“My child wants to be a veterinarian, do you have any advice?” Generally I like to base these articles off of commonly asked questions and this one would have to be right up there. There is a lot of advice out there and the basics are easy to find out so I thought I would stick with the nitty gritty of the thing… the things that no one ever tells you.
So first things first. There are two really important things about being a vet; you have to really like …. People! Ha! How many of you thought that I was going to say animals! It’s true, you do have to like animals but in reality the job is about people, talking, sympathizing and communicating with them. This is something that is frequently overlooked and until about 15 years ago entry into veterinary colleges was based exclusively on grades (more about this later) with no interview, the result being a whole bunch of people who didn’t become doctors because they didn’t like people became vets instead. They were sadly disappointed when then started working and the job dissatisfaction rate was through the ceiling with only 60% of veterinarians working in practice after about the 5 year mark! Crazy eh! The other thing is you have to be dedicated. Over the course of your training through high school, to university, to post-grad to vet school, you will be asked to sacrifice. You have to make sure that this is really something you want to do, because if it’s not, it’s not worth it.
Well with that upbeat thought lets get started. So, even before you get to high school there are lots of things that will help you, increasing both your likely satisfaction with the job as well as your chances at actually getting in to vet school when the time comes. These include volunteering, public speaking and exposure! Anything you can do to increase your comfort level with these is great! I myself was a young interpreter at Upper Canada Village when I was twelve and I volunteered in the kids section of the museum of man and all three of us were girl guides. Exposure to animals. This is good in a lot of ways; learning how to behave around animals is something that can’t be taught it has to be experienced and the more you can get the better. Dr. Boileau, because she wasn’t allowed her own pets, manhandled every animal in the neighbourhood; she walked dogs for her neighbours, she asked to visit birds at the wild bird care centre in Nepean cleaning cages and helping out feeding. Finally there is vet camp it’s all the way in PEI but it’s worth its weight in gold!
Now you are in high school- I split this into three different categories:
There is no skimping out here; maths, sciences and biology as well as English. I also took Latin and it has served me well with remembering medical terminology. This is a great time to learn how you learn best. Studying is a skill. I volunteered the long hours, the thoroughness and the attention to detail, and although your grades from High school get you in to university, they won’t be looked at by the Veterinary Colleges and are therefore a good place to practice.
This is the time to get a job at a veterinary hospital. Although you would love to get paid, getting your foot in the door is far more important. You will be doing the jobs that nobody wants to do, but again you are seeing if this is what you want to do as well as getting that oh so important experience on the resume. All three of us worked at veterinary hospitals from the age of 16. I was paid 2.50$ and hour! But the experience was priceless.
This is good on so many fronts; it teaches you to split your time and work efficiently, it increases your public relations skills and it gives you money which you should start saving for your education. Once you are in the program at university, there won’t be time to work so bulk up now! Obviously there is a lot more to being a vet but it gets very specific at this point.