A female and a male vet examining a dog

How to become a vet

Picture waking up for work and knowing that you are going to be helping animals. And getting to do that every day. That’s what being a vet is all about. But how do you become a vet in Australia? Read on. In this post, we’ll cover:

  • What does a vet do?
  • How do you become a vet?
  • How long does it take to become a vet?
  • What skills does a vet need?
  • How much can I earn?
  • Next steps

What does a vet do?

There are lots of career options for vets which will determine what you do day to day. Some vets specialise in livestock, others in pets. Some vets treat wildlife. Others do all types of animals. More than likely you will work in a clinic (you may at some point choose to open your own practice) but also work out on locations such as farms and zoos.

You will treat sick and injured animals. Prescribe medications. Perform surgery. Provide advice on the health and wellbeing of animals. You may also advise on things like biosecurity on farms.

It’s a career that is varied, never dull, and makes a real difference. That’s what inspired Charles Sturt alumnus Tristan Robinson to become a vet.

“Working with animals is definitely enjoyable, especially the science behind it and problem-solving. It definitely has its challenges, and you need to work hard and have lots of resilience, but overall the career is very interesting and definitely enjoyable. With animals, obviously they can’t talk, so we’ve got to be a big advocate for what’s best for the animal.”

How to become a vet

There are two steps to becoming a vet in Australia.

  • Earn a degree
  • Register

The first step to your career as a vet is to gain a degree like the Bachelor of Veterinary Biology / Bachelor of Veterinary Science1 at Charles Sturt. It’s accredited by the Australasian Veterinary Boards Council, so you know you’re getting the right skills for the job.

One of the best ways to learn is to learn by doing. Central to your degree is hands-on learning. The Wagga Wagga campus has lots of facilities where you get to watch vets at work, learn from them and, as you go through your course, treat animals yourself. At our veterinary clinical centre, for instance, cases come in from across Victoria, NSW and the ACT, and you could treat pets, livestock and even wildlife. You will also have lots of opportunities to do work placements in different kinds of vet practices across the country.

Once you’ve successfully graduated from your vet course, you just need to register with the Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board in the state you want to practice in.

How long does it take to become a vet?

A vet double degree like the Bachelor of Veterinary Biology / Bachelor of Veterinary Science takes six years of full-time study. That gives you time to gain all the knowledge and practical skills to work safely and confidently with most species of animal. You can choose to study part-time, and that would mean double the number of years.

What skills does a vet need?

There are lots of clinical, technical and theoretical knowledge you need as a vet. You’ll get taught all of them – and put them into practice – during your degree. We’re talking things like:

  • Anatomy
  • Immunology
  • Animal genetics
  • Reproduction
  • Nutrition
  • Dental chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Diagnosis
  • Animal medicine

Complement these technical skills with personal attributes like good communication, the ability to think on your feet and make informed decisions about animal care quickly, and a real passion to help animals – and their owners – and you’ll be a great vet professional.

How much can I earn?

Government figures put the average weekly wage for a veterinarian working in Australia at $1,446. So that works out at around $75,000 per year. As you gain experience in your career, you’ll likely see your wage grow, and if you go on to specialise, you can often command a higher salary due to your specialised skills.

The government also expects to see very strong future growth in the market for vets. That means there will be lots of job opportunities; probably more vacancies than there are qualified vets to fill them. So you will have choice about where you work. You can also work aboard. The vet degree at Charles Sturt allows you to work as a vet in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, the United Kingdom and South Africa, as well as anywhere in Australia.

Next steps

While you don’t have to do particular subjects in high school to apply for a Bachelor of Veterinary Biology / Bachelor of Veterinary Science, you’re going to put yourself in the best position to succeed if you select at least some science subjects for your HSC or VCE subjects. They’ll give you a great foundation of knowledge to build on in your degree.

Work hard in high school. Not going to lie, vet degrees are competitive, and you’re going to be looking for an ATAR of at least 90 (although this can change from year to year). Don’t forget though, that that includes any adjustment factors. So, for example, if you’re going to high school in a rural area, your rank will automatically get nudged up by five points.

If you want some more advice or have any questions on how to become a vet, just reach out to our university advisers. They’re more than happy to have a chat.

1Cricos: 068968D