37 ways to use a DVM degree

37 ways to use a DVM degree

Hey, it’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s certainly more than most of us thought about in school when we thought our two choices were (1) start work right away or (2) get an internship.
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May 01, 2016

Whether you’re heading into boards, heading into practice or heading toward a nervous breakdown in your current job, it’s time to consider the many ways you can make a living, find a career and do good with your veterinary degree.

The obvious

  • Practice owner. This one needs no elaboration.
  • Private-practice associate. Perhaps a stepping stone to practice ownership down the road or a long-term goal of its own.
  • Corporate-practice associate. Reliable benefits and consistent hours make these often larger practices a great fit for those looking for a part-time schedule.
  • Locum tenens. Relief work is a great option for those who don’t mind an occasionally sporadic schedule. In a small community where word gets around, relief veterinarians with a good reputation are often as busy as they want to be.
  • Practice management. For experienced veterinarians who are more business-oriented.

The specialties

  • Physical rehabilitation. Veterinary medicine is paralleling human medicine in terms of our recognition of the value of physical therapy following injuries and surgery and as an adjunct for chronic pain management. Veterinarians can become certified canine rehabilitation therapists.
  • Acupuncture and chiropractic. Client demand for alternative care has led to a rise in the numbers of veterinarians studying these treatments.
  • Cat-only clinics. Because some cats (and owners) really appreciate it.
  • Zoo medicine. While many positions require a specialty in zoo medicine, not all of them do. General practitioners can often be found providing care to a variety of species in zoos and other similar facilities.
  • Laboratory medicine. Like zoo medicine, many of these positions require a specialty—but not all.
  • Forensics. Forensic veterinarians do exist, and they play an important role in many criminal and animal abuse cases. If CSI is can’t-miss TV for you, this might be your thing.

The niches

  • Multiservice facility. Why limit yourself—and your bottom line—to medicine? Many veterinarians are branching out to offer clients and pet owners doggy daycare, behavior training, grooming and boarding. (I’m still waiting on the truly dog-friendly café. Come on, people.)
  • Hospice/euthanasia. Supported natural death is rarely discussed in veterinary medicine, although it is the norm in human medicine. Many clients ask for this service (I do it), and those who are positioned to offer specialized end-of-life care can find themselves in high demand. In-home euthanasia providers—either associated with a general practice or an independent, house call-only service—are gaining traction.
  • Mobile housecall. Mobile work is a way to get flexibility in scheduling as well as a lot more time in the sunshine. The freedom to set your own schedule and get out of an office holds tremendous appeal for many.
  • Vaccine clinics. Some argue that vaccine clinics undermine the value of an exam at a full-service clinic. Others say that vaccine clinics serve pets who otherwise wouldn’t receive care at all. Either way, vaccine clinics are here to stay, and many veterinarians find them a good opportunity to earn some needed extra money.
  • Wildlife. Wildlife rescue and rehabilitation is often a function of a web of private, nonprofit and government agencies. There’s usually space for an eager veterinarian to help out and sometimes find a full-time gig.
  • Military. Veterinarians in all branches of the Armed Forces work all over the world. It’s not the easiest job, but many find it an adventure and challenge.
  • Government. One Health roles, food safety inspectors, state veterinary board members: Veterinarians play all these huge roles in maintaining the public good.
  • Telemedicine. It’s the Wild West out there on the Internet, as regulatory agencies and policymakers try to stay ahead of growing consumer demand for telemedicine. As of right now, most veterinary apps and online-only services limit themselves to offering general advice, but expect the debate to continue over the coming years.
  • Lawyer. Love ’em or hate ’em, lawyers feature prominently in veterinary medicine. While not many veterinarians take the plunge to add JD to their list of degrees, smart veterinarians add much-needed perspective to animal law. For those who shudder at the thought of another round of student debt, you can help in the courtroom without going to law school by becoming an expert witness.

The nonprofits

  • Volunteering. Local rescues, cancer walks, international spay-neuter programs, unpaid rural work: The opportunities to give away your services are endless, as all veterinarians know well. The difference here is, you actually want to do it. It’s a great way to break out of your doldrums, go somewhere new and gain perspective.
  • Shelter work. Veterinarians, in conjunction with other animal care experts, are revolutionizing the way we manage homeless pets and get adoptable animals out into homes. Part medicine, part management, part herd health and all heart: It’s hard work, but many veterinarians can’t imagine doing anything else.
  • Animal causes. Working with or even starting a nonprofit is a natural fit for many veterinarians. There are always more good animal-related causes than there are people to support them. World Vets—an organization that works in 45 countries on six continents—began with one vet who set a coffee can on the counter for donations in her practice lobby.
  • Disaster response. Wildfires, floods, tornadoes … every area is prone to at least one kind of natural disaster. Becoming part of your area’s emergency response team can be a valuable way to give back to your community. Veterinary Disaster Response teams exist on the federal, state and local levels and do require official training.

The teaching

  • Professor. For those who really, really love the university environment.
  • Speaker. You have to love the feel of hotel room sheets and the adrenaline buzz of a microphone running out of batteries, but speaking at conferences is how many veterinarians dip their toe into regional and national “expert” status.
  • Media source. Sick of seeing bad information on the news whipping your clients up into a frenzy? Offer yourself to your local newscast or newspaper as a veterinary source.
  • YouTube/Instagram star. If a kid narrating his Minecraft game in his parents’ basement can become a multimillionaire, what’s stopping you from showing off your abscess-lancing chops? There’s an audience for everything these days. If you doubt this, look up “Doctor Pimple Popper” on YouTube. On second thought, don’t.
  • Consulting. These smart veterinarians work throughout the industry—with other vets, with businesses that serve the profession, and with government and international agencies.
  • Life coach. An increasing number of veterinarians who find happiness in their own lives spend time answering query after query about how they did it. Many of them use that as an opportunity to help others follow the same path through counseling, coaching or motivational speaking. We’re a profession with struggles; we need all the help we can get.
  • Writer/editor. It’s true, writing is a profession known for its meager salary. But the good news is, you’re a veterinarian so you’re used to it. Freelance writing for websites or magazines seeking veterinary experts can occasionally lead to a job with a journal or veterinary publication.

The industry

  • Technical services veterinarian. Lots of driving, meeting new people and learning more than you ever wanted to know about the minutiae of kibble manufacturing (or drug manufacturing, depending on your company). It’s a different side of veterinary medicine, but immensely rewarding for those extroverted enough to enjoy all the meetings.
  • Diagnostic laboratories. Often have a full cadre of tech support veterinarians.
  • Entrepreneur. Why give away your ideas to a big company? CE conferences abound with enterprising veterinarians who have developed everything from toe grips to specialized harnesses to unique e-collars. If you’ve ever said to yourself, “Someone really ought to make something for this,” there’s no time like the present. After all, TV’S Shark Tank is still in production.

The funny (or sad)

  • Conversation starter at parties. Say, “I’m a veterinarian.” Now get comfortable. You’re going to be there for a while.
  • Internet warrior. All that horrible information out there on the web? You can try to correct it all. Honestly, though, I don’t recommend it. Many hours have been wasted in fruitless arguments about the BARF diet. It never ends well.
  • Conversation ender at parties. Say, “Wanna see these maggots I filmed on my phone?” For times when you need a quick escape.