Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVetMed MRCVS
Times are changing…
These days, the possible career options available to the holder of a veterinary degree have never been so broad and diverse. Whilst the challenges and rewards of clinical practice are still enjoyed by many, it is far from the only choice. But have you considered being a government vet? And are you aware of the potential lifestyle and career benefits it might offer?
What is a government vet?
Whilst all Official Veterinarians (OV’s) are technically government vets, those who perform OV work in clinical practice might experience more of the stressful aspects than they do the perks.
For example, if you work in clinical practice as an OV your services may only be used sporadically, leaving you feeling a bit lost as you complete your first animal travel documents in months. However, there are government vet careers that are full-time roles that may be right for you if you are looking to leave clinical practice altogether.
As a government vet, you could play a crucial role in ensuring animal welfare and food safety, as well as protecting the country and the wider world against transmissible diseases.
Why being a government vet might be the right choice for you…
Working as a government vet doesn’t have to mean meat inspection – but it can if that’s your passion! Government vets work in a diverse variety of places like the Food Standards Agency, at airports and other travel centres, and even at the Ministry of Defence.
Roles include, but aren’t limited to, food, meat, and egg inspection, epidemiology and work with notifiable disease surveillance, farm inspections, ensuring animal health and welfare, and controlling animal travel and trade. This work can be both with livestock and companion animals, so there’s something for everyone.
Unless you work in practice management, you may not get the opportunity to use many non-veterinary skills. As a government vet, you will find, in the right role, you could find a use for your other skills, like budgeting and networking.
As a vet, you might enjoy your days out and about visiting farms or stables, or you might prefer to be inside, protected from the Great British weather. Whichever option is you, there is a government vet role that is suitable, with some government vets enjoying office work while others are out ‘in the field’.
We all know work-life balance is vitally important to job satisfaction, and it sadly often gets overlooked in the demands of clinical practice. Being a government vet does involve hard and sometimes challenging work, but there is an element of flexibility with hours which could be very welcome if you are used to long working days, weekend work, and nights on-call.
With Animal and Plant Health Agency locations throughout the country, from Carmarthen to Bury St Edmunds, and from Exeter to Dumfries, as well as other government vet options with other organisations, you have a high chance of being able to find a job in your ideal location.
Salaries will, of course, vary depending on job role, hours, location, qualifications, and experience. However, salaries as a government vet can be very competitive, with senior roles ranging from £35k – 60K. These salaries, with improved working hours, may make a move to a government vet role from clinical practice quite appealing.
Many job roles in the government vet sector are very broad, with opportunities to perform diverse daily tasks with a range of animals and in varied locations. Some will thrive in these jobs since, as the saying goes, ‘variety is the spice of life.’ However, for those who prefer to hone their skills, there are also opportunities to specialise in particular areas of interest.
Working as a government vet will present some healthy challenges. The stress of practice can pose more than their fair share of challenges to clinical vets. It can lead to burnout, lack of motivation, and a loss of love for the job.
This negative state means that clinical vets are unlikely to welcome further challenges. However, in a job where you feel more positive and valued, you may be more likely to accept, even embrace a challenge.
As Civil Servants, government vets will also benefit from unrivalled job security, leaving you with fewer worries about what the future might hold.
So, is being a government vet for me?
Being a government vet is not for everyone. It does take you away from clinical practice, so if you enjoy working up complex medical cases or performing life-saving surgeries it may not be for you. However, with so many departments and roles to choose from, as well as the potential improvement to your work-life balance and quality of life, it’s definitely worth considering a job as a government vet!
For all our vet jobs – including government positions if available – take a look at our latest vet jobs, locum jobs, work abroad options and more. Get in touch today to see how we can progress your vet career!