Like a lot of children I spent my childhood days dreaming of what I would be when I grew up. For me that dream never changed; I always loved animals and could imagine nothing greater than helping them feel better, so I decided I wanted to be a vet. If this sounds familiar to you, you may be wondering ‘how do I become a vet in Australia?’ If so then this article is for you.
Decide if it is the right career for you
Being passionate about your job is so important in life and it makes all the hard work worth it. Veterinarians are involved in diagnosing, treating and trying to prevent illness and injury. They will sometimes have to make difficult decisions and help support clients through sad times.
However, that is more than offset by all the rewarding moments you will experience when you get to help an animal. Also an aversion to blood is probably not the best trait for a future vet to have! However, don’t worry if you feel squeamish the first time you see it or watch surgery. I know I sure did.
A good way to determine if you would enjoy being a veterinarian is to undertake work experience in vet clinics and visit open days at vet schools. These are usually advertised on their websites and happen annually. You can start by giving your local or family vet a call.
There are 7 universities in Australia that run courses that allow students to qualify as vets. Each university has its own specific entry requirements (click on the hyperlinks below to view these) but generally studying English, Mathematics and Chemistry in the final year of school are required.
Some universities may also require Biology or Physics. Most veterinary courses are 6 years in length and usually require 1-2 years of general science study within that. The universities in Australia that run veterinary courses are:
University of Melbourne (Victoria)
University of Sydney (NSW)
Charles Sturt University (Wagga Wagga, NSW)
University of Queensland (Brisbane)
James Cook University (Townsville, QLD)
Murdoch University (Perth)
University of Adelaide (South Australia)
Do not be put off by the very high ATARs that the courses require. Usually only a handful of students achieve this rank each year and receive guaranteed entry to the veterinary course . Most students, like me, instead are accepted into general science or animal or biomedical science courses first and then by achieving good marks in these courses they can get accepted. Many students have also come into veterinary courses having completed other courses or having had whole other careers (Dr Kunal is an example!). If becoming a veterinarian is your goal then you can achieve it.
Getting a part time or casual job as a veterinary nurse can be really helpful for developing practical skills, making contacts and also learning to appreciate all the hard work that our veterinary nurses do. Keep an eye out for jobs at www.kookaburravets.com/Australia/Oznurses.htm. If you cannot get paid employment, volunteering with animals is a great place to start. I worked at my local RSPCA during university and the experience I got there was invaluable. Visit www.rspca.org.au/contact-us/join-our-team to look for opportunities.
Life after graduation
Once you have completed the course, congratulations! At that point you are eligible to register as a vet and start work. A veterinary course can take you in many directions. Most new graduates start out in general practice working in a vet clinic. As your career progresses some people will train to become specialists in a wide variety of fields. An interest in horses could lead to working with racing horses. A passion for surgery could enable you to pursue a career as a highly trained surgeon. An interest in working in the lab could lead to a job as a pathologist. Vets are also employed by the government to manage quarantine and by veterinary pharmaceutical companies to develop and test products. Wherever it takes you though it is sure to be very rewarding and getting your qualification as a vet is only the start. So get started to make your dream a reality and get in touch with us if you have any questions about becoming a veterinarian!
What universities run veterinary courses?
University of Melbourne (Victoria), University of Sydney (NSW), Charles Sturt University (Wagga Wagga, NSW) ,University of Queensland (Brisbane), James Cook University (Townsville, QLD), Murdoch University (Perth) ,University of Adelaide (South Australia)
How long is a veterinary course?
Most veterinary courses are 6 years in length and usually require 1-2 years of general science study within that.