Advice for aspiring vets
That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, spoke to veterinary practitioners, to seek advice for aspiring vets.
- Experience: See as much practice as possible and ensure that you feel a true feel for what life as a veterinary surgeon entails. This may involve some evenings, weekends, summer months, and holidays from school. Some secure positions as veterinary assistants or receptionists as part-time jobs during their second-level studies. Volunteer if necessary to avail of opportunities in veterinary practices. This will allow you to enhance and expand your animal husbandry knowledge. Try to gain experience in multiple practices – mixed, small, large, equine – in various locations;
- Out-of-hours: In a lot of cases, students finish work placement at 5 pm/6 pm, which is not a typical depiction of veterinary – particuarly for those involved in farm practice. If the vet has to tend to a case ‘after hours’, make yourself available. Seek opportunities with practices that allow you to attend out-of-hours emergency calls, including C-sections and other surgeries.
- Knowledge: Do not be afraid to ask questions and try to gain as much hands-on experience as the practice allows. As a non-qualified vet, you are limited in terms of the tasks you can perform, but there are some duties that a veterinary practice can assign to you;
- School: Work hard for the Leaving Certificate and repeat if you must. Keep on top of exam material and assignments throughout your fifth and sixth year. Also, select subjects (chemistry) in line with the university’s entry requirements;
- Overseas: Do not rule out studying overseas as a pathway. If toying with the idea of studying overseas, consider the course duration, living away from home in another country, and the university’s exam format – in a lot of cases, exams are oral-based in some veterinary universities as opposed to written.
- Gap year: Do not be afraid to take a year out after your Leaving Certificate if you are not ready to further your education or are uncertain about the career path;
- Other courses: Some pursue their studies in the area of agricultural or equine science degrees and then apply for either graduate veterinary medicine (very limited places) at UCD or venture overseas if not granted a place;
- Skillset and personality: A competent vet is academically minded, patient, understanding, empathetic and knowledgeable and has a strong work ethic and management and interpersonal skills, as one vet told That’s Farming. Another said: “Veterinary is the most richly rewarding profession, but it is not for the faint-hearted.” “Remember that you are working with people as much as you are with animals – you must have your patient’s best interest at heart.”;
- Workplace environment: Learn the importance of fostering functional working relationships with colleagues and clients alike;
- Background: You do not need a farming background to become a vet (even a farm/large animal practitioner). One said: ”In fact, for example, some of the best farm vets come from non-farming backgrounds.” “You may have to prove yourself, as often is the case with any vet, but you are just as qualified and capable as your farming vet counterparts”;
- Career opportunities: Remember that vets’ roles are ever-changing, and more opportunities exist than traditionally working as practitioners. You can secure positions within the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, state agencies, animal health companies or in advisory and consultancy, for example.
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