How to get a job and develop a career in veterinary medicine

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dr Cynthia Maro
| Beaver County Times

If you love working with animals, and you’re ready to begin working again or you’re looking to enter a new field, this is a great time to explore opportunities, AND make good money doing useful work.

My clinics and many of my colleagues are in the same situation, as we have openings in our clinics for all positions.

Even if you have no training in the vet field, many practices will be willing to provide new hires with on-the-job training. Whether you are just out of high school or have retired from another career, individuals with a love for animals and their owners can find satisfying careers working with great pet owners and other amazing team members.

And people with degrees in veterinary assisting, management, veterinary technician-specific training have amazing choices and opportunities to not only utilize their skills, but also be compensated well with awesome benefits in both private and corporate practices.

The most important qualities in veterinary staff members are a desire to help and heal, willingness to go above and beyond for the best outcome for the patient, the ability to accept and follow directions, accept constructive criticism, and be able to communicate verbally and in writing with staff and clients.

What are the skills veterinary hospitals are looking for in their employees?

  1. A love for animals AND their owners.
  2. Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal. This job requires lots of education for owners.
  3. A desire to learn and work well with a team.
  4. Problem-solving skills and ability to think on your feet.
  5. Tolerance for shifts in patient and task prioritization.
  6. Basic data entry and computer skills.
  7. Physical stamina to work with the animals. Front desk and administrative positions are less demanding physically, so we have hired many retirees for these positions.

If you were told in the past that the field has too many barriers to entry, disregard that info, because the demands for employees are high currently.

To get your dream job working with animals, first identify what species you are interested in working with and then explore the types of veterinary jobs, by shadowing at a clinic.

If you decide you would like to become a veterinarian, technician or assistant, know that all programs want to see that you’ve had exposure to and worked many hours with licensed veterinarians. When you shadow or interview, be sure to show interest in the job, by researching the clinic services and asking the staff team how you may help during your working interview.

If you have a degree or experience in administrative or business operations, when you have a working interview in the vet office, be sure to help the administrative team, following their directions.

Manger and veterinary positions are not detailed below, but many practices are looking for excellent management team personnel and will look to those with great people skills who can lead and train others.

Here are some specific duties required when working in a clinic.

CSR (client services representative):

  • Greetings clients/patients
  • Answering multi-line phones
  • Answering basic veterinary medical questions and helping determine the urgency of a visit
  • Scheduling procedures and appointments
  • Confirming all appointments
  • Preparing documents/charts for appointments 1-2 days prior to appointments (including gathering all previous records)
  • Follow-up calls after appointments
  • Presenting estimates and invoices/explain fees, and processing payments for completed services
  • Management of medical records (reporting, correspondence with referring vet offices)
  • Keeping front lobby organized, clean and stocked
  • Strong interpersonal skills to effectively interface with staff and clients using tact, patience, and professional courtesy

Veterinary Assistant:

  • Handle pets, dogs and cats, of all sizes
  • Assist nursing staff and veterinarians with animal restraint
  • Administer medications, attend to hospitalized pets and see they are comfortable and clean
  • Prepare blood and urine samples for in-house and out-going analysis
  • Maintain exam room, surgery and clinic organization and disinfection
  • Assist clients with prescription and food refills
  • Coordination and communication of case information between owners and staff
  • Support record keeping and documentation
  • Care of kennel and hospitalized pets

Licensed Veterinary Technicians:

  • Have and maintain a technician license through the PA licensing Board of Veterinary Medicine
  • Handle pets, dogs and cats, of all sizes
  • Prepare medications and dosing for patients, based on DVM orders
  • Carry out DVM orders for support and treatment of patients
  • Run and maintain blood, urine and other laboratory equipment
  • Oversea clinic maintenance
  • Perform intake and initial physical exams, triaging cases
  • Communication with and education of owners
  • Record keeping, data entry and documentation

In addition to training staff members for all positions, I frequently write letters of recommendation for vet technicians and pre-vet students to help them gain acceptance into veterinary degree programs, so shadowing and working in a clinic can be huge assets towards advancing your skills and educational opportunities. You can find out more about jobs and shadowing opportunities by contacting the HR manager, via email at Attn Sarah Cote.

If you have questions about how to enter the field, become educated in an area requiring an advanced degree or need advice on school programs for veterinarians and DVMs, please write to the email address above.

dr Cynthia Maro is a veterinarian at the Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City and the Chippewa Animal Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a biweekly column on pet care and health issues. If you have a topic you’d like to have addressed, email