There are a number of careers in veterinary medicine open to people with specific interests, ranging from conservation medicine, which focuses on the link between human, animal, and environmental health, to working as a large animal vet traveling from farm to farm to offer care to farm animals. In all cases, these careers require a great deal of training, including four years of undergraduate work followed by training in veterinary school, and many veterinarians pursue internships for additional training before striking out on their own.
At one time, veterinary medicine careers were simply divided between large and small animal practice. Large animal veterinarians handled animals like horses, cows, and sheep, while small animal vets handled pets like cats and dogs. While generic small and large animal practices continue to exist today, often with very talented vets at the helm, careers in this field are much more diverse now.
For example, a veterinarian can choose to focus on a specific species or group of animals. Avian vets treat birds, while equine vets focus on horses. Others may choose to work with pocket pets like hamsters and mice, and other animals to focus on include cats, dogs, sheep, and cattle, all of whom have unique veterinary needs. Careers in veterinary medicine don't need to focus on domesticated animals, either; exotic animal vets take care of animals at zoos, while wildlife vets focus on injured wild animals.
A veterinarian can also choose to focus on a specific medical specialty, just like in human medicine. Vets may choose to pursue careers in pathology, reproductive health, oncology, orthopedics, surgery, physical therapy, radiology, and so forth. Some specialist veterinarians make a great deal of money, especially in fields like horse racing, where a talented vet can be in great demand.
Many veterinarians enter private practice, but they can also work for the government to monitor food safety, conduct inspections, and the monitor emerging health threats. Other careers include working for pharmaceutical companies to develop new medical treatments for animals, and working in the holistic field, offering alternative and complementary medicine for animals.
The incredible diversity of careers in veterinary medicine recognizes a drastic shift in the veterinary field which occurred in the later half of the 20th century. Veterinarians today are as diverse as doctors, with the same powerful diagnostic and healing tools at their disposal. The procedures performed in high-tech veterinary hospitals today rival those conducted in human hospitals, thanks to a growing respect for the value of animal life.