Veterinary Surgeon

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A career as a Veterinary Surgeon

Veterinary Surgeons provide medical care to a range of animals, from domestic pets to those in farm and zoo settings and wild animals with injuries. They use their practical skills and knowledge of animal physiology, nutrition and medicine to diagnose illnesses, prescribe medicines and perform surgery. They will also manage anaesthesia during procedures and will work to prevent disease in animals and the spread of disease.

Veterinary Surgeon provide a wide range of services in private practice, teaching, research, government service, public health, military service, private industry, and other areas.

Also known as: Veterinarian, Vet

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You'll need:

  • knowledge of animal biology, medicine, and dentistry

  • knowledge of the laws surrounding animals and their welfare

  • excellent customer service skills and compassion, especially in emotional circumstances

  • excellent verbal communication skills

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail

  • patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations

  • physical skills such as mobility and co-ordination

  • to use your judgement and make decisions

  • to use a computer and the main software packages competently

  • to deal with difficult or aggressive animals

A driving licence would be needed to visit animals in their living environments, such as a farm or stables.

To be a Veterinarian, you'll need to have successfully completed a course accredited by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)

Typical salaries
range from
Typical Hours

Around 45 hours per week, however many veterinary practices offer services 24 hours a day and working hours may be irregular to be available for emergencies.

Day to Day
  • Diagnose animal illnesses and health problems

  • Taking x-rays and blood tests

  • Prescribe the appropriate treatment or operating on the animal if necessary

  • Carrying out health checks and providing vaccinations

  • Check farm animals and advise on how to stop diseases spreading

  • Provide preventive care to maintain the health of livestock

  • Supervise veterinary nurses and support staff

  • Keep records of treatments

  • Communicate with pet owners and insurers

  • Neuter animals to stop them breeding

  • Euthanise animals when necessary

  • Follow public health and hygiene laws

  • Work on-call for emergency cases

  • Manage the practice finances, promotional activities and recruitment

Working Environment

Working conditions vary - Vets work in surgeries, farms, zoos, customers' homes, and other environments. You may be required to work outdoors in poor weather conditions. Large animal Veterinarians will spend more time traveling to see their patients where they are housed (zoos, farms, etc).

Your working environment may be physically and emotionally demanding. There are physical risks, from minor injuries such as scratching and biting to the much rarer risk of catching a trans-species disease.

You may need to wear a uniform and protective clothing.

Training Available

Training is an essential part of any job, giving you the skills and knowledge you need to do your job safely and correctly. It also helps to strengthen your current skill set and prepares you for the next stage in your career.


Apprenticeships help you build the experience and skills that employers want to see. No matter what stage you’re at, they’ll help set you up for a bright future. There are lots of ways to get involved.

Veterinary Surgeon opportunities and careers paths

Many Veterinary Surgeons work in private practices and experience can lead to buying into or setting up a practice of your own. You could focus on treating particular animals or specialise in areas such as dermatology or cardiology.

You could also move into a career in research and teaching with a university or research body.


Veterinary Surgeon will usually work in one of the following industries. Click below to find out more about possible career paths.


Fish, shellfish and seaweed are all ways we can help to feed our growing population, making careers in the varied world of aquaculture more important than ever before.

Aquaculture means the ‘farming’ of all kinds of animals and plants that live in the water – fish, shellfish and seaweed. Jobs in aquaculture include farming, working to restore threatened and endangered populations, habitat restoration and looking after aquariums and fish cultures. It’s a growing industry playing an important part in providing sustainable sources of protein to feed our growing population.

Scotland is Europe’s largest producer of Atlantic salmon, directly employing 2,500 people in salmon production, plus many more in the processing and supply chain. The UK also produces fish like rainbow trout, brown trout and halibut, as well as shellfish like mussels, oysters and scallops. Seaweed is also grown and harvested on a small scale – but the industry is expected to grow as we discover new ways to use seaweed in medicine, food and animal feed, and even combatting climate change.

Aquaculture is an important source of employment in the UK’s most remote, rural communities and offers career opportunities all over the world. As well as looking after animals’ health and growth, you could also specialise in science and research to make the industry more sustainable, or design new tech to reduce water pollution and feed waste.

In the Republic of Ireland, fish and shellfish are farmed in 14 Irish coastal counties; salmon, mussels and oysters are the main farmed species in the country. The industry sustains 1,833 direct jobs in remote rural areas with 80% located in the west of Ireland

  • Aquaculture is a varied industry with nearly 1,700 production sites across the UK

  • In Scotland, Atlantic salmon production dominates, employing 2,500 people directly and paying an average salary of about £38,000

  • Most aquaculture businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with over 80% of businesses employing less than 5 people

  • There are 319 aquaculture sites in the Republic of Ireland.

  • In 2021, the aquaculture industry in the Republic of Ireland was valued at €175m

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Diverse, dynamic and rewarding – if you’re practical and love the outdoors, then a career in agriculture could be for you.

Agriculture is diverse, dynamic and rewarding, with a huge range of interesting and varied career options. If you’re practical, hardworking, love the outdoors or have a passion for science and technology then working in agriculture could be for you.

The UK and Ireland's farmers and crofters play a huge part in looking after our natural landscape. While producing food, they can improve biodiversity, plant trees, restore peat, improve water and soil quality, and generate renewable energy. From the latest trends in data science to new methods of animal husbandry, land management and ecology, working in agriculture is a direct way to address the climate emergency, as well as supporting rural life.

If you’re interested in technology, you could work on a farm using the latest equipment and science to produce food sustainably, safely and efficiently. Or if you want to radically change how we produce food and use our land working vertical farming or remote sensing could be for you. More than ever, agriculture needs innovative, enthusiastic people to help make the food we produce both taste good and make good sense for the planet.

  • Utilised agricultural land use stands over 70% of the total area of the United Kingdom and over 82% of the Republic of Ireland

  • Total income from farming in the United Kingdom is estimated to have been £4.1 billion in 2020

  • Economists at Teagasc estimate that in 2021, the average family farm income in the Republic of Ireland increased by 20% from the previous year

  • Principal destinations for UK food, feed and drink exports include the Republic of Ireland, France, the USA, and the Netherlands

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Animal Care

From cats and dogs to endangered species, taking care of animals is a rewarding and interesting career path.

59% of households in the UK own a pet, according to a recent survey by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, while in the Republic of Ireland, this increases to an estimated 61%, so if you want to build a career around working with animals then you’re going to be spoilt for choice. Job roles are incredibly varied – if taking care of domestic animals like cats and dogs isn’t for you, why not think about veterinarian work where you help look after wildlife or livestock? Or if you go wild for exotic species, why not explore the dynamic worlds of conservation and zookeeping?

The choices are endless and every role – and route into it – is different. It’s worth spending a little bit of time thinking about your strengths and weaknesses, as well as the kind of animals you’d like to work with – we’ve put together a few options for you to think about.

  • Over 120,000 people work in Veterinary and Animal Care services occupations in the UK.

  • Between the RSPCA, SSCPA and USPCA charities, over 32,000 animals in the UK were rehomed or released in 2020

  • There are over 1,500 veterinary businesses in the Republic of Ireland, employing almost 4,000 people

  • During 2021, the Dog Trust charity in the Republic of Ireland received 2,155 requests from people wanting to rehome a dog, and increase on the previous year of 82%

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Turn your love of horses into a fulfilling career – explore the equine industry’s exciting career prospects.

Covering everything from working in competition and race yards, riding schools and professional horse training, there are lots and lots of different career opportunities in the equine industry. If you love horses and are happy to work hard in all weathers, this could be the perfect environment for you.

Whether you chose to work in coaching, racing or trekking, you could work as a groom, instructor, yard manager or trainer. There are also lots of varied support roles available too – such as becoming a farrier, a vet and or even a specialist equine dentist.

  • The Equine industry supports approximately 900,000 horses and 2 million riders in the UK

  • The economic value of the equestrian sector to the UK is £4.7 billion

  • The number of horses in training to race per year has remained between 22,000 and 23,500 for 5 years in a row

  • The Irish equine breeding and racing industry generates over €1.8bn in economic activity and supports almost 29,000 jobs

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Qualifications for a Veterinary Surgeon

These courses are perfect if you are starting out on your career but they are also great for people already in jobs who want to improve their skills.

To find out more about qualification levels in the Republic of Ireland, please visit National Framework of Qualifications for Ireland (NFQIE)

To find out more about qualification levels in Scotland please visit Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF).

Select level
Title Level
Training for a Veterinary Surgeon

These courses are perfect if you are starting out on your career but they are also great for people already in jobs who want to improve their skills.

About Apprenticeships

Work, earn and learn

Whether you’re just starting out in the workplace, want to upskill or are considering changing direction, Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to build your career. Apprenticeships combine work with on-the-job training, so if you want to earn as you learn, there’s an apprenticeship out there for you – you can even start an apprenticeship if you already have a degree.

Apprenticeships for a career as an Veterinary Surgeon

All about Apprenticeships

Work, earn and learn – no matter where you are in your career, an apprenticeship can set you up for a bright future.

Let’s get started!

Want to take on an apprentice? Employers start here.

What is an Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a unique blend of work experience and study to help build the skills and knowledge you need for your career. Apprentices are employees – they have a contract, are paid and get the same benefits as everyone else. But the difference between an apprenticeship and a normal job is that apprentices are regularly released from work for training. Sometimes that’s a day a week, sometimes it’s for a longer block – it all depends on the job and the apprenticeship.

Apprentices work for all kinds of people at all kinds of stages in their lives. Most apprentices fall into one of three categories:

  • someone who is just starting their career
  • someone who already has a job and wants to move forward in their company
  • someone who already has a job and wants to retrain to make a career change.

Previously restricted to school leavers and young people, apprenticeships are now a dynamic way of retraining people of all ages - there’s no upper age limit. The minimum age to become an apprentice is 16 and candidates can’t be in full-time education.

Benefits of an Apprenticeship

Apprenticeships offer a unique combination of paid work and study. They’re an exciting option for anyone who wants to gain experience, upskill or change career while working.

They offer a chance to work, learn and earn:

  • workplace experience and skills development
  • a nationally recognised qualification
  • employee benefits and a wage
  • no student loans or tuition fees
  • contact with industry professionals.


Interested in becoming an apprentice? Search for current opportunities and apply here.

Find your apprenticeship

You can also check vacancies on employer websites or get in touch with your local careers service.

Apprenticeship Stories

What’s it like to work, earn and learn? Find out what apprentice life is really like.

Explore apprenticeship stories

Alternatives to Apprenticeships

Useful Information

Useful Links

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)
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British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA)
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British Veterinary Association (BVA)
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Salmon Scotland
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Sustainable Aquaculture Innovation Centre (SAIC)
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Institute of Aquaculture – University of Stirling
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Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers
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Shellfish Association of Great Britain
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Scottish Seaweed Industry Association
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British Trout Association (BTA)
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Aquaculture Industry Wales
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Wales Young Farmers’ Clubs (Wales YFC)
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Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU)
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National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs (NFYFC)
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NFU Cymru
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Farmers' Union of Wales
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National Farmers Union Scotland (NFU Scotland)
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Ulster Farmers Union (UFU)
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Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC)
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National Farmers Union (NFU)
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British Horse Society
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British Equestrian
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Funding Options

Thinking about your finances is important when you're looking at courses and training - different types of funding support is available depending on what type of course you're interested in and where you are located. We recommend you contact the training provider for more information on course costs and financing, but here are some links to connect you to support available:

Skills Hub Scotland

Skills Hub Scotland is an online skill sharing marketplace creating new opportunities to learn and share skills. Wherever you are located - if you have a skill to share, or a skill to learn, Skills Hub Scotland can help.

Initially founded as a response to the Scottish Government’s CivTech 5 programme in 2020 and aiming to offer a platform for those in rural or remote locations, Skills Hub Scotland has been developed into an important sectoral resource. If you have a skill to share with others or are a training provider, list your workshop or course (all skills from all sectors are welcome). If you are a learner, use Skills Hub Scotland to search for and book a course!


STEM is an approach to learning and development that incorporates the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Learning in STEM connects to Education for Sustainable Development/Learning for Sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals – this helps learners to understand that STEM plays a vital role in finding solutions to real world issues or challenges such as protecting biodiversity and tackling climate change. There are multiple pathways into a land-based STEM career including apprenticeships, further and higher education. This means that a career in STEM is open to everyone!

STEM Learning is the largest provider of STEM education and careers support in the UK. Their STEM Ambassadors programme sees volunteers representing a vast range of STEM-related jobs work with young people to bring STEM subjects alive through real life experiences. They help to open the doors to a world of opportunities and possibilities which come from pursuing STEM subjects and careers. To become a STEM Ambassador, you can register via the STEM Learning website:

Lantra have worked in collaboration with STEM Ambassadors in Scotland to create two specific UK-wide Ambassadors schemes - Forestry and Aquaculture. Through these schemes, we want to make sure that those working in forestry and aquaculture have the support materials they need to take part in STEM activities. To find out more and register for the schemes, please follow the links below:

Smart Futures helps young people in Ireland discover the STEM subjects and careers that might be right for them. Co-ordinated and managed by Science Foundation Ireland, their programme allows young people to connect with people that are working in STEM, the organisations they’re working in and what their interests and skills are.

Not sure what you want to do?

Why not take a look at the Industries Explorer as an introduction to the different areas you could work in.

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