Most veterinarians care for pets, though they might also specialize in laboratory research, work with horses and farm animals or teach at a college or university. In terms of care, they vaccinate animals, diagnose their injuries and illnesses, set broken bones and provide owners information about their animals' behaviors, nutrition and breeding. If you want to become a veterinarian, you'll need to attend one of 28 accredited colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States, according to "U.S. News & World Report." In return, expect to earn a salary of nearly $100,000 a year.
Salary and Qualifications
Veterinarians earned average annual salaries of $93,250 as of May 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent of earners made more than $108,640 per year, while the bottom 10 percent made $51,530 or less. Most of these professionals start their careers with bachelor's degrees in one of the sciences: biology, chemistry, physiology, zoology or animal science. To become a veterinarian, you must then complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree -- DVM or VMD -- and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam to earn your state license, according to the BLS. Other important abilities include compassion, manual dexterity, decision-making, problem-solving and interpersonal skills.
Salary by Industry
Average salaries for veterinarians vary considerably by industry. In 2012, they earned the highest annual salaries in the scientific research and development services industry, at an average of $132,170. You would also earn a relatively high salary in the pharmaceutical medicine manufacturing industry, at an average of $113,530 a year; or working for a local government agency, at an average of $94,470. You would earn slightly less than the national average if you worked for the federal executive branch of government at $89,480 annually. Veterinarians who work at colleges, universities and professional schools averaged $75,190 a year.
Salary by State
The BLS reports that among the states, veterinarians earned the highest average salaries in Connecticut at $121,480 per year. Delaware ranked second at $112,620, followed by New York at $111,960. If you worked in Ohio, you would average $94,890 annually. Salaries on the low end of the scale were paid in Montana, at an average of $61,050 a year; and South Dakota, at an average of $70,660.
The number of jobs for veterinarians is expected to increase 36 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to the BLS. That's much faster than the14 percent average for all occupations. Most job opportunities in this profession will be spurred by increases in pet ownership across the country. Demand will also be driven by the need to ensure animal and food safety.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Veterinarians
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employments Statistics: Veterinarians
- U.S. News & World Report: Veterinarians Job Description, Education and Career Overview Video
- The Princeton Review: Career: Veterinarian
- Washington State Legislature: Responsibilities of Veterinarians
- PETA: Veterinarian
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images