Many kids who love animals decide they want to become veterinarians when they get older. Some kids, especially those who have dealt with an ill pet, may even aspire to be an emergency vet. But what is involved in that career? And what kind of education will they need? Are there things they can do now to start working toward that goal?
What is an emergency veterinarian?
An emergency veterinarian deals with pets who are in a health crisis or who have been in a trauma situation, such as an accident. On a daily basis, an emergency vet may need to take x-rays, stitch up wounds, apply casts, or even perform surgery. They need to be able to handle animals who are scared, injured, and lashing out. They also need to deal with owners who are scared, worried, and possibly sad about their pets. Emergency vets need to be good at a lot of things. And, of course, not every case results in a happy ending.
While emergency vets have the opportunity to save all sorts of animals, it’s not the easiest job out there. Because of the unpredictable nature of things, emergency vets work unusual hours including evenings, weekends, and holidays. They will typically have on-call time, where they could be called in at any moment. Most emergency vets work for animal clinics or hospitals. According to a well-known job and recruitment site, the average salary is about $99.5K per year.
What education does an emergency vet need?
Much like human doctors, emergency vets require quite a bit of schooling. They start with 4 years of undergraduate education, ideally in a science-related field such as biology or anatomy. The next step is to get a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), which requires 4 years at an accredited veterinary institution. These programs can be highly competitive.
In addition to coursework, they’ll do clinical studies to get real hands-on knowledge and experience. After earning their DVM, prospective vets must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination in order to be licensed.
But that’s not all… in order to pursue emergency veterinary medicine, they will need to go on to do a 3-year residency in their specialty. This is where they will learn and practice the skills specific to emergency medicine, including how to work in high-pressure situations.
The last step is to become board certified by the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care, but some vets go on to specialize further by focusing on a particular species of animal. Even if they don’t, they will need to continue learning throughout their career in order to maintain their certification.
What can kids do now to prepare for a career as an emergency vet?
There is good news for kids who are interested in this field of work: much of the prep should involve things they already enjoy, like working with animals. Here are some basic things kids can do from a young age to prepare for a career as an emergency vet, and also to make sure it’s something they will enjoy doing:
- Learn to take care of a family pet
- Help a neighbor by pet sitting and/or dog walking
- Learn the basics of biology in a fun way
- Engage in STEM hobbies, especially science
- Volunteer at a pet shelter
- Visit a pet clinic or hospital for a tour
- Learn about other forms of health care, including dentistry
- Study hard and get the best grades possible
- Learn about healthy food choices – for us and our pets
- Go to summer camp!
Camp Emergency Vet Summer Camp is the perfect introduction for kids who are interested in careers as emergency veterinarians. Although this camp is aimed at young kids in 4th-7th grades, there is some serious learning scheduled to take place.
Kids will learn about emergency first aid, good nutrition, and anatomy. They’ll tackle dissections, use microscopes, and extract DNA (from fruit). They’ll even discuss ethics in animal care. Along the way, campers will meet some professionals who work in related careers, so they can ask questions and hear first-hand stories. There’s no reason your little one can’t start on an exciting career path this summer at Club SciKidz Summer Camp.