Views on Veterinary Careers

Veterinary Careers     National FFA Veterinary Science CDE

FFA members participate in the National FFA Veterinary Science Career Development Event during the National FFA Convention & Expo.

Have you ever wanted to travel to space and work in the International Space Station? How about working in a laboratory and discovering a life-saving vaccine? What about spending your days working on a ranch with cattle, sheep or horses?

If so, a career in the veterinary field may be what you are looking for. Whether it is sending animals into space or caring for newborn cattle in the field, the veterinary science industry offers diverse opportunities.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the types of careers available in the veterinary field. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the veterinary industry has career opportunities in four specific areas – private practice, government practice, private industry and academia.

The majority of traditional veterinary careers fall into the private practice industry including surgeons, small or large animal care specialists, dentists, and even dermatologists. Careers available in government practice include wildlife medicine, public health, animal importation and careers in the military. The private industry of veterinary science includes the fields of marine biology, animal training, such as supervising “seeing-eye dog” programs or training animals to perform in movies, and research and development in pharmaceuticals or biotechnology. Finally, opportunities are available in teaching and research for those wishing to pursue careers in academia.

Veterinary Careers     National FFA Veterinary Science CDE

Furthermore, the USDA predicts that “veterinary professionals [will] continue to be in demand because of the diversity of jobs that veterinarians are qualified to do. Increases in pet ownership, escalation of population and food needs, and establishment of programs to save endangered species are but a few of the potential areas that will be filled by veterinarians well into the 21st century.”

But, the question remains how do you prepare for these careers?

One opportunity to prepare for careers in the veterinary industry is through the National FFA Veterinary Science Career Development Event, sponsored by Zoetis as a special project of the National FFA Foundation. During the veterinary science CDE, teams of FFA members take a written exam, demonstrate the proper handling and restraint of animals, and participate in the clinical procedure practicum. Additionally, each team conducts research based on an annual topic. Teams demonstrate the different roles of a veterinary team and explain the responsibilities of the various careers. These careers can include veterinary technicians, veterinarians, veterinary assistance, receptionists, farm managers, and kennel or stable assistants.

Veterinary Careers     National FFA Veterinary Science CDE

“The purpose of the veterinary science CDE is to promote college and career readiness by providing opportunities to develop technical knowledge and demonstrate practical skills in the field of veterinary science,” says Paige Allen, the FFA Veterinary Science CDE Superintendent and an instructor at Purdue University in the Veterinary Technology Distance Learning Program. “It is the goal that participants will demonstrate professional ethics, decision-making, communication and problem-solving skills. Students also will demonstrate technical competency with small and large animals in several areas related to veterinary science such as anatomy and physiology, clinical procedures, identification of breeds, instruments and parasites, health and safety issues relating to both animal and humans.”

In fact, the establishment and creation of this event is tied to the growth and demand of the veterinary industry. In 2012, its pilot year, there were nearly 80 teams and 320 participants who competed on the national level.

“The committee has worked very hard to make sure that the students’ exposure is to all the roles on the veterinary team,” Allen says. “Nobody works in a vacuum in this profession. It takes all the people in the veterinary facility and the owner to bring a patient back to wellness. If you look at the veterinary science CDE handbook, you will also see that we do not leave out research and industry. Both of these areas are growing fields for the veterinary profession.”

 – Beverly Flatt