by Dr Becky Nicholson MRCVS
The definition of a specialist within the veterinary field is very narrow. The term has been used more loosely in colloquial language, referring to veterinary professionals who have taken a particular interest in a set field of veterinary medicine, but this is strictly incorrect. The profession recognises the term to be much more prescriptive.
As a veterinary surgeon, you must not refer to yourself as ‘a specialist’ unless you meet the tight criteria. The main bodies recognising specialists include the European Board of Veterinary Specialists (EBVS), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and its board of specialists, the American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS).
If you want to see what specialist jobs are out there, why don’t you register with The Vet Service and have a look at your options. If you are not quite at the specialist level yet, we have many other options including graduate vet jobs.
What is a Veterinary Specialist?
A specialist, when defined for a lay audience by the EBVS, is “an individual, who through additional education and training, has become an expert on a particular subject, activity, or branch of learning”. The UK’s Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) only recognises specialists as those with a Diploma level qualification in their chosen area. The RCVS also state specialists must meet additional criteria – they must make an active contribution to their speciality, have international recognition, and publish widely within their field.
The AVMA has a board of specialities – the American Board of Veterinary Specialties (ABVS). They take the definition of specialist a little further, stating that a specialist must undertake additional training and pass an exam to assess that training – this is true of European specialists too.
The ABVS recognises 21 ‘Recognized Veterinary Specialty Organizations’ (RVSOs) and covers 46 distinct specialities. The EBVS recognises 27 different veterinary specialist ‘colleges’ (not actual premises – merely organisations).
Areas of Speciality
The 27 European Veterinary Specialist Colleges and their logos are listed here on the EBVS web pages. The list of subject areas is included below. ABVS RVSOs and subject areas can be seen in full here but are also listed in the table below.
|EBVS College Subject Areas||ABVS RVSOs and subject areas|
There is some overlap in subject areas between the American and European recognised specialities, as expected.
What Do Specialists Do?
Only a relatively small number of specialists exist in each subject area globally, so the job of a specialist can be varied.
Research is a key component – specialists help progress their area of expertise by undertaking research projects.
Specialists are available via referral from first-opinion, primary care veterinarians to work with patients. Specialists will undertake investigations and procedures beyond the capabilities of general practice vets.
The role also involves working closely with human health professionals. The ‘One Health’ initiative encourages communication between veterinary and human fields.
Specialist veterinarians will also work closely with public health officials. Certain specialities may be called upon in times of crisis – for example, the recent Covid-19 global pandemic will have resulted in much collaboration between human and veterinary virologists. Vital research into the passage of the disease from animals to humans and the risk for both populations moving forwards will have been invaluable work.
A major component of the specialists’ role is academia and Veterinary CPD. Many specialists are teaching veterinary students and fellow professionals, including passing on their expertise to aspiring future specialists.
Jobs For Specialists – What to Consider
There are various job vacancies advertised on the EBVS and AVMA web pages. Many job vacancies are based in universities teaching veterinary medicine.
It may be difficult to choose your living location when working as a veterinary specialist because job vacancies will be based in major research and academic centres. Jobs within a particular field may be few and far between. You may have to live within easy reach of a university and therefore, most likely, a city.
Jobs may involve long hours. To satisfy all the necessary criteria – research, international recognition, publishing your work, contributing to the chosen discipline, remaining current – a specialist is likely to spend many hours fulfilling the role.
A veterinary specialist will likely travel worldwide for their job. Attending international conferences with other experts is a probability. Visiting other academic institutions and contributing to global discussions are likely to be components of the job role.
If working globally is something you’re interested in we have a diverse range of roles available worldwide: Vet Jobs in The UK, Vet Jobs in Australia, Vet Jobs in New Zealand, Vet Jobs in Canada and further international vet jobs
Life as a veterinary specialist must be extremely rewarding – knowing you are a leading expert in your chosen field. Being able to share your expert knowledge for the good of animals, humans, and the world overall must be the ultimate job satisfaction. The role is likely to come with some stress due to a sense of responsibility, the demands of long hours, limited choice of location and inevitable long-haul travel. The path to becoming a specialist requires dedication and commitment, but the title will be richly deserved once achieved.