Animals need doctors too -- and that is a role filled by veterinarians, who study for many years to provide the care and medical help needed by animals of all kinds. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most positions in the world of veterinary medicine show robust growth, including a whopping 30% growth from 2012 to 2022 for veterinary technologists and technicians. At much greater than the 11% growth for all occupations, veterinary medicine is a great pick for those who want excellent job opportunities after graduation.
Online Veterinary Degree Programs
There are numerous degrees possible for those who want to move into the field of veterinary medicine. Some choose to work as veterinary assistants or laboratory animal caretakers, which requires only a high school diploma and on-the-job training. However, those who have taken advantage of one of the many certifications for this level of work might find better job opportunities among discerning employers. Experience working with animals is also a must, as on-the-job training is easier if applicants already have a firm knowledge of how to care for and interact with animals of all kinds.
Associate's or Bachelor's Degree
You can become a veterinary technologist or technician with an associate's or bachelor's degree. These are the people who perform tests, diagnose animals and assist the primary vet. The two-year veterinary technician program often requires a variety of general education courses, as well as courses that are targeted toward the work of veterinary technologists, including:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Emergency first aid
- Basic nursing care for animals
The four-year veterinary technology bachelor's degree program goes even further in-depth, providing students with a firm background in laboratory testing, advanced nursing care for animals, pharmacology, anesthesia and more.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited 217 veterinary technology programs in 2013. Out of those 217, twenty-two of them offered the bachelor's degree, and eight of those schools offered online veterinary programs.
Doctoral or Professional Degree
Those who want to work as veterinarians can expect much more schooling to reach their goal. Veterinarians must earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in order to practice. The veterinary medicine program requires four years of study; though it is not required that students have a bachelor's degree before applying, earning the bachelor's and gaining work experience might help applicants stand out during the highly competitive admissions process. Regardless of the degree level, students who want to apply for veterinary school should take courses in:
- Animal science
Students who want to become a veterinarian can choose from one of the 29 schools in the United States that offers accredited veterinary programs. However, keep in mind that the process is so competitive that it might take several tries to gain acceptance; in 2012, less than half of all applicants were accepted for the coveted opportunity.
Career Outlook for Veterinary Professionals
There are numerous positions to choose from in the world of veterinary medicine. The income graduates can expect often depends on not only their degree level, but also the amount of experience they have working with animals. In addition, geographical location plays a major role in the growth of a particular job and the pay rate. Here are the most popular career options for those in the field of veterinary medicine. The table below lists out some of the veterinary professions along with median annual salary as of May 2014 and projected job outlook for the decade of 2012-22 as per the BLS.
|Career||Average Salary||Job Outlook|
|Veterinary Technologist and Technicians||$32,350||30%|
|Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers||$25,370||10%|
|Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists||$63,230||5%|
|Animal Care and Service Workers||$23,250||15%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014
Choose the Right Online Veterinary School
Whether students choose a veterinary program, it is very important to consider accreditation. Accreditation helps ensure that the education offered through that particular school or program has been evaluated for quality of education. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredits programs for veterinary technologists, technicians and veterinarians. If the accreditation status of a school is unclear, the information can found through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education (USDE).
Students should also consider the finer points of online education, including resources, scheduling issues and the like. Here are a few questions to consider:
- Does the school offer any sort of networking or career services program for graduates?
- Does the school present a healthy graduation rate?
- Does the school offer asynchronous or synchronous learning, and are accelerated classes available?
- What kind of technology does the online veterinary program use, and how does that allow you to relate to peers and professors?
Much of this information can be found by perusing the websites of online schools or calling the admissions office.
Animal Care and Service Workers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/personal-care-and-service/animal-care-and-service-workers.htm
National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States, May 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
Veterinarians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinarians.htm#tab-1
Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal Caretakers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-assistants-and-laboratory-animal-caretakers.htm#tab-1
Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm#tab-1
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/zoologists-and-wildlife-biologists.htm#tab-1