Researched by Erin L.


Research Summary

Basic Definition

A veterinarian is an animal doctor. They treat sick and injured animals. Veterinarians also tell people how to care for their sick or injured animal. Veterinarians also teach people how to keep their pets healthy.

What they do on the Job

Some of the tasks veterinarians do on the job are checkups, vaccinations, surgery, and injury repair (like putting casts on broken bones). Sometimes they will treat diseases. An assistant’s job may sometimes be to help the vet feed boarded animals.

Most veterinarians work in clinics, but aquariums and zoos hire some. Others may be an employee of a ranch or farm. Ranches and other places hire veterinarians to work with their livestock. Some veterinarians also work in factories that produce meat, eggs, or milk.

A lot of veterinarians work during normal daytime business hours. If an emergency comes up they may work at night.

Here are some bad aspects of being a veterinarian. If they fail a task and the animal gets worse, that is frustrating. If they see a mistreated animal, that is saddening. The worst aspect is to see an animal die.

There are many good aspects of being a veterinarian, like seeing a sick animal improve and become healthy. Another is succeeding with a task or duty. Another is seeing an animal live through illness and injury and be healthy and happy. One more is meeting people and teaching them how to take care of their animals. Finally, veterinarians make a lot of money.

Animals They Work With

Different veterinarians work with all kinds of animals. Most work with house pets like cats, dogs, birds, and others. Some veterinarian works with farm and ranch animals like horses, cows, mules, donkeys, sheep, pigs, and others. Some may take care of lab animals. Dr. Cleasby, who I interviewed, said that her favorite animal to work with is a dog and a close second is a goat. Her hardest animal to work with is a horse.

Education and Training

Some of the necessary college degrees are a Bachelor’s degree and a D.V.M degree. Most students get those degrees in 8 years of study.

To be a veterinarian you have to get very good grades. You have to at least get a college grade of 2.5, which is above a C to get into a veterinarian college. There are two tests. They are the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The other is the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT). One out of 3 applicants will make it into veterinary college.

 There are certain classes that you have to take to become a veterinarian. The most important classes are math and science. Science mainly should contain chemistry, biology, and physics (physics is the study of force and energy). Those classes prepare them for collage. English and communication classes teach students to speak and write well. Business and computer courses help veterinarians who want their own practice. Veterinarians also take health classes and anatomy. 

Veterinarians go to high school and then regular college. They spend at least two years in college and then move to a veterinarian college. In Veterinarian College they spend four years. That is a total of more then six years in regular college and Veterinarian College.

 Almost every veterinarian in the US and Canada must have a license. Some veterinarians in government work do not have to be licensed. To be licensed you first must pass the National Board Examination (NBE). The NBE has 400 general questions about veterinary medicine. All veterinarians must pass the Clinical Competence Test (CCT). This test has 14 questions about real-life veterinary situations. CCT helps show how vets solve problems to make veterinary decisions. Canada’s National Board Examination (NBE) has a third part. It tests vets in a real clinic or hospital.  Not every vet takes that part. Veterinarians who pass the NBE can apply for licenses in their province. 


Veterinarians use many of the same tools doctors and nurses use.  They use a thermometer to take an animal’s temperature, an otoscope to check an animal’s ears and a stethoscope to listen to an animal’s heart and lungs. Veterinarians also use an ophthalmoscope to check animals’ eyes. These tools tell veterinarians about the animal’s general health.  They use scalpels (knives) to cut through skin or organs. They also use clamps that stop the flow of blood or hold back skin. Veterinarians use special string call sutures to sew up cuts. They also use x-rays to see broken bones and organs.

Types of Veterinarians

There are many types of veterinarians. Feline vets only look at cats.  Cardiology vets study the heart. Dental vets take care of the teeth and mouth. Marine vets specialize in marine animals. There are Vets who work at zoos. Equine vets only take care of horses.  Large animal vets work with horses, cows and other farm livestock.  There are also mixed animal vets, like Dr. Cleasby, who work with small animals (dogs, cats) and large animals (horses and cows). Two other types of vets I found were holistic vets and exotic vets. A Holistic veterinarian takes care of all types of animals but does not believe in medicine and pills that come from factories. An Exotic veterinarian takes care of exotic animals that might live in the rainforest or be endangered.


There are many different diseases that animals can get. Rabies is one that animals have shots to protect them from just like children have shots to protect them from certain diseases. Other diseases that animals can get are zoonosis, brucellosis (Bangs disease), and tuberculosis.  Those are a few diseases that are deadly for your animal or pet to have.   There are two others called psittacosis and tularemia. Psittacoses is parrot fever and tularemia is rabbit fever. Both are deadly. 


Vets make a good salary. The ones that just come out of vet school have a starting salary of approximately $35,800 a year. Then about 5-7 years after they start they could make around $44,500 a year.  The next level is the expert and they make approximately $57,600 a year. If they own their own practice they can make $100,000 - $200,000 or more a year.

The outlook is very good for veterinarians. This career is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations through the year 2010. You have to work hard to build a sufficient customer base.


French immigrants started the practice of veterinary medicine in the United States. The first school of veterinarian medicine opened in 1762. Before there were schools blacksmiths and other people who worked with animals understood their illnesses and acted like veterinarians.

There are two famous veterinarians that I learned about. One was Leo Bustad. He started talking to people about the bond between people and their pets. The other is James Harriot. He wrote books about animals and being a veterinarian.


 In the future I think there will be more specialized veterinarians who will look at just eyes or just the heart of an animal. There will be more tools and newer medicines that will help treat specific parts of animals.
Who I Interviewed And What I Learned

On Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2003 Jordan K.and I interviewed Dr. Joanna Cleasby at the Selah Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Cleasby is a mixed animal vet, which is a vet that works with small and large animals. She has been working as a vet for 3 years. Dr. Cleasby did not want to limit herself to one type of animal and likes the variety. To become a veterinarian some of the classes she needed were science, biology and health. She needed a Bachelor’s degree first then a Doctorate degree. She attended Washington State University for her degrees. A vet’s average starting salary in Washington is $40,000 and if you own your own vet clinic you can earn $100,000 - $200,000.

We asked Dr. Cleasby who the first vet was. She said when vets first started they were just people who worked with animals a lot like blacksmiths or other people working with livestock. They learned as they worked with the animals. They did not go to school for training.   She informed us that WSU was opened in the 1800’s with the vet school starting in early 1900’s. We asked her who some important vets were. She told us about James Harriet a veterinarian in England, who wrote a lot of books about vets and made people want to be a vet. Leo Bustad, used to be at WSU, and is important because he was the first to start teaching about the bond between pets and owners. This started veterinarians thinking a different way.

We then asked Dr. Cleasby what are the biggest problems facing vets today, how their work has changed and how it will change in the future.  She said that right now the biggest problem that vets face is that the animals we use for food are having more problems with the drugs vets are using. These food animals are receiving fewer medications to keep them healthy because the medications used for these animals sometimes gets in the food supply and makes people sick. This makes it harder for the vets working with these animals. The thing that has changed the most for vets is that rather than fixing simple things they are learning to treat animals with cancer and old age. In the future she thinks vets are going to become more and more specialized. She said we would have specific vets that look at just eyes or hearts. There will be more surgeries and better medications for animals.

Dr. Cleasby told us about 2 important organizations for vets.  One is WSVMA- Washington State Veterinarian Medical Association and another is the AVMA-American Veterinary Medical Association. These organizations are very important to vets. We also asked her some of the advantages of being a vet. She said you are never bored and get to be around a lot of people and animals you like. “I get to go outside and not be in an office all day. And you make a pretty good living.”

At the end of the interview she gave us a tour of the clinic.  We got to see where they did operations and their lab. Dr. Cleasby took us downstairs to show us where they took the animals when they stayed overnight and to show us the isolation room. We got to see the x-ray room and an x-ray of a cat’s broken leg. She took us to where they wash animals after surgery or if they just need a bath. 

I am glad I interviewed Dr. Cleasby because she knew a ton and was really kind to us.


Burgan, Michael. Veterinarian Mankato Minnesota: Capstone Press, 2000. Pp7-43

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S Department of Labor, Occupational Out look Handbook, 2002-03 Edition, “Veterinarians,” on the Internet at

Cleasby, Joanna. Personal interview. December 9, 2003

“Veterinarian.” The World Book Encyclopedia. 2002.

“Veterinarian.” Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe. 2001. CD-ROM. Microsoft Corp

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