So, you want to be a veterinarian…
Part of my job as the Resident Veterinarian at Broadview is to chat with potential students. Usually I talk to them about our program, the rigor, hands-on experience, etc. Lately, there have been a few students that have wanted to chat with me because they can’t decide if they want to be a veterinarian or a veterinary technician.
I have to admit, that I’m always perplexed when I get this question. Usually, the people asking it are young, and bright eyed. I can tell that most of them have this idea that becoming a veterinarian is easy, fun, and involves lots of time spend petting and cuddling kitties and puppies that are cute and fluffy. I want to tell them that deciding between being a veterinarian or a technician is somewhat like wanting to be a nurse OR a doctor. That is not to put down nurses or technicians…if you think I don’t hold my technicians in high regard, then read my last post.
Here’s the thing though…it is HARD to become a veterinarian. It depresses me and sometimes infuriates me that many people in the general public have no idea what we go through to earn our degree. I swear that some of them think we got it online from some random school in Mexico, or that we went through a two year program at a trade school. This must be why they think that or knowledge is equal to or less than the supposed knowledge of the kid working at PetCo or their breeder, or some whackadoo that posted stuff on the internet.
Let me repeat…it is hard to become a veterinarian. It takes AT LEAST 8 years of schooling…four of undergraduate work and four of veterinary school. Your undergraduate work often must include classes such as Microbiology, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Anatomy, etc. Then, you have to apply to veterinary school. To this day I sometimes think I bamboozled the admissions people at Colorado State, because I know of several highly intelligent, talented, awesome people that applied to vet school many times and were not accepted.
If you do get into vet school, you can expect four years of long hours hitting the books. You have to cram knowledge of the anatomy, physiology, disease processes, behavior, pharmacology, etc. of dogs, cats, horses, cattle, exotics, etc. into four years of schooling.
Guess what? Dogs are not humans wearing a fur coat, and cats are not small dogs. Even when you compare dogs and cats, they have different diseases, react differently to medications, and even have differences in their anatomy. For example…dogs can get HYPOthyroidism, which is a disease of low thyroid hormone production. Cats can get HYPERthyroidism, which is a disease of too much thyroid production. They are two separate diseases, treated completely differently.
Once you graduate from veterinary school, these days you are considered fortunate if you can land a job that pays you enough salary to cover the massive student debt you have incurred. Contrary to popular belief…veterinarians are not rich money grubbers. For example, the standard salary a brand new veterinarian can expect is generally between 40,000-50,000 a year. That sounds pretty decent, but consider that many vet students have hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans to pay off. AND they went to school for 8 years. AND they are a doctor.
As a practicing veterinarian, you work long hours. You deal with clients that think you are only after their money. You deal with clients that think their breeder knows way more than you do. You deal with clients that think it is awesome that their rotten, unsocialized, unneutered dog wants to eat your head.
Also, you deal with death. You deal with death on almost a daily basis. You play with the cute fuzzy animals as a way to keep your sanity on the days you have euthanized 8 animals and diagnosed others with untreatable disease.
I realize I have just spent this entire post knocking the profession I am in. I actually happen to love being a veterinarian. I really do this to help animals and their people. I love doing surgery, diagnosing disease, and being there for grieving clients. I happen to be fortunate enough that my student loans are not killing me.
I just wish more people understood what this profession is like. If you are a fellow vet and you are reading this, you understand exactly what I am talking about. If you are not a veterinarian, please be kind to your vet the next time you take your animals to see them. Remember the hard work and long hours they put in. When they give you a treatment plan, please remember that they are doing what is best for the health of your pet. They are not lining their pockets…they are trying to make living enough to eat and save a little.
If you are someone that wants to be a veterinarian, read this post about 5 times. Then read the other ones, especially “Communicating with the Crazies,” “The Unanswerable Question” and “The thing I hate about being a veterinarian.” Then go volunteer at a veterinary clinic for a few months. Research the cost of veterinary school vs. the salary you will make, and make sure it is something that won’t bankrupt you. If, after all of that, you still want to be a vet….then go for it with everything you have.
This is a worthy, noble profession to go into. Just make sure you fully understand what it will be like before you take that jump.