A surprising number of vets work hard through school and veterinary school, only to pop out at the other side and find themselves no longer wanting to be a vet.
Many will start their career in practice and get to a couple of years in before realising veterinary medicine isn’t what they thought it would be. Sound familiar?
So, what can you do if you realise you no longer want to be a hands-on, in-practice, clinical vet? What other careers might you enjoy? Where do you even start?
Consider Career Coaching
Career coaches specialise in helping you decide what you like doing and what you’re good at. They’ll then help you come up with a plan for how to get there and support you along the way.
If you can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong with your veterinary career, using a career coach is definitely the way to go. There are some career coaches who are vets too, which can be helpful.
“[Career coaching] helped me organise my thoughts and identify what was/wasn’t important to me. It helped me become more confident in applying for non-practice jobs but, maybe more importantly, taught me ways to feel happier in practice too!”
Karlien Heyrman BVM&S MRCVS
Talk to Others
Talking to other vets who have made the decision to leave practice can be a great way to get some insight into what to expect, where to go for help, and people who can support you. Reach out to old friends, and see if anybody can help.
Alternatively, social media can connect you with vets who have made similar decisions to you. Vets: Stay, Go & Diversify (VSGD) is a Facebook group and website dedicated to sharing the joy of the ‘Vet Passport’ and all the career opportunities that are open to you.
“There is a human story behind every veterinary passport and the more we share that, the more we can help others on their squiggly careers. And that is what we encourage at VSGD: Tips, advice, mentorship, career inspiration, and knowing you are not alone.”
Ebony Escalona MRCVS, founder of VSGD.
What are my options?
With a veterinary degree, you have lots of transferable skills, such as the ability to work under pressure, fast learning, communication skills, multitasking, and the ability to work in a team. You can apply for a huge range of jobs in just about any sector you want. We’ve listed some ideas here to get you started.
Vet in Government
Government roles, such as working for APHA or creating policy, can provide a meaningful way to use your vet degree. No specific experience is generally needed for these roles, as long as you’re a fast learner. These roles are often salaried and have set working hours, although may not be 9-5.
Pharmaceuticals, Food Companies, Pet Insurance, and ‘Industry’
Those sales reps and people on the end of the phone at the big pharmaceutical companies or food companies are usually vets or nurses. Insurance companies need vets to assess claims.
These roles can be home based or involve a lot of travel, and working hours can vary, too- some are even flexible. Great communication skills are usually required for this job!
Whether it’s in a school, a nursing college, or a university, many diversified vets go into teaching. Depending on where (and what!) you want to teach, you may need further qualifications, such as a PGCE. If you’re always offering to help the vet student or new graduate, this one might be for you.
“I love it when you see the penny drop on people’s faces and you realise you have opened the door to their next level of comfort and skill”
Caroline Taylor MRCVS, CelticSMR
One thing that we as vets don’t realise is how transferable our degree can also be between countries. It can literally be a passport into another country by often being accepted as a specialist skill or shortage vocation which can accelerate visa opportunities.
Veterinary truly is one of those jobs where you can literally work and travel around the world. A number of interesting countries await like Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and many more. You can find a whole range of options global vet jobs on offer.
“The world is literally at your feet as a vet, We have had some of our vets work in 3 or 4 countries in the same year never mind a lifetime. It is an experience I always think everyone should have at least once.”
Ed Taylor BVMS MRCVS, Director TheVetService.com
One Health, Public Health, and Epidemiology
One Health is a rapidly developing area, especially with antibiotic resistance and the emergence of viruses such as SARS-CoV-2. You may want to get a masters or PhD in this area before looking for further work, but if you love this area of veterinary medicine you’ll probably enjoy the extra study!
Human Medicine, and the NHS
It’s not unusual for vets to realise that they’re more passionate about human medicine than animal medicine. Some retrain to become doctors or dentists, others apply for non-clinical roles in the NHS. If you aren’t squeamish about human bodies, and know where temperatures are taken in humans, you might want to consider human medicine as an option!
Specialist services, OOH, imaging, and pathology
Just because you don’t want to be a general practitioner doesn’t mean you want to give up working with the rest of the veterinary team. If it’s the day-to-day grind that gets you down, consider whether moving sideways into a specialist service would suit you.
You could run a euthanasia-only practice, work in emergency and critical care, be a peripatetic surgeon, or work for diagnostics companies as a pathologist or imaging specialist.
“I moved into a niche area simplifying ultrasonography for the general practitioner. I now review ultrasound machines and teach ultrasonography”
Camilla Edwards MRCVS from First Opinion Veterinary Ultrasound.
Animal welfare, shelter medicine, conservation, and charity practice
Many vets love working with animals but find it harder to cope with their humans. Working in shelter medicine or in animal welfare can give you the satisfaction of working with the animals that need it the most without worrying as much about informed consent, phone calls, and client complaints.
You may find that you want to travel and work in shelters in other countries- the world is your oyster!
Business Development and Practice Management
If you have experience or enjoy practice management and looking at how practices work and run, you might want to move into full-time practice management.
You can sometimes do this within the company you currently work for, but you can also set up on your own as an independent consultant. You’ll usually need some experience in a management role.
Going into research can be rewarding for many. You’ll usually need a further qualification, which may be a PhD, or possibly something like the BSAVA Masters in Clinical Veterinary Research.
Being at the cutting edge of developments is often exciting, and you’ll be helping other vets as well as influencing animal welfare.
“I moved from small animal clinical practice to veterinary academia after 13 years in practice. There is such satisfaction in helping students with clinical skills and seeing them progress.”
Shona McIntyre MRCVS, Head of Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies, University of Surrey
Something Completely Different
If you’ve got a love of something, why not turn it into a career or business? You don’t have to use your veterinary degree- you can become an artist; a singer; a home-organisation expert; a lawyer; a salad farmer; a dog walker; an inspirational speaker; a recruiter; a mum (or dad!); a journalist; or a careers coach.* Let your interests give you an idea and run with it.
You may decide you want a fresh start altogether. There’s no shame in returning to university or taking an apprenticeship in something completely different.
*All these are actual careers and roles that members of the Vets, Stay, Go or Diversify group have ended up in!
There’s loads more helpful information about diversification here, but most importantly, don’t be afraid to try new things- you might just find your ideal role!
Not Satisfied in your Current Role? Get in touch with The Vet Service!
If you’ve decided veterinary practice is not for you, don’t worry- the opportunities are endless! Take your time to think about what your values and non-negotiables are, as well as decide what you love.
The Vet Service is a specialist digital recruitment platform for the veterinary industry. If you are looking for a new position, take a look at our range of vet jobs including positions in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.