People love their pets and animal friends. But even animals sometimes require medical procedures that are completed by Veterinarian Surgeons. Since pet ownership is on the rise in America, the need for qualified Veterinary Surgeons is increasing rapidly. And as this industry continues to be a very competitive one, planning the details of what it will take to become a Veterinarian Surgeon will help successful candidates navigate this career path.
How competitive is the Veterinary industry? According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in 2013 there were almost 7,000 applicants competing for 2,700 openings – just to become a licensed Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. The process for becoming a Veterinary Surgeon is just as competitive.
What is a Veterinarian Surgeon?
A Veterinarian Surgeon is a board certified Doctor of Veterinary Medicine who will complete surgical procedures on a wide-variety of animal species. These specialists tend to the healthcare needs of animals, including pets, livestock, and zoo and laboratory animals. Their primary role is to operate on animals – repairing physical normality's or injuries that occur. Although it is quite common for a traditional Veterinarian to complete surgical procedures (especially in emergency situations) a veterinary surgeon will undergo additional training after veterinary school in order to become a specialist.
The typical surgical procedures that are performed by a Veterinary Surgeon often include:
The training process consists of a minimum of a 1-year internship followed by a 3-year residency program that meets guidelines established by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS). The residency program is among the most difficult to pass due to the diversity of the testing. However, when successfully navigated, the career path for becoming a Veterinary Surgeon is rather extensive and offers the new Veterinary Surgeon multiple employment options to consider.
The Educational Path for a Veterinarian Surgeon
A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree is required in order to be considered as a Veterinarian Surgeon. This course of study covers both small and larger animals. 28 different accredited Veterinary Medicine colleges in the United States offer a competitive and accredited DVM program. After passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE) to become a licensed Veterinarian the candidate will then proceed to completing the Board Certification program in Veterinary Medicine.
Step by Step Educational Path of a Veterinary Surgeon
Pre-Graduate School Bachelor Degree
The initial educational phase that must be completed prior to heading to medical school is receiving a Bachelor Degree. During this four year program, it is recommended that anyone who would like to become a veterinarian surgeon completes core studies in biological sciences, anatomy, physiology, mathematics, chemistry and communications.
It's also a great idea for the future Veterinarian Surgeon to volunteer at local animal shelters or attempt to gain a part-time job at a Veterinary clinic or hospital in some capacity. This allows the student to gather real world working experience and make a critical decision on whether or not this career path is one they wish to dedicate several more years to accomplishing.
Earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
A DVM degree consists of a four year program that will focus on general animal anatomy, virology, nutrition and physiology during the first two years. The third year then focuses on clinical study and the final year of educational training is spent at Veterinary hospitals that are accredited by the Veterinary medical school. This is also where the licensing exam is taken. In order to practice Veterinary medicine a candidate must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Most states require additional certification to practice in each state.
Veterinary Surgery Residency
After graduating from Veterinary College, and passing the NAVLE exam, the next phase is to complete additional training after veterinary school in a residency program. The potential candidate for becoming a surgeon must complete two phases:
During the residency, veterinarians work with board-certified surgeons to learn and practice a variety of surgical techniques. The residency will provide the candidate with real-world experience that is documented and submitted to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, or ACVS for review. The ACVS will review the documentation and decide if the candidate is eligible to become board-certified at the end of his training.
Once the residency program has been completed, the candidate will sit before the ACVS board in order to become a Board Certified Veterinary Surgeon. The qualifications for become board certified includes finishing the residency program, passing written, oral and practical (on hands) examinations. They must also complete research in Veterinary Surgery and publish their findings in a medical journal. Once this process is complete, and all testing has been passed, the candidate will become an ACVS Diplomate in Veterinary Surgery.
Other Qualifications to Becoming a Veterinary Surgeon
One of the most important elements that a Veterinary Surgeon must possess is exceptional manual dexterity. This is critical due to the fact that performing surgery on animals requires precise movements in order to successfully complete surgeries. Another critical trait that a Veterinary Surgeon must possess is strong communications and compassionate skills. This is vital because one of the hardest jobs a Veterinary Surgeon has is potentially communicating the death of a beloved pet to owners. Having the ability to effectively communicate bad news in a compassionate way is a skill set that is often learned through experience.
Understanding the Career Path of Becoming a Veterinarian Surgeon
Career Options for Veterinary Surgeons
The career path for a Veterinary Surgeon is rather simple for a qualified candidate to follow. They primarily work in emergency animal clinics, animal hospitals or in academia research facilities. This profession requires exceptional physical dexterity and mental and emotional strength. It's also critical for a veterinary surgeon to possess extensive knowledge on multiple animal physiological traits.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average wage for Veterinary surgeons was $183,902 in 2008, the second highest paying specialty in the Veterinary industry. Board Certified specialists tend to earn higher than average salaries, however the BLS does not specify the direct salary for this specialty. Just like any other specialty, salary and compensation is primary based on need, supply and demand for the practice.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics believes the growth rate of the Veterinary profession should increase at a rate of 35 percent over the next five year. Since pet ownership in households has steadily increased over the past twenty years, the need for board certified veterinary surgeons will also increase.
A veterinary surgeon can be the hero in saving an animal patients life – or the unfortunate individual that has to inform a pet owner that their beloved friend did not survive the surgery. This is a very competitive industry that requires a candidate to possess strong physical, mental, emotional and educational strengths in order to successfully become a Veterinary Surgeon. It's a profession that can involve long hours, in a high stress environment. Regardless of what path a candidate chooses to follow in Veterinary Medicine, the reality is that it will be a difficult one that will require extreme dedication, patience and a willingness to compete against several other equally qualified candidates.