All About You
Is being a vet the right career for you? We got *all* the deets
Dreaming of a job where you can interact with furry friends all day long? The veterinary field is one that has its highs and lows...and Girls' Life is here to disect it all. We interviewed a current vet student, a practicing vet, and a retired veterinarian to get the scoop on vet school, daily protocol, and *everything* in between.
The road to becoming a vet
If you're like LSU vet student Hannah Barrilleaux, you've been wanting a career in veterinary medicine since you met your very first animal.
Hannah says the application process for vet school begins *long* before the actual written application starts. "It is enocuraged that applicants have a wide variety of animal/veterinary experiences to put on their application." Hannah attained a lot of this experience when she was young by working on her family's cattle farm, competively showing cattle, and helping her mom (also a vet) in her clinics.
As she got into her undergraduate studies, Hannah "worked two part-time jobs to gain experience—as a technician at a veterinary clinic and as a student worker for the LSU Livestock Show Office on campus."
To actually apply to vet school after your undergraduate education, you have to write several essays, submit teacher recommendations, and attend an interview. The minimum GPA accepted by most schools is a 3.0, but most competitive applicants have a 4.0 or higher. Hannah believes her "experiences helped to bolster [her] application, as [her] undergraduate GPA was only slightly above average."
"I would not necessarily say the application process is difficult, but it does require a significant amount of time and dedication."
Once accepted into vet school, Hannah said the workload doubled the amount she took in undergrad. "There really isn't a way to sugercoat it—vet school is hard. The classes are just that much more difficult." Nevertheless, if you're passionate about the field and dedicated to your studies, she thinks there's a pretty strong chance this is the career for you.
Dr. Amanda Maciasz, an associate veterinarian based out of Baton Rouge, LA, has worked in the field for twenty years. She explains that "a typical day for most veterinarians consists of seeing appointments for routine, preventative care for several hours in the morning and afternoon, with a break midday to do some surgical procedures."
"Most days can get very busy trying to accomplish our scheduled appointments and procedures while also making time for the emergencies and sick patients," says Dr. Maciasz about the somewhat chaotic schedule of the typical associate vet.
Just like a career in the medical field, lots of gratification comes from the art of healing—in this case, the healing of animals. Dr. Maciasz says her favorite part of being a veterinarian is "helping people's pets that are such a huge part of the family. It is a very gratifying job and usually well-respected."
Colleen Jones, a veterinarian from Canon, NC, worked in the field for eleven years before retiring from practice due to a change in her health. What she misses most about the vet scene was of course the animals, along with the relationships she formed with their owners. "The animals, especially the cats and dogs, were always fascinating, frequently adorable, and always grateful to be helped and feel better. Once I had a client who brought her pet in because she was getting divorced and just wanted to see me. There was nothing going on with it."
...and the lows
With every profession comes its pros and cons. Jones and Dr. Maciasz both agree that monetary restraints on a family can be extremely difficult to deal with. "[It's hard] not being able to help all the animals due to the realities of finanacial limitations of owners and myself. There is no such thing as free care," Jones says, "either the vet or the owners has to pay for it."
In addition, many forget about the heart-wrenching situations veterinarians have to experience. For example, "Putting the animals to sleep and witnessing the deep pain and grief experienced by their human companions...witnessing maltreatment and abuse" were very hard things for Jones to observe during her time in the field.
Fool-proof advice for the apsiring vet
If the veterinary field is starting to sound like something you could be really interested in, our three interviewees compiled their best advice for girls in your shoes.
Hannah firmly believes in getting experience in whatever you can. "Whether it be volunteering at a zoo or animal shelter, finding a part-time job assisting a veterinarian, or even working a student job at a vet school, the only way to truly know if veterinary medicine is for you is to get your foot in the door and see how much you enjoy it." She also adds that you should "study hard, work hard, and never give up on your dreams."
Similarly, Dr. Maciasz emphasizes the importance "to first work in the profession so that you know exactly what to expect and better understand what the profession fully entails."
Jones agrees that varied experience and animal exposure will not only help determine your career choice, but will also "make you a well-rounded vet school applicant."
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