The field of veterinary science and animal care, also referred to as animal husbandry, can prepare students to work in a wide variety of animal-related careers. Possibilities include veterinarian, veterinarian technician, laboratory animal caretaker, agricultural and food scientist, animal breeder and rancher, zoologist, and wildlife biologist. Individuals in these careers may work with wildlife or companion animals, and they could work in various industries, including agriculture or pharmaceuticals. Depending on the career chosen, responsibilities may include some or all of the following:
- Examine, diagnose and treat health problems of animals
- Perform surgery
- Feed, bathe and exercise animals
- Clean and disinfect cages and sterilize medical equipment
- Collect and analyze samples
- Prescribe and administer medicine
- Breed animals to increase or improve desirable traits
Careers in this field may require the appropriate certification, such as one from the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) or the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AALAS). Common degrees for individuals interested in pursuing careers in this field include animal science, biology and zoology. These majors may be housed in agriculture, biology or natural sciences departments. Some jobs, such as a veterinarian, require an advanced degree and a professional license in addition to a bachelor's degree.
Coursework in Veterinary Science and Animal Care Degree Programs
While required coursework depends on an individual's eventual career goals as well as the university and program selected, there are subjects common to an online veterinary degree or an online animal science degree.
Biology is the study of life and living organisms. Coursework in biology often includes microbiology, cell biology and genetics. Additional courses may include animal physiology or anatomy. Many biology courses include a traditional lecture component and readings, as well as a lab component that focuses on helping students gain hands-on skills. For many degrees, biology courses will make up the bulk of degree requirements.
Chemistry is a physical science that addresses the composition, structure, properties and change of matter. Depending on career goals and program requirements, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry and biochemistry may all be required, making the subject another significant portion of degree requirements. Organic chemistry is the study of organic compounds, or compounds that include carbon. Inorganic chemistry is the study of inorganic compounds, and biochemistry is the study of chemical reactions that take place in living organisms. Like biology, many chemistry courses contain lecture and lab components.
Degrees in veterinary science may require both calculus and statistics courses. Calculus courses generally cover differentiation and integration of simple algebraic and exponential functions, as well as applications to graphing, marginal analysis, optimization, areas and volumes. In order to succeed in a calculus course, students may need to take prerequisites that include college algebra or geometry. Statistics is the collection, analysis, interpretation, presentation and organization of data. While advanced statistics courses may be required by some programs, other programs will only require introductory statistics.
Animal science and animal nutrition
Animal science courses cover topics like the anatomy and physiology of digestion, growth and reproduction, as well as the application of genetics to livestock improvement. Coursework in the growth and development of specific farm animals, such as cattle, horses or swine, may be required. Students will learn about the nutritional requirements of animals at specific stages of development.
Strong study habits are essential to success in an online veterinary degree or online animal care degree program. A background in science and math is important, especially for those interested in pursuing an advanced degree, such as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
Interview With a Veterinary Science Professor
We spoke with Linda Berent, professor and associate dean of academic affairs at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, and she gave us advice on how to strategically pursue a degree in veterinary science or a related field.
What are the skills, interests and personality traits necessary for a student to be successful in the field of veterinary science and animal care?
"Our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and possess a broad spectrum of interests and abilities. However, we consistently see greater success among individuals who have developed diligent study habits, work to balance those study habits with good mental and physical health, possess an innate scientific curiosity and have a genuine enthusiasm for helping the animal-owning public."
What is the most rewarding part of a career in veterinary science? Why should students pursue a career in this field?
"A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine opens doors to many career paths. While many students enter the field because they were raised with livestock and want to help producers, or had pets as children and wish to work with companion animals, there is an abundance of other professions in which veterinarians contribute. These include exotics species care, public health, research, government work, academia and wildlife conservation."
What advice would you give to students considering this field of study?
"There are many more students who wish to pursue veterinary medicine than there are available seats in veterinary colleges. We advise students to pursue an undergraduate field of study in which they are interested in working in case they do not receive admittance into a D.V.M. program. Their chosen field of study should allow them to complete all of the necessary prerequisites for admittance into a veterinary program.
"There are also requirements for job shadowing veterinarians working in the field. We encourage prospective veterinary students to begin acquiring the needed job shadowing hours early and to shadow veterinarians working in different disciplines in order to maximize their exposure to the profession and its many facets and demands."
Career Outlook for Professionals With Veterinary Science and Animal Care Degrees
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth and salary projections for careers in this field are as follows:
Employment of veterinarians is projected to grow 12 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth will be driven by advances in the field and concern about public health. Salary typically ranges from $52,530 to $157,390 per year, with a median annual wage of $87,590 in 2014. States with the highest employment in this profession include California, Texas and Florida.
Employment of veterinarian technicians is projected to grow 30 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will be driven by advances in the field, and as veterinarians become more specialized, they will hire vet techs to complete routine tasks. Salary typically ranges from $21,390 to $45,710 per year, with a median annual wage of $31,070 in 2014. States with the highest employment in this profession include California, Texas and Florida.
Agricultural and food scientist
Employment of agricultural and food scientists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2012 to 2022, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth will be driven by the concern about public health and the desire to balance ecosystem health with food production. Salary typically ranges from $35,150 to $107,810 per year, with a median annual wage of $61,480 in 2014. States with the highest employment in this profession include California, Minnesota and Texas.
Zoologist and wildlife biologist
Employment of zoologists and wildlife biologists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Growth will be driven by the need to study how population growth impacts wildlife, but many of these positions are funded by the government and depend on budgetary constraints. Salary typically ranges from $38,080 to $96,720 per year, with a median annual wage of $58,270 in 2014. States with the highest employment in this profession include California, Washington and Florida.
Veterinarians, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinarians.htm#tab-1
29-1131 Veterinarians, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291131.htm
Veterinary technologists and technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinary-technologists-and-technicians.htm#tab-1
29-2056 Veterinary Technologists and Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292056.htm
Agricultural and Food Scientists, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/agricultural-and-food-scientists.htm#tab-1
19-1012 Food Scientists and Technologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes191012.htm
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
19-1023 Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes191023.htm