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Veterinarian Alternative titles
Pūkenga Hauora Kararehe
Veterinarians treat sick and injured animals, provide general animal care, and advise clients about health care and disease prevention for pets and farm (production) animals. They also set standards for the import and export of animals and animal products.
Call us on 0800 222 733
Pay for veterinarians varies depending on experience, responsibilities and location.
- New graduates usually earn between $50,000 and $65,000 a year.
- Veterinarians with five years' experience usually earn between $80,000 and $95,000.
- Senior veterinarians usually earn between $120,000 and $150,000.
- Experienced veterinarians running a business can potentially earn up to $250,000 or more.
Source : New Zealand Veterinary Association.
What you will do
Veterinarians working in clinical practice may do some or all of the following:
- work with clients to prevent and treat animal problems and diseases
- advise on animal nutrition and the care and welfare of animals
- examine dead animals to find out the cause of death
- work with herd and flock owners to help them meet breeding and production goals
- set standards for animal or animal product imports into New Zealand
- negotiate with other countries to set health standards for animals or animal product exports
- be involved with disease investigation and research and/or co-ordinate national disease control programmes
- teach in tertiary institutes
- do research and give advice in areas such as animal welfare or animal breeding
- help pharmaceutical companies develop and market products used on animals.
Skills and knowledge
Veterinarians need to have:
- knowledge of animals and animal diseases
- animal-handling skills
- knowledge of animal anatomy, physiology and biology
- knowledge of biochemistry, microbiology and parasitology
- skill in treating animals with medicines and performing surgery
- knowledge of radiography, dentistry and lab methods
- up-to-date knowledge of developments in veterinary science.
Business management knowledge may also be useful.
- work long and irregular hours, are often on call, and may also work evenings and weekends
- may work at clinics and hospitals; on farms; at zoos, catteries or dog kennels and border control stations; in meat processing plants, laboratories or teaching institutes
- often have to travel locally to visit and treat animals.
What's the job really like?
Amber Bone - Veterinarian
Emotionally draining work
"Being a vet is not all fairytales and playing with puppies and kittens and amazing surgery and saving lives. It's sometimes mundane tasks and things dying on you.
"I don’t think I realised just how much it can take out of you, dealing with people every day. You have to be able to deal with the animal's owner, and if a pet has to be put down, you have to deal with their grief as well."
Preventive work can be boring
"Vaccinations are what you spend 50% of your time doing. There are days when you think, 'If I have to vaccinate another cow, seriously… I want to go and stack supermarket shelves.' Then something amazing will walk through the door and you'll save a life, which makes it worthwhile.
"One dog came in nearly dead after eating eight live chickens. When we operated, her bowel was twisted and purple and she was very close to dead. Next morning she was right as rain. She was a wonder dog."
- Saving lives.
- Working at a job you love.
- Long hours.
- Things that want to bite you and kick you.
Kam finds out what it's like to work as a veterinarian - 8.34 mins. ( Video courtesy of Dave Mason Productions)
Clinton: Kam is at VetEnt in Te Awamutu, VetEnt is one of New Zealand’s Largest Veterinary Businesses and has the capability to treat animals large and small. Kam meets Vet Krispin Kannan, and here comes the first patient of the day.
Krispin: So Kam this is Chip, he’s in for the day and what he’s going to get is castration today.
Clinton: After explaining the risks to Chip’s family he is anesthetized, and Kam scrubs up, puts on a brave face and gets ready for Chip’s castration.
Kam: I’m pretty nevous because I don’t want to do anything wrong.
Krispin: There will be a bit of blood when we start incising, so this is a swab, if you hold onto that…
Krispin: …we’re just going to make this incision big enough, so I’ll just get you to dab there.
Krispin: Brilliant. So there we go…
1.01.58 Krispin: Just very quickly, testicle there, ok? That’s where the sperm is formed, it comes around into the epididimis, so that’s where the sperm matures. As you can see there’s a huge blood supply, so it’s very important to get this just ligated and closed off before we go any further.
1.02.17 Kam holds Chips testicle while Krispin clamps and stitches Chip’s tubes shut.
1.02.24 Krispin: Are you feeling alright?
1.02.25 Kam: Yeah yeah, I’m feeling fine.
1.02.26 Kam: It’s kind of weird being in this situation. It’s not really what I expected! It’s a bit more full on but it’s good. I’m learning a lot.
1.02.36 Krispin: So Cam now we’ll cut it between the two clamps.
1.02.40 Kam: I see.
1.02.40 Krispin: Brilliant, so you can just take that one away.
1.02.43 Kam: Yep.
1.02.45 Krispin: Now there’s one down. We’ll do exactly the same of this side.
1.02.49 Kam: Ok.
1.02.50 Kam: It was a pretty crazy experience but it was good.
1.02.53 Krispin: Hi guys, how’re ya going?
1.02.55 Krispin: Here’s Chip. He’s all awake and chipper as you’d say.
1.02.59 Clinton: Chip’s operation went well and it’s time for Kam to try his steady hand with Large animal vet, Emma Boyd.
1.03.08 Emma: Go in and grab her tongue, grab her tongue. It’s quite grippy, and yank it out. Yank it out.
1.03.12 Clinton: This cow has a lump on its face and Emma needs to check that it’s not an abscess from an infected tooth.
1.03.19 Emma: You’re doing really well for your first time taking a tongue!
1.03.22 Emma: Perfect! So now we can have a really good look in her mouth.
1.03.26 Kam: Is there anything there?
1.03.27 Emma: No, not that I can see, everything looks fine. So what we’ve got here is a lot of bone forming over the old infection which is normal and she’ll probably be fine.
1.03.38 Clinton: Being a vet means knowing animals back to front, so Kam does an ultra sound pregnancy test on a couple of cows
1.03.45 Emma: And then we want to direct that into the rectum. Perfect! That was perfect!
1.03.49 Kam: Cool!
1.03.51 Emma: See that bright thing just on the screen? That’s its head. That\s the calf’s head and its nose just popping out there.
1.03.56 Kam: Oh wow!
1.03.57 Emma: Ok, there it is again.
1.04.00 Emma: That’s pretty cool eh?
1.04.01 Kam: Far out.
1.04.02 Emma: And they move. See how I’m staying still and that calf is moving so its dancing in and out of our screen, so it’s having a wee party in there!
1.04.10 Clinton: This cow is only one in a herd of 200 and today’s vets analyse data like pregnancy and milk yield to keep the herd in top production and health.
1.04.20 Emma: The first major point is this major spike here, is where we came in and intervened and you actually had a really good conception rate.
1.04.28 Clinton: And because they can see what’s happened in the past farmers can plan for the future.
1.04.33 Farmer: Vets are very important – you can’t live without them. The work that they do is brilliant, the data they collect and the advice that they give to the farmer, I rate it 10/10.
1.04.42 Emma: For me personally the biggest rewards being a vet is seeing a difference to a herd and you get to see the farmer benefit from it. That is the most wonderful experience.
1.04.54 Clinton: Vets enjoy working with a variety of animals. Kam meets a baby Alpaca born this morning and gets stuck into in some preventative work for an Alpaca herd.
1.05.05 Emma: For anyone that’s wanting to become a vet, the first thing is that you don’t have to be really smart, but you do have to have a work ethic. A career as a vet will take you wherever you want to go. You can obviously work as a clinical vet, you can work within industries such as the Dairy NZ, you can go and work for drug companies, you can do research, you can do management and that’s what’s so wonderful about the degree – you’re not limited to doing one thing.
1.05.30 Krispin: The vet school at Massey is absolutely brilliant – probably the best time of my life, because you have about 100 like-minded people in your class that you just have five years of great fun with.
1.05.41 Emma: It is a wonderful job, you couldn’t go wrong with the career choice. I am excited to go to work every single day and I’ve been excited now for three and a half years so you can’t go wrong with choosing a vet degree.
1.05.52 Clinton: Kam’s about to learn that vets are trained for anything…
1.05.55 Emma: We’ve got a couple of cows that have got some inflammation in their nose - the only way they know how to itch is to try and put sticks up there which just means that they get stuck up there.
1.06.03 Emma: So I just want you to get your fingers, put it up her nose and just feel them on the tip of your finger…
1.06.08 Kam: Yep.
1.06.09 Emma: …and the other side as well.
1.06.11 Kam: Oh yeah yeah.
1.06.11 Emma: See how you feel the tip of a stick?
1.06.12 Kam: Yep.
1.06.19 Kam: It feels good to get it out. Cool!
1.06.21 Emma: And she’s going to feel so much better after that.
1.06.24 Kam: Ugh!
1.06.25 Clinton: Now this cow needs medication to fight infection.
1.06.30 Emma: Perfect! Now you can attach the syringe, now you can push the antibiotic in.
1.06.34 Emma: Kam was awesome, he got stuck in and I was really impressed.
1.06.39 Kam: It went great. I got put in different situations which made me feel kind of afraid and nervous but excited at the same time and I would definitely love to be a veterinarian.
1.06.48 Clinton: To be a veterinarian in New Zealand you will first need a tertiary entrance qualification - Bursary or NCEA Level 3. Preferred subjects are English, physics, chemistry and biology. Then you will need a Bachelor of Veterinary Science which is a five year degree only available from Massey University in Palmerston North. Veterinarians must register with the Veterinary Council of New Zealand. The New Zealand Veterinary Association represents New Zealand veterinarians and is the collective voice for its members and the profession.
To become a veterinarian, you need to:
- complete a Bachelor of Veterinary Science
- be registered with the Veterinary Council of New Zealand
- have an Annual Practising Certificate.
Massey University is the only place in New Zealand offering the Bachelor of Veterinary Science course. The first half of the first year is a pre-veterinary semester. Then students are considered for entry into the four-and-a-half year professional phase of the course. Each year 100 students, of which 75 are New Zealand residents, are accepted for the professional phase.
Students who have passed courses equivalent to the pre-veterinary semester can apply for cross-crediting. If accepted, they can go straight into the professional phase.
NCEA Level 3 chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics are strongly recommended, with a minimum of NCEA Level 2 in English.
Veterinarians should be understanding, patient and concerned for animals. They must also:
- be mature and responsible
- work well under pressure
- inspire confidence in clients
- be good communicators
- have organisational skills
- be decisive and able to solve problems.
Practical experience with farm animals, such as work on a dairy, sheep or cattle farm, or work with horses, is an advantage. Other useful experience includes:
- work as an animal technician
- animal training
- volunteer or paid work relating to animal care.
Students applying to Massey University must have done a minimum of 10 days' veterinary work experience.
Veterinarians need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses), good hearing, and good hand-eye co-ordination.
They also need to have a reasonable level of fitness, because they may spend long periods on their feet and the work can be physically demanding.
Veterinarians need to be registered with the Veterinary Council of New Zealand.
View information on courses in the course database
Find out more about training
0800 MASSEY (0800 627 739) email@example.com www.massey.ac.nz
years of training required
What are the chances of getting a job?
The number of veterinarians increased about 5% from 2010 to 2012, according to a Veterinary Council of New Zealand survey.
Although the number of veterinarians has been increasing, there are still not enough to meet demand. Because of this, veterinarian appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term skill shortage list. This means the Government is actively encouraging qualified veterinarians from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Also, the Ministry for Primary Industries offers a bonding scheme for newly-qualified veterinarians who are willing to work in areas where veterinarians are most needed.
Shortage of veterinarians has many causes
The shortage of veterinarians is because of:
- limits on trainees – only 75 New Zealand residents and 25 international students are accepted for veterinary training each year
- qualified veterinarians moving overseas in search of higher pay
- demand for veterinarians' services from the growing dairy industry.
Rural veterinary practices have found it particularly hard to attract veterinarians because the work often involves long hours, more driving, and working with large animals, which is physically demanding.
Wide range of employers
About 40% of veterinarians work in rural practices and 40% work in urban practices, which mainly deal with pets. Practices can be small, with just one or two veterinarians, or large, with up to 20 staff.
Veterinarians can also work for:
- companies or government agencies, doing scientific research or developing new products
- the Ministry for Primary Industries, dealing with animal health, quality control at meat plants, and disease research
- AgResearch, in animal production and disease research
- universities, in research and teaching
- wildlife services such as zoos and sanctuaries for endangered animals.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', accessed March 2014, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Massey University website, accessed March 2014, (www.massey.ac.nz).
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, 'Occupational Outlook 2014', accessed March 2014, (www.mbie.govt.nz).
- Ministry for Primary Industries, 'Voluntary Bonding Scheme for Veterinarians,' accessed April 2013, (www.mpi.govt.nz).
- Veterinary Council of New Zealand, 'The New Zealand Veterinary Workforce 2011 - 2012', accessed April 2013, (www.vetcouncil.org.nz).
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Progression and specialisations
Veterinarians can move into non-clinical roles such as teaching and/or research, or into management roles. They can also set up their own vet practices.
Veterinarians often specialise in treating either large or small animals. Some may specialise further and treat:
- horses and farm animals
- zoo animals
- domestic pets.
How many people are doing this job?
Updated 9 Jun 2015