Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.
One of the first and most important decisions we make as pet owners is deciding who we will trust with our pets’ medical care. Veterinarians care for our pets in sickness and in health for as long as they live. Have you ever wondered what kinds of veterinarians are out there and what they do?
Many people think veterinarians spend all day snuggling cute puppies and kittens, but the truth is that being a veterinarian is a stressful and demanding job, although it can also be very rewarding. Here are some facts and statistics about the types of veterinarians, what jobs they do, and how to become a veterinarian.
Here, we noted the types of veterinarians and facts on what they do. Click the type below if you want to quickly access a certain topic:
The 20 Statistics About Types of Veterinarians
- There were 126,138 veterinary positions held in the U.S. at the end of 2020.
- More than 75,000 veterinarians are employed in private practices.
- Just over 17,000 vets work in public or corporate positions.
- Veterinarians generally fall into 5 different categories: companion animal, exotic animal, food and livestock, laboratory, and veterinary specialists.
- The job outlook for veterinarians is expected to grow by 17% over the next 10 years.
- Americans are estimated to spend about 32.3 billion dollars on vet care and products in 2021.
- There are 32 accredited veterinary schools in the U.S.
- About 75% of veterinarians work as companion animal veterinarians.
- About 12,500 vets work in large animal or mixed large and small animal practices.
- About 3,200 veterinarians work for the federal government.
- There are 22 different veterinary specialty organizations and 41 different veterinary specialist certifications.
- The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine has the most specialists: 3,121
- Ophthalmology is the highest-paid veterinary specialty.
- The first veterinary specialty was Veterinary Pathology, established in 1949.
- To become a specialist, veterinarians must complete 3-4 years of additional training after vet school.
- The average pay for veterinarians is $99,250 per year.
- The average cost of 4 years of vet school is $200,000 for in-state schools and $275,000 for out of state.
- Most veterinarians work over 40 hours per week.
- More veterinary professionals are injured on the job than firefighters or police officers.
- Veterinarians are more likely to commit suicide than the general population.
The Big Picture: Facts About Veterinarians and The Veterinary Industry In The U.S.
1. There were 126,138 veterinary positions held in the U.S. at the end of 2020.
This includes veterinarians employed at private, academic, corporate, and government jobs, as well as those whose employment type was unknown.
2. More than 75,000 veterinarians are employed in private practices.
This includes companion animals, exotics, equine, livestock, and mixed animal veterinary practices. 62% of private practice veterinarians are female and 38% are male.
3. Just over 17,000 vets work in public or corporate positions.
The majority of these veterinarians (41%) are employed by colleges or universities. The next highest (21%) work in industrial positions. This category also includes vets who work in state, local, and federal government positions.
4. Types of veterinarians generally fall into 5 basic categories: companion animal, exotic animal, food and livestock, laboratory, and veterinary specialists.
(St. George’s University)
The majority of veterinarians work as companion animal vets, taking care of dogs and cats. Large animal veterinarians care for animals directly and also play an important role in food safety. Exotic animal veterinarians may work in special, exotic-only practices or see exotics as part of their companion animal practice. Laboratory vets work primarily in research. Veterinary specialists receive additional training and certification in specific areas of veterinary medicine.
5. The job outlook for veterinarians is expected to grow by 17% over the next 10 years.
The average job growth across all professions is 8%, meaning veterinarians are expected to grow at about twice the average rate. There will likely be about 4,400 new job openings for veterinarians on average per year from 2020-2030, both as a result of increased demand and older veterinarians retiring.
6. Americans are estimated to spend about 32.3 billion dollars on vet care and products in 2022.
Overall, Americans are expected to spend 109.6 billion dollars on their pets in 2022. Veterinary care and products are the second largest area of expense, after food and treats.
7. There are 32 accredited veterinary schools in the U.S.
Vet schools are located in 28 U.S. states. At a minimum, a veterinarian must complete 4 years of training at one of these accredited veterinary schools before starting in practice.
Types Of Veterinarians: Specific Facts And Stats
8. About 75% of veterinarians work as companion animal veterinarians.
(St. George’s University)
Companion animal veterinarians are similar to the family doctor, or general practitioner, in human medicine. They perform wellness checks and preventative medicine, treat a variety of injuries and illnesses, and carry out basic surgical procedures. Most veterinarians fall into this category.
9. About 12,500 vets work in large animal or mixed large and small animal practices.
This includes vets who see only horses as well as those who care for poultry and livestock. There is a shortage of this type of veterinarian in rural areas of the country, and this is projected to get worse over the next 10 years.
10. About 3,200 veterinarians work for the federal government.
Federal veterinarians work for the Department of Agriculture, for the FDA in food safety work and drug development, and the military. Even some members of Congress have been veterinarians!
11. There are 22 different veterinary specialty organizations and 41 different veterinary specialist certifications.
Veterinarians can complete additional training in many different areas including emergency and critical care, dentistry, surgery, radiology, and behavioral medicine. Veterinary specialists primarily work at specialty veterinary hospitals or teach at veterinary schools.
12. The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine has the most specialists: 3,121
This specialty board certifies several different veterinary specialists including those who specialize in treating cancer, heart, brain, and spine disorders, as well as internal medicine itself.
13. Ophthalmology is the highest-paid veterinary specialty.
On average, veterinary specialists make more than veterinarians without specialized training. Of the veterinary specialists, ophthalmologists (eye doctors) are the highest paid, averaging around $200,000+ per year.
14. The first veterinary specialty was Veterinary Pathology, established in 1949.
The concept of veterinary specialists has only been around since the mid-20th century. Veterinary pathologists study diseases and drugs and develop new research methods and treatments.
15. To become a specialist, veterinarians must complete 3-5 years of additional training after vet school.
Each veterinary specialty has its requirements for training and certification. Generally, veterinary specialists will complete an internship (1-2 years long) after vet school. They will then complete a residency in their chosen specialty, usually 3-4 years long. After the residency, they must pass a difficult certification exam before officially earning the title of a veterinary specialist.
The Costs of Being A Veterinarian: Financially, Physically, and Emotionally
16. The average pay for veterinarians is $99,250 per year.
The highest paying state for veterinarians in 2020 was New Jersey at $128,430 per year. The lowest paying was Oklahoma, at $79,130. Wages also vary by whether veterinarians are practicing in rural areas or cities, as well as by size and type of veterinary practice.
17. The average cost of 4 years of vet school is $200,000 for in-state schools and $275,000 for out of state.
In 2020, vet school graduates reported owing an average of nearly $200,000 in vet school debt alone. This doesn’t include the money they already owed on undergraduate tuition. New veterinarians may start out owing twice what they are making in salary each year.
18. Most veterinarians work over 40 hours per week.
Being a veterinarian is rarely a 9am to 5pm job. Veterinarians often work long, inconsistent schedules. Many also have to see emergencies outside of normal working hours. Veterinarians often have to work weekends and holidays as well, especially those who work in emergency clinics.
19. More veterinary professionals are injured on the job than firefighters or police officers.
Veterinarians are at risk of being bitten, kicked, or scratched by their patients. They are also exposed to radiation from X-rays and dangerous drugs like chemotherapy. Many diseases can also pass from their animal patients to the veterinarian. On top of these, veterinarians can suffer physical pain from being on their feet for long hours, bending over surgery and exam tables, and lifting or restraining large and unruly patients.
20. Veterinarians are more likely to commit suicide than the general population.
A study found that both male and female veterinarians were more likely to commit suicide than was the general population. Job and financial stress are high among veterinarians. In addition, vets are more likely to have access to lethal drugs.
I want to become a veterinarian. Where do I start?
As we’ve discussed, becoming a veterinarian is a significant commitment of both time and money.
Potential future veterinarians should try to familiarize themselves with the profession as much as possible. Ask your local veterinarian if you can shadow them or even get a job working in their office.
Every vet school has different requirements for admission. Most require a mix of academic classes and hands-on experience. Admission to vet school is very competitive.
Do you need an undergraduate degree before applying to vet school?
Not every vet school requires an undergraduate degree. Check with the individual schools you are considering to find out for sure.
Every successful veterinarian needs a good staff! If you don’t think being a veterinarian is for you, consider becoming a veterinary technician or assistant. You could also work in an animal shelter or consider a career as a trainer or groomer. Animal lovers will find many ways to earn a living besides being a veterinarian.
Why might my pet need to see a veterinary specialist?
As we learned, most veterinarians are similar to general practice doctors in human medicine. They have a lot of general knowledge about caring for pets but in some areas, it is only the bare minimum.
Sometimes, your pet may have a disease or condition that your regular veterinarian is not as knowledgeable about. Similarly, your pet may need a certain test that your veterinarian can’t perform at their practice. In these cases, your vet may send you to a veterinary specialist.
You can also ask to be referred to a specialist if you’re concerned about your pet or would just feel more comfortable working with one to manage your pet’s particular medical condition.
As you can see, veterinarians perform a variety of different jobs and work in many different places. While the profession isn’t always the easiest, veterinarians play a vital role in both animal and human health. The next time you take your pet to the veterinarian, you’ll know a little more about all the training and effort they put into learning their job.
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