Locations Where Veterinarians Work?
Neighborhood animal-care clinics are a top employer of vets, but veterinarians have career opportunities in a wide variety of job settings.
When you think about where do veterinarians work, what comes to mind? If a friendly local animal clinic or animal hospital is at the top of your list, there’s a good reason for that. Around 61% of veterinarians in the U.S. worked in private clinical practice as of 2018, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. And within that group, nearly two-thirds (67%) focused exclusively on companion-animal care—providing sick care and well-being care for household pets, the AVMA notes.
So, where do most veterinarians work in the U.S is in the kind of environment you’re likely most familiar with. But that leaves 40% of veterinarians who work outside of private clinical practice. Where do these veterinarians work? Leading employers of veterinarians include colleges and universities, industry, public organizations, government entities, and uniformed services.
Academic institutions like Ross Vet and corporations are top employers of veterinarians who are engaged in research; whether that’s research into animal behavior and performance, or biomedical research for the development of new pharmaceutical and other therapeutic products. Within the government, veterinarians work to protect the health of service animals (canine units and police horses, for example). And not-for-profit animal-welfare organizations and societies employ veterinarians to provide shelter care and work as advocates for vulnerable and threatened animal populations.
WHAT IS THE WORK ENVIRONMENT OF A VETERINARIAN?
“All aspects of veterinary medicine are in demand,” notes Dr. Andrea Peda, an assistant professor at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (Ross Vet) on St. Kitts. “A majority of veterinary students will ultimately go into private practice, whether that practice is small or large. But there’s a lot of need and demand, whether for food inspection, biomedical research, shelter medicine—there are so many opportunities.”
Veterinary medicine opportunities may be well-paying too, with salaries trending higher for vets who work in industry than for those who work in private practice or at colleges and universities.
Even in sectors of the veterinary field where pay previously lagged—notably, shelter medicine—demand for vets is such that wages are catching up, says Dr. Peda. “There’s a lot of opportunity in the shelter medicine field, and the pay, which may not have used to be competitive, is very competitive now,” she says.
Working in private practice doesn’t necessarily mean working in a clinic all day, either. The work environment for vets can vary widely based on the practice location and types of animals served.
Large-animal veterinarians may travel to a handful of farms or ranches in a day to provide on-site animal care. And within companion-animal veterinary medicine, mobile care is a growing field, Dr. Peda says. Mobile care units offer vets the chance to go out into the community to provide routine care and educate the public about animal well-being, she says. Furthermore, today there are even mobile veterinary surgical units giving underserved communities new, needed access to care for their pets.
Dr. Peda notes, too, that not all veterinary school students may be looking to provide hands-on veterinary care day-to-day. “People who go to vet school may not be 100% comfortable with taking care of the animals themselves, and that’s OK,” she says. “The veterinary expertise encompasses not only the animals but also a lot of other things”—including teaching, research and community engagement, she comments. “I think the biggest thing that prospective veterinary students may not realize is the broad scope of what you can do with a veterinary degree.”
Leading Markets for Veterinarians
Where across the United States do most veterinarians work? The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that as of 2019, the 10 metropolitan areas with the highest employment levels for veterinarians were:
- New York
- Los Angeles
- Washington, D.C.
- San Diego
In 2019, the AVMA reported that the states seeing the largest growth in the number of veterinary clinics were North Dakota, Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona. That growth is good news for the profession, according to the AVMA, given that pet ownership has increased markedly—nearly two-thirds of U.S. households owned a pet in 2019, up from just over half who did in 1988 the American Pet Products Association reports—and that nearly 20% of current vets are expected to retire in the next decade, according to the AVMA.
Whether in a laboratory for a large pharmaceutical company or in a three-doctor animal-care clinic in the suburbs, career opportunities are abundant for licensed veterinarians. The combination of a wave of retiring Baby Boomer veterinarians and a growing U.S. pet population, with pets living longer than ever before, makes veterinary medicine a field that is projected to see robust growth in the next 10 years. “It is a field that is growing; it’s in demand, and it’s very rewarding,” says Dr. Peda. “It can be rigorous, but it’s all worth it.”
Now that we’ve answered your question about “where do veterinarians work”, you may be getting excited for opportunities that may be a good fit for you.
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