Becoming a Veterinary Surgeon

What is a veterinary surgeon?

According the RCVS, a veterinary surgeon “has varied and important duties to safeguard the health and welfare of animals and public health”.

A veterinary surgeon can work either in a general practice, as a teacher, a researcher, in a government department such as DEFRA, in a pharmaceutical company, a charity or even in wildlife conservation.  They are responsible for all species of animals including household pets, horses, cattle, wildlife, exotic to name but a few.

What qualifications do I need?

You will not be allowed to practice in the UK unless you are registered with the RCVS.

The RCVS lists qualifications that they recognise on their website.  Whether you study in the UK or abroad, there are several colleges and Universities to choose from and each of those institutions will have their own entrance requirements.

Doing voluntary work in an animal based job will give you experience and be an advantage when applying for courses.  In 2007, the RCVS introduced the Professional Development Phase (PDP) for new graduates helping them structure and develop their clinical skills and plan for their future, this is also used by vet surgeons coming back from a career break or who are moving into a new area of work.

What types of duties will I perform?

Diagnose illnesses, prescribe medication, give advice on nutrition, prevent diseases, supervise and support staff, perform surgery, x-rays, ultrasound scans, immunise, euthanize, maintain records…. to name but a few.

These are only some examples of the kind of work you will need to do.  Be aware that you will have to deal with vomit, blood and faeces and in some cases death.  You will be under the obligation of dealing with emergencies at any time. However, it is a very rewarding job and there are several ways to progress your career, including someday owning your own practice.

What is the salary range?

Typically veterinary surgeons will be offered a remuneration package of between £25,000 and £50,000 per year depending on experience, location and the type of practice.  On average, a qualified and experienced vet should earn between £30,000 and £45,000 per year.

Where can I find more info?

Please be aware that Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is mandatory by the RCVS for all veterinary surgeons and they recommend you do a minimum of 105 hours over a three year period.  You must fill in and maintain a CPD Record Card.  There are several institutions that offer CPD and you can either find them by researching on the internet, asking the professional associations or asking your work colleagues.


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