If you're thinking of becoming a veterinarian, there are certain qualities you'll need for the arduous schooling and for your long-term career. Being a veterinarian can be a rewarding job, helping not only the animals but also their owners. However, before making a commitment, make sure you have what it takes.
Love of Animals and Work Well with People
Loving animals is probably the number one reason people decide to become veterinarians, and this is an important quality to possess. Many people show these qualities at a young age by helping with their pets' training and care, or volunteering at vet clinics, zoos or animal shelters. Since you'll probably deal with a large variety of animals---dogs, cats, birds, possibly horses and cows--you must feel comfortable around them, and be sensitive to their behavior. You'll also be working with the animals' owners, so you must be able to communicate with them and be able to clearly and sensitively explain problems and health concerns you have about their pets.
Perseverance and Stamina for Schooling
A degree in veterinarian medicine requires four years each of undergraduate and veterinary school with a heavy concentration of science and math. If you think early on you'd like to be a veterinarian, take some science and math classes in high school or junior college that will prepare you for higher-level education---and tell you if you have the skills and desire for such courses. At veterinary school, you'll have two years of academic study with such classes as anatomy, physiology, pathology and microbiology. During the third and fourth years, you'll study animal diseases, surgery techniques and other sciences while working in an animal hospital or clinic. Once you finish college, you must get licensed, and then read trade journals to keep up with the latest technology. Some states also require on-going courses to keep your license current.
Other Personal and Physical Qualities
Many veterinarians open their own practices. If you choose to do this, you'll need some fundamental business management knowledge of dealing with such things as employees, finances and inventory. Working for yourself or for an established veterinary clinic, you'll need to possess good communication skills to deal with clients and fellow workers. Vets need to keep records and charts, so you must be well organized. You should be able to solve problems and make decisions---sometimes in emergency situations---with confidence and responsibility. Finally, as a veterinarian, you must have good hand-to-eye coordination and be physically fit to withstand long periods of time on your feet and to lift certain animals.
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