Home page


At a Glance

  • Work with all types of animals, including healthy ones!
  • Usually specialize in pets or livestock
  • Deal with animal owners as much as they deal with animals
  • Often wear safety gear, such as masks and gloves
  • Often work long hours
  • Need a license
  • Training usually lasts six to eight years after high school

Career summary

Veterinarians treat animal health problems. They work to prevent, control, and cure animal diseases.

Veterinarians examine animals and ask owners questions. They give animals shots to protect them against diseases such as distemper and rabies. Veterinarians talk to owners about the care and feeding of their animals. They keep detailed records about animals and their treatments.

Veterinarians perform lab tests and exams of sick animals. They explain test results and review treatment options with animal owners. If more than one treatment is available, veterinarians help owners decide which option to choose. They often prescribe medicines for animals that are ill. Veterinarians stay in contact with animal owners to monitor the condition of animals and make changes in the treatment.

Sometimes veterinarians operate on animals. They may also treat injuries such as wounds and broken bones. Occasionally, veterinarians euthanize animals that are seriously ill or injured.

Many veterinarians work with pets, such as dogs, cats, ferrets, and lizards. Some work with pigs, goats, horses, and other livestock. In addition to taking care of the health of these animals, veterinarians may offer owners advice about animal breeding.

Some veterinarians specialize in animal:

Veterinarians assign tasks to technicians. They consult with other animal care professionals. In private practice, veterinarians may oversee the business aspects of running an office. For example, they hire and train new employees, keep track of supplies, and pay employees.

Veterinarians may do research to prevent diseases in humans and animals. Some veterinarians are meat inspectors at food processing plants. Others work in wildlife management. Some veterinarians teach in universities and colleges. A few veterinarians care for animals in zoos, aquariums, or labs. They share information with people at other zoos and aquariums to keep records of all kinds of animals.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to veterinarians.

Common work activities

Veterinarians perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, veterinarians:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Veterinarians frequently:

It is important for veterinarians to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for veterinarians to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Veterinarians need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a veterinarian, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Veterinary medicine programs usually take four years to complete. They award a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD) degree. In veterinary school, you take courses in basic sciences such as anatomy, microbiology, biochemistry, and physiology. In the last two years of study, you learn to diagnose and treat animals. You also learn to perform surgery on animals.

You need at least two years of pre-veterinary courses, primarily science classes, before enrolling in veterinary school. Many veterinary students have at least a bachelor's degree when they apply.

On-the-job training

You must complete a one-year internship after veterinary school if you want to specialize in an area, such as internal medicine, radiology, or exotic small animal medicine. Interns usually receive a small salary.

To become board certified in a specialty area of veterinary medicine, you must complete a residency program. Residencies last two to three years, depending on the specialty.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements. You need a very strong background in math and science to become a veterinarian. Take as many math and science courses as you can.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many veterinarians are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers prefer to hire veterinarians who already have their state license. Employers also look at whether applicants have experience with small or large animals. In addition, employers look for applicants who have good communication skills.


Part-time or summer work as an animal caretaker or veterinary assistant in a veterinary office or pet store is a good way to get a feel for the job. Work in two to three clinics to make sure this is what you want to do. Volunteer jobs at the humane society, or joining 4-H clubs or the Future Farmers of America may provide good experience. Many veterinarians find employment with a local veterinarian with whom a personal relationship was established before veterinary training. It's important to remember that this job requires being able to work well with other veterinarians and clients, as well as animals. The study of basic sciences while in high school is important. Competition for openings at colleges of veterinary medicine can be very strong, so students who apply should plan alternatives in case they are not selected.

Costs to workers

Establishing a private practice is expensive. Costs range from $100,000 to $1,000,000. There is a trend toward working in group practices to share some of the overhead expenses. Veterinarians, who have borrowed money to pay for college, often have significant student loans to pay off. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average student debt of veterinary graduates in 2016 was $167,534.

Most veterinarians join a national, state, or local association, which may have annual membership dues.

#Updated student debt info 2/11/14 from here: https://www.avma.org/About/SAVMA/StudentFinancialResources/Pages/default.aspx (external link). No new student debt info as of 4/15/15 cj. Updated student debt link in this comment section and data cited from it 2/27/17 cj. no new data as of 4/10/18 and only references students who had debt as of graduation in 2016 lh. Expanded cost of starting clinic from 2009 Veterinary Practice News article; no student debt data beyond 2016 yet, 3/11/19 cj.


Veterinarians must be licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the state of Washington.

Licensing requirements include:

Specialties such as surgery, radiology, cardiology and internal medicine require advanced training and certification by specialty boards. All specialty areas must be recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

For more information, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Veterinary Board of Governors (external link)

PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504-7865


Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Veterinarians (SOC 29-1131)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $30.10 $34.99 $42.87 $53.06 $61.45
Monthly $5,216 $6,064 $7,429 $9,195 $10,649
Yearly $62,610 $72,780 $89,180 $110,360 $127,810
    Bellingham Hourly $39.56 $42.12 $46.38 $52.59 $60.07
Monthly $6,856 $7,299 $8,038 $9,114 $10,410
Yearly $82,268 $87,607 $96,485 $109,385 $124,934
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $35.98 $40.55 $46.83 $56.22 $66.56
Monthly $6,235 $7,027 $8,116 $9,743 $11,535
Yearly $74,839 $84,344 $97,410 $116,948 $138,433
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $32.55 $35.00 $39.08 $60.54 $75.72
Monthly $5,641 $6,066 $6,773 $10,492 $13,122
Yearly $67,693 $72,791 $81,286 $125,917 $157,496
    Longview Hourly $39.91 $41.97 $52.61 $66.01 $75.60
Monthly $6,916 $7,273 $9,117 $11,440 $13,101
Yearly $83,022 $87,300 $109,435 $137,303 $157,258
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $33.42 $37.55 $43.65 $51.10 $67.25
Monthly $5,792 $6,507 $7,565 $8,856 $11,654
Yearly $69,520 $78,113 $90,775 $106,294 $139,874
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $27.05 $30.30 $36.77 $48.00 $56.28
Monthly $4,688 $5,251 $6,372 $8,318 $9,753
Yearly $56,267 $63,023 $76,476 $99,846 $117,058
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $31.24 $36.09 $45.33 $55.01 $61.67
Monthly $5,414 $6,254 $7,856 $9,533 $10,687
Yearly $64,995 $75,068 $94,267 $114,432 $128,270
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $30.98 $36.08 $42.97 $52.79 $70.91
Monthly $5,369 $6,253 $7,447 $9,149 $12,289
Yearly $64,430 $75,041 $89,378 $109,817 $147,502
    Vancouver Hourly $33.07 $37.04 $47.21 $78.31 (1)
Monthly $5,731 $6,419 $8,181 $13,571 (1)
Yearly $68,771 $77,058 $98,193 $162,891 (1)
    Walla Walla Hourly $26.60 $30.80 $42.24 $48.03 $55.36
Monthly $4,610 $5,338 $7,320 $8,324 $9,594
Yearly $55,312 $64,047 $87,874 $99,906 $115,141
    Yakima Hourly $27.59 $30.88 $34.13 $37.80 $46.65
Monthly $4,781 $5,352 $5,915 $6,551 $8,084
Yearly $57,397 $64,234 $71,006 $78,614 $97,037
United States Hourly $27.18 $35.38 $45.11 $58.74 $78.10
Monthly $4,710 $6,131 $7,818 $10,180 $13,535
Yearly $56,540 $73,580 $93,830 $122,180 $162,450

(1) Wage estimate is not available.

Earnings depend on the size and type of practice. They also depend on whether the practice is in a rural area or city.

Veterinarians who work full time in a group practice generally receive benefits, such as paid vacation and health insurance. Self-employed veterinarians must provide their own insurance.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook





The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Veterinarians (SOC 29-1131)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 2,341 26.4% 16.1% 217
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 74 28.4% 13.4% 7
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 56 26.8% 8.6% 5
    Benton and Franklin Counties 58 27.6% 15.0% 5
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 106 22.6% 11.9% 9
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 191 29.3% 15.2% 19
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 181 27.1% 14.1% 17
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 187 24.1% 14.6% 16
    King County 652 27.0% 19.6% 61
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 37 27.0% 13.8% 3
    Pierce County 218 23.9% 15.2% 19
    Snohomish County 129 24.8% 12.4% 11
    Spokane County 193 34.7% 13.9% 21
United States 84,500 18.5% 5.2% 5,100

National employment

About 14% of veterinarians are self-employed.

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will remain strong. The number of pets people own is expected to rise. In addition, pet owners are more likely to pay for expensive treatments than they were in the past. This will increase the work for veterinarians because they will do more procedures to treat pets.

Veterinarians who work with small animals face competition, because many new graduates enter small animal medicine. The number of jobs for large animal veterinarians is expected to grow slowly. Advances in agricultural production have reduced the need for veterinarians to treat animals that produce food. Job prospects will be good for large animal veterinarians, however. This is because few graduates want to live in rural areas.

Other resources

AgCareers.com (external link)
Western USA Office
American Animal Hospital Association (external link)
12575 West Bayaud Avenue
Lakewood, CO 80228
American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (external link)
9190 Crestwyn Hills Drive
Memphis, TN 38125
American Association of Anatomists (external link)
6120 Executive Boulevard, Suite 725
Rockville, MD 20852
American Association of State Veterinary Boards (external link)
380 West 22nd Street, Suite 101
Kansas City, MO 64108
American Association of Zoo Keepers (external link)
8476 East Speedway Boulevard, Suite 204
Tucson, AZ 85710
American Institute of Biological Sciences (external link)
1800 Alexander Bell Drive, Suite 400
Reston, VA 20191
American Society of Animal Science (external link)
PO Box 7410
Champaign, IL 61826-7410
American Veterinary Medical Association (external link)
1931 North Meacham Road, Suite 100
Schaumburg, IL 60173
Explore Health Careers: Veterinarian (external link)
North American Veterinary Community (external link)
Washington State Veterinary Medical Association (external link)
8024 Bracken Place SE
Snoqualmie, WA 98065
WSU College of Veterinary Medicine (external link)


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster