Veterinarian Skills: Definition and Examples
Updated June 30, 2023
If you have an aptitude for science and health care and love animals, then a career in veterinary science may be a good fit for you. Becoming a veterinarian requires a lot of hard work and education, but for those passionate about animals, it can be worth all the time and effort. Before choosing this career path, it's important to understand everything being a veterinarian entails.
In this article, we discuss different types of veterinarians, explain what they do, what skills they need and how to include these skills on a resume.
Related: Types of Veterinary Careers
What are veterinarians?
Veterinarians, commonly referred to as vets, provide medical care for small animals, livestock, avians, zoo, laboratory and other animals. Small animal veterinarians typically work in a private clinical setting and treat pets such as dogs, cats and birds. They may also provide care for more unique pets such as snakes, lizards and turtles.
Equine veterinarians focus on treating horses. Food animal veterinarians work to raise animals that become food sources. They may help with tasks such as food safety and meeting inspection standards. Research veterinarians work with laboratory animals to study human and animal health conditions. There are also zoo veterinarians who solely care for exotic animals held in captivity.
A veterinarian can choose to continue their studies to specialize in a certain area of veterinary medicine. They can choose to specialize in dentistry, anesthesia, surgery, nutrition, emergency care, sports medicine, preventative care and pathology. They may also choose to become postsecondary teachers at colleges or universities.
Read more: Learn About Being a Veterinarian
What do veterinarians do?
Veterinarians are responsible for the following tasks:
Teaching clients how to care for their animals
Examining animals to diagnose medical conditions
Creating treatment plans
Treating and dressing wounds
Performing surgeries and dental procedures
Testing for common diseases
Administering vaccinations to prevent diseases
Prescribing and administering medications
Operating medical equipment, such as X-ray and ultrasound machines
Related: How To Become a Veterinarian
Skills veterinarians should have
Along with a love for animals, veterinarians need to have many other skills to help them efficiently do their job. Here are some skills all veterinarians should have.
Many people view their pets as family members, so veterinarians need to show concern and empathy when working with clients and their animals. When explaining a pet's medical condition, a veterinarian needs to be careful of an owner's feelings. Veterinarians should offer owners feelings of hope, but also be realistic about an animal's medical condition. When euthanizing animals, a veterinarian should do everything they can to comfort both the animal and its owner.
Unlike humans, animals cannot communicate what is bothering them. Veterinarians need to be able to look at data and information available to them to figure out what ails an animal and what treatment is the best. Much of their job includes observation and evaluation to determine what an animal needs. They can also refer to tests such as blood work and stool samples. Veterinarians also need to use what the owner told them about their animal's health and condition to figure out a diagnosis.
Similar to human medicine, most people do not know the technical language for animal medicine. Veterinarians need to be able to communicate treatments and diagnoses to owners in an easy-to-understand way. To help animals, veterinarians need to find ways to encourage owners to provide proper care for their animals. They may do this by giving clear instructions and letting the owner know they can call the clinic if they ever have any questions.
Veterinarians use the knowledge they learned in school and their work and volunteering experience to find solutions to an animal's health conditions. Since some conditions may be urgent, veterinarians need to work fast to create treatment plans for critically ill animals.
Veterinarians go through many years of schooling since the science of animals is so complex. They need to have an aptitude for scientific subjects such as animal science, biology, chemistry and anatomy to be able to pass their courses. Since many veterinarians conduct research or work in a laboratory at some point in their education or career, they also need to know professional research methods.
Critical thinking helps veterinarians choose the appropriate treatment for their patients. Sometimes multiple treatments may help an animal, but it is up to a veterinarian to decide which one is the most likely to work. Likewise, certain conditions may be challenging to diagnose, so a veterinarian needs to be able to use their thinking skills and intelligence to figure out what medical condition an animal has.
Ability to follow safety procedures
Veterinarians have the risk of being bitten, scratched or kicked by scared or stressed animals. Certain safety procedures can help them prevent injuries on the job. For example, veterinarians need to understand the warning signs of animals and how to diffuse any unsafe situations. By staying safe and respecting animals' boundaries, veterinarians can avoid injuries that could lead to the spread of disease or infection. If an animal were to bite, scratch or kick a veterinarian, the veterinarian needs to know what steps to take to treat their injury.
Veterinarians may choose to open their own private clinics or laboratories. These lead veterinarians need to know how to manage their facility and their staff properly. Their job duties may include hiring and training staff, leading a team, delegating work, keeping track of appointments, following safety protocols, ordering supplies, creating invoices for clients and overseeing daily operations. They need to be able to stay organized and figure out how to run a business while also maintaining their veterinary job duties.
Veterinarians need fine motor skills for many of their job duties. For instance, when treating an injury or performing surgery or a dental procedure, they often use medical tools. They need to be able to keep their hands steady while using these tools so that they can make accurate incisions. Likewise, if a pet is awake, they need to be able to work quickly and accurately in case the animal becomes distressed.
How to highlight veterinarian skills
Along with helping you provide excellent care for animals, your veterinarian skills are important for every part of the job searching process. These skills can show employers you are a qualified and dedicated veterinarian. Here are a few ways you can highlight your veterinarian skills on your resume and cover letter and during your job interview:
Veterinarian skills for resume
Include your veterinarian education, experience and skills throughout your resume. Put your strongest veterinarian skills in the skills section of your resume. You can also choose which skills to include based on what skills the job description mentions. If you have any online job profiles, make sure to include your veterinarian skills here as well.
Veterinarian skills for cover letter
Employers read cover letters to get to know more about candidates. Your cover letter is an opportunity to elaborate on your veterinarian skills and qualifications. Connect your veterinarian skills to relevant work or volunteer experiences you have. Explain how your experiences helped you develop these veterinarian skills and how you plan to use them in the job for which you're applying. For both your resume and cover letter, make sure they are free of typos and grammar errors.
Related: 10 Skills for Cover Letters
Veterinarian skills for the job interview
Before your interview for a veterinarian position, prepare for questions that are about your skills related to the job. Think of ways you can connect your veterinarian skills to the job description. Here are a few questions employers may ask about your veterinarian skills:
What skills help you effectively care for animals?
How would you deal with a challenging pet owner?
How would you communicate a chronic or terminal illness to a pet owner?
What makes you a good veterinarian?
What is your greatest strength?
What is your greatest weakness?
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