This legislation restricts the treatment of animals in the UK to qualified veterinary surgeons only, with certain specific exceptions. The exceptions are the treatment of animals by physiotherapy and other manipulation techniques (e.g. chiropractic, osteopathy), on the recommendation of and under the supervision of a veterinary surgeon. Certain trained individuals may be legally authorised to undertake procedures such as blood sampling or ultrasonic pregnancy diagnosis, following appropriate training and assessment.
Most general practice work is undertaken either in the surgery in consultations with owners and their animals, or in animals' living environments, for example in farms, stables or owners' homes.
Typical work activities include:
Vets working as practice partners will have the additional responsibility of managing practice finances, promoting the surgery to potential clients, and recruiting and managing veterinary surgeons, nurses and receptionists.
Vets working for government agencies may research disease, test for and manage infection outbreaks or food safety, and complete paperwork for Pet passports.
A degree in veterinary science/medicine (and registration as a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)) is required to practise as a veterinary surgeon in the UK and the European Union. The seven institutions offering relevant degrees are:
Degree courses are usually five years in length (six years at Cambridge, accelerated course at some universities for graduate entrants with relevant degrees can be 4 years). UK and EU applicants pay the normal subsidised home rates (about £3000 per year) for tuition and international applicants are expected to pay full fees for the course (upwards of £15,000 per year).
Entry into the second year of the veterinary science/medicine degree may be possible for graduates from relevant degree areas, e.g. life or medical sciences. Applicants with at least three distinction grades on BTEC National Diplomas in Animal Management or related BTEC National Diplomas can be considered for entry at some universities, provided the BTEC course includes sufficient science. Graduates and Diplomates are advised to discuss their applications with veterinary schools' admission tutors.
Because of the medical responsibilities of the work and to ensure fitness to practise as a veterinary surgeon, applicants to university courses may be asked to disclose details or information about any previous convictions, mental health or behavioural issues, or addictions to drugs or alcohol.
There are a number of privately run courses for individuals considering a veterinary career, but these are not essential and do not usually enhance applications.
Relevant pre-entry work experience is essential. All veterinary schools require candidates to show evidence of their interest and commitment through periods of work experience involving handling animals, including livestock. This could include experience in veterinary practices, farms, stables, or kennels. Experience of handling horses and helping with lambing can also be useful.
As well as scientific ability and animal handling skills, potential candidates will need to show evidence of the following:
Animal welfare societies such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) offer good opportunities to build up experience.
From 1 October 2006 it will be illegal to discriminate against candidates on age grounds but, in practice, age may continue to be used in selection criteria by some employers. For more information on equality and diversity in the job market and how to handle discrimination, see the AGCAS publication A Level Playing Field
Continuing professional development (CPD) is a mandatory and key part of career development. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) recommends a minimum of 105 hours' CPD over a three-year period. The RCVS Professional Development Phase (PDP) that was launched for new graduates in 2007 provides a structured approach to guide the new graduate towards the professional competences they need to develop in either small animal, equine or production animal practice. Further information about RCVS's PDP can be found at
It is possible to gain diplomas and certificates in a range of clinical specialities whilst working in a practice. A certificate will take around two years to complete. Some employers pay part or all of the course fees and you may be able to take time off to study. Certificates cover a wide range of areas, including ophthalmology, cardiology and orthopaedics. The RCVS is introducing modular certificates, which will replace the current certificate qualifications and are designed to be accessible to all vets and encourage lifelong learning.
There may also be the opportunity to train to become a Local Veterinary Inspector (LVI). Most practices will have a trained LVI who is authorised to carry out certain tasks on behalf of the Secretary of State (Defra). These tasks include testing cattle for tuberculosis (TB) and brucellosis, and the issue of documentation for the export of animals and animal products. There are a wide variety of other LVI tasks; you should contact your local Animal Health Divisional Office (AHDO) for details.
Newly qualified veterinary surgeons usually work as assistants for some time before being offered the opportunity to become a partner or a principal, although the number of opportunities for partnerships is decreasing, with many practices being owned by larger companies and all vets being employed. Not every vet will want to become a partner as it involves increased responsibility, the need for more business and management skills and a financial input into the practice.
There is the opportunity to increase specialisation, either in existing practices or in practices noted for expertise in a particular field, such as equine medicine, small animal surgery or dermatology. Further training is required for these specialisations, which can lead to a certificate or diploma. With further training, extensive professional experience and by publishing articles on your chosen area, it is possible to gain Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) Recognised Specialist Status. Recognised specialists have demonstrated a high level of knowledge in their specialised field and must be available to offer consultation in their chosen field
There are also opportunities to work for employers such as animal welfare societies and government services, for example in the State Veterinary Service (SVS), the Veterinary Laboratories Agency or the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). The SVS is responsible for areas such as the control and eradication of major notifiable diseases and also has responsibility for animal welfare, promotion of international trade and certain public health functions related to residues in meat and investigation of food safety incidents. THe SVS also provides education to LVIs and members of the public on request. The Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) is involved in consumer protection, principally in the area of meat hygiene. The VMD is focused on the licensing of veterinary medicines.
It is also possible to pursue a research and/or teaching career within universities or research bodies.
Veterinary surgeons are typically employed in private practices in rural and urban areas. They may also work for zoos, animal hospitals and animal welfare societies, such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) and The Blue Cross.
Vets also undertake research, teaching and academic work in universities, research institutes and pharmaceutical companies. Veterinary research leads to a greater understanding of how diseases originate and spread, and what effect this has on animals. This leads to improved prevention strategies against specific diseases, including the production of vaccines, improved diagnostic tests, and the ability to breed healthy and productive animals. Comparison of physiological and pathological processes between species contributes significantly to our understanding of normal and diseased states. Veterinary researchers also play a particular role in food safety through the development of prophylactic, therapeutic and management strategies to prevent disease in food animal species
Overseas opportunities can be found with, amongst others, the Royal Army Veterinary Corps (a bursary for the last three years' training is possible, but commits the recipients to a minimum four years' commission) and Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO).
Vets in general practice are often sub-contracted for part-time work by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) or Local Authorities, inspecting hygiene and care standards in zoos, kennels, catteries, riding stables, pet shops and livestock markets. Approximately 400 work full-time for DEFRA, in either The State Veterinary Service (SVS) or the Veterinary Laboratories Agency. Other government agencies that employ vets include the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), the Food Standards Agency, the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS), the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Home Office.
Due to challenges within the farming industry following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 and BSE, some practices are focusing more on domestic pets than on farm livestock.
Relevant jobs are occasionally advertised on the websites of the following government departments:
Most veterinary jobs in the UK are advertised in the Veterinary Record which is published by the British Veterinary Association.
Academic institutions and charitable organisations may also advertise vacancies through their websites.
E. Edgar Ruebush, Veterinary Surgeon (Posted 2013-07-13 19:57:22) ; E. Edgar Ruebush, 92, a Veterinary Surgeon and Former Silver Spring Animal Hospital Owner, Died June 20
Jul 13, 2013; E. Edgar RuebushE. Edgar Ruebush, a veterinary surgeon who was the owner and director of the Ambassador Animal Hospital in Silver...