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Veterinarian: How I got my job and where I'm going

Veterinarian Betsy talks about the education and training required to become a veterinarian and how she obtained her first job after vet school. She also talks about the variety of jobs you can pursue with a DVM degree. 

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Video transcript

Growing up I actually was probably the one exception that I did not want to be a veterinarian when I was younger, and it really wasn't until I got to college. I was a biology major. I've always had a passion for science and nature really, and I planned to be pre-med. I thought that I wanted to go into the human healthcare, and really it was throughout my college experience. A couple different jobs within college I worked at a children's zoo in an Australian exhibit. Really just realizing that my passion for animals exceeded anything that I wanted to do on the human healthcare side of things. Within the college I was already pursuing the track of pre-med prerequisites, which is essentially the same for veterinary school, so I was already on that track. To really be a good candidate for vet school, I think actually having some more diversity in your background would work to your advantage. I was a biology major, I think a majority of people have a science background, it's my impression that having more diverse candidates would give you an edge. Having a humanities background, a business background actually. I think a business background would actually really work to your advantage because it's something we get essentially no training with in vet school, so having good grades unfortunately is necessary. It's something that you really need to prove yourself in your grades and your test scores, whether that's the GRE or the MCAT are both accepted at vet school so it depends on which one you apply to, but also demonstrating really varied interest a lot of experience with animals, whether that's in vet clinics themselves, or zoos, rescue organizations, but I think in general they want you to demonstrate that you have varied interests and that you aren't only a scientist. In four years of vet school we learned everything. It's I'd say the first three years are primarily classroom. One year of that is purely clinical, but we're learning starting off with anatomy, physiology, that sort of thing, and then working up to pharmacology, virology, immunology. Really it's daunting we're learning every body system for a variety of species, and there are many similarities, but very profound differences between, say the digestive track between a horse and a cow is profoundly different from a dog or a cat. When we graduate after four years you are very much still looking in a book throughout the day everyday, because you are seeing something you may have never seen before. You have to really go look in a reference and figure out what to do about it and how to treat it, just because within four years there's just no way that you're going to be exposed to everything. You graduate with your DVM degree, and you can choose to go directly into practice. You are qualified, just find someone to hire you basically. I personally didn't feel quite ready to go out into the world quite yet, and so I pursued one additional year of training called an internship. So doing an internship year is very similar to a residency on the human side of things. Similar hours, similar stress level, splitting your time between emergency shifts, working with internal medicine specialists, surgeons, oncologists, cardiologists at a higher level care facility. Usually these are either other veterinary schools or specialty clinics, and you have to apply for those internships. So after my internship in Charlotte, I then applied for jobs, and really sent my resume off just cold to clinics all over the country. I knew I wanted to be in the mountains, so I applied to clinics in Colorado, and California, and Maine, and Vermont, and I really just got lucky just through some connections I had made through my internship. Got an interview with a corporate practice actually in Denver called VCA, which is a nationwide corporate pet hospital. I think they're a bit more inclined to hire newer graduates. They take the chance on us, so I was fortunate to get that job and move out to Denver. Most employers assume that you have the science background, the skills, you learned all that in vet school. They're really looking for what can you bring personality-wise? A lot of us inherently are introverted people. Across the board I see that time and time again. We're very introspective scientists, and yes, having that ability and desire to talk to people, to interact with them, and to extend your community outreach. I mean, I think those are things that veterinarians can lack, and that can be very attractive when you are job searching. Career path for a veterinarian, majority of us, at least in clinical practice, are associate veterinarians, and the growth really comes down to building your client base and having more patients that follow you. There would be the option, depending on what clinic you're working for, to buy into the practice; to be a part owner. That would definitely increase your responsibility, and probably your income as well. Now outside of being a clinical veterinarian like myself, I mean, there are all sorts of other things that veterinarians could be qualified to do working for a number of government agencies: USDA, FDA, on the public health sector. I mean, just all sorts of things that are not working directly with dogs and cats and doing more, epidemiology or food inspection. I'd say the minority of us go into that, but there's a whole nother world out there of things to do with your DVM degree. So my primary goal has always been, I want to make a good living, I want to have a purpose. When I show up to work and do something that I feel is really serving my community, but at the same time I want to go home at the end of the day and live my life and be able to walk away from my job and not have to be stressed and working all the time. I think this is a job that you can walk away at the end of the day. It's also easy not to and to give out your personal email; give out your phone number and receive, really receive messages from people 24 hours a day. It's pretty important to draw that line. I really want to work to live and to be able to spend my time doing things I love with the people I love and not be distracted outside of that. If you're interested in becoming a veterinarian, I think the first thing to do of course is just get involved working with animals. Just making sure that you really, really want to do. I think spending time within a vet clinic itself seeing what the day-to-day job looks like. I think it's something that you very much need to be prepared for the debt that will be associated with school. The average debt for a vet student is around $150,000 and knowing that your starting salary out of school will probably be somewhere around $60,000, so just really being prepared financially to take that on and knowing that it may take a while to pay off those loans.