Working in a veterinary practice is one of the most rewarding career options available. Curing sick animals, helping farmers when livestock are born and taking care of pets are all meaningful, altruistic duties to perform. However, there is more to a veterinary career than curing sick hamsters; many vets are involved in areas such as agriculture, environmental protection, disease control and food production.
Veterinary Medicine is not an easy career path to follow and it takes plenty of brains and hard work, whether you want to be a veterinary surgeon or a veterinary nurse. For people with the required dedication and interest in animal welfare, veterinary medicine is a particularly worthwhile career choice.
The only course in veterinary medicine in Ireland is a degree offered by UCD. The course takes five years and 550 CAO points are typically required.
The first and second years of the course teach basic knowledge in animal handling, welfare, nutrition, breeding and management. In the third and fourth years, you study the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and control of diseases in domestic animals and birds. The final year is spent gaining practical experience in animal surgery and medicine, diagnostic imaging, anaesthesiology and clinical pathology. Veterinary students undertake professional work and gain experience in a veterinary practice between academic years and during vacation periods.
There is also a three-year Veterinary Nursing higher degree course offered by the Athlone Institute of Technology. The CAO points required are around the 350 mark. Subjects on the course include Biological Sciences, Clinical Physiology & Pathology, Medical Nursing, Animal Husbandry, Animal Genetics & Behaviour and Veterinary Immunology.
Options after Qualification
There is currently full employment for university graduates in veterinary medicine and nursing. Graduates can enter into practices that specialise in small animals or farm livestock, but most choose mixed practice, which is a combination of the two. There are also many specialist postgraduate qualifications available for vets to increase and update their skills throughout their career. Veterinary training also opens up a number of non-practice career opportunities. Veterinary training provides an outstanding background for those who wish to pursue a career in biomedical research, which includes both veterinary and human medicine.
Veterinary surgeons and nurses look after the needs of ailing, sick or injured animals. Different experts may specialise in small animals, farm animals or equine practice, or in exotic animals, wildlife, laboratory animals, poultry or aquaculture. Vets specialising in small animals run open surgeries, where members of the public can bring their pets for treatment. Vets diagnose problems, treat the animal and, if necessary, perform surgery. They also offer advice to owners about nutrition and how to take care of their pets properly.
The farm animal side of the business involves vets making personal visits to farms. They treat specific cases, oversee animal births, vaccinate animals against disease and advise on animal care. Vets can specialise in specific areas, such as the equine or zoological industry, food hygiene or the control of infectious disease (e.g., foot-and-mouth).
Some veterinary medicine graduates work for the government or official agencies, making sure that farmers and animal owners are keeping their animals healthy and in suitable conditions, while others can be involved in food hygiene and inspection.
Personal Qualities & Work Environment
Veterinary surgeons and nurses can’t be squeamish. Veterinary surgeons and nurses must love animals, and also be able to deal with distressing situations. To qualify as a vet takes a lot of hard work and you obviously need to be academically minded to get the CAO points required, and to make it through the demanding course.
Some vets work in a clinic environment, while others travel to farms, zoos or other places to administer treatment. The hours can be irregular, you have to work in all kinds of weather, and you may be on call during weekends or at night.
The Money Veterinary graduates (particularly those with specialist postgraduate training) can command high salaries. Newly qualified veterinary surgeons are paid around €35,000 a year. More senior veterinary surgeons typically earn €50,000 to €60,000, although this can rise to as much as €110,000.