriate training. This is usually a veterinary science degree, which requires five years of full-time study.
Demanding work — Being a vet is physically and mentally demanding. You are likely to work long hours, especially if you’re on call. You might even need to work weekends and much of the job requires standing on your feet, lifting and bending.
There’s also the risk of personal injury. Animals that are sick, injured or feeling anxious can scratch and bite. Indeed, a study  into the prevalence of injuries sustained by Australian veterinarians revealed that of 2800 veterinarians, over half (51%) reported a significant work-related injury during their career. Dog and cat bites, as well as musculoskeletal injuries were common.
Dealing with sickness — While being with animals every day might sound like an awesome career, many of the animals you encounter are likely to be very sick. Treating injured animals can be a highly emotional and upsetting role. Additionally, there may be blood, faeces, infection and unpleasant smells to deal with. Being a vet is certainly not a glamorous job!
Euthanasia — There is no denying the emotional toll of euthanasia on vets is very real. The stress and anxiety that relates to euthanasing animals on a regular basis and dealing with pet owners’ grief can have a significant and devastating impact.
It’s important that anyone wanting a career as a vet recognises the potential impact of euthanasia, knows the warning signs to look out for and is aware of helpful ways in which to deal with the emotional side of performing euthanasia.
Compassion fatigue — Being exposed to heart-wrenching emotional situations and trauma regularly can and does take its toll emotionally. While not unique to vets, compassion fatigue is common among those who work in veterinary practice. Being aware of the condition, knowing the symptoms and the risk factors are an important part of being a vet.
If you enjoyed reading this, take a look at the other posts in this series:
 Fritschi, L et al. Injury in Australian veterinarians. Occupational Medicine (Lond). 2006 May;56(3):199-203. Epub 2006 Feb 21