The role: Veterinarians provide care to domestic pets at local animal hospitals, but they also work in a number of other settings, treating livestock on farms and ranches, carrying out inspections at food processing plants and conducting research at public and private research labs. "We are trained to protect the health of animals and the health of humans," says Dr. Jim Berry, president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA).
Salary: Starts at about $60,000 to $80,000 and can increase, depending on experience and type of practice.
Education: Vets in Canada need a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree, which is offered at five schools across Canada. The program is six or seven years in length, depending on which school you attend. For example, at the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph, students need three years of preveterinary study, followed by the four-year veterinarian program.
By the numbers: There are about 12,500 veterinarians in Canada, according to the CVMA. About 75 per cent of them work in private practice. Another 10 per cent work for governments, 6 per cent in industry, 5 per cent in teaching, training and research, and 4 per cent in other fields such as non-governmental organizations.
Job prospects: There is a high demand for veterinarians across Canada. About 97 per cent of students who graduated in 2013 have jobs in the industry, according to a survey done by the CVMA. Dr. Berry says most of the job openings are in rural settings or with government. He says it's more difficult to get a job at a private practice in many Canadian cities. That's because the economy is still fairly weak and people aren't spending as much on the health care of their pets.
Challenges: Having to euthanize animals is a difficult part of the job for some veterinarians. Long hours, stress and "compassion fatigue" are also challenges when having to deal with ailing pets and their owners.
Why they do it: Vets obviously like to work with animals, but they're also interested in science, medicine and problem solving, Dr. Berry says. There are also a number of different job opportunities available and opportunities to work abroad.
Misconceptions: It's not just about taking care of cats and dogs. Dr. Berry says the profession is broad-based. "We are involved in every aspect of the animal industry; government food inspections, food quality … the pet food industry, pharmaceuticals and research, laboratory testing, it goes on." Veterinarians also work with large farm animals like cows, pigs and horses, as well as wildlife and marine animals, he says.
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