Career prospects

When I tell people that I’m planning to return to university alongside a lot of even-fresher-faced-than me, tuition-loan-receiving 18 year olds, they often ask if it’s going to be worth it. I’ve mentioned before that one family friend said all the vets she knew were unhappy. On placement, I’ve received warnings that it’s an exhausting job and that a lot of people can’t hack it. It’s hard not to be daunted by this, even if for every vet who lists the negatives there’s another telling me what a privileged, rewarding role it is.

I don’t want to go into heaps of personal detail – in brief I know that whatever I do in life, I will push myself and work my hardest and that I absolutely need a challenge – so instead, I’ve decided to look at the more tangible career prospects for vets.

Early career vets

The good news is that a vet degree gives you a great change of getting hired. Most universities offer statistics on number of graduates employed within 6 months of graduating and these numbers are shown below. Of the remaining 2-10% of students, some will still be seeking employment but others will have gone on into research or further education.

University at which veterinary medicine was studied

Proportion of graduates employed within 6 months

Average starting salary

University of Nottingham



University of Bristol



University of Cambridge



Royal Veterinary College



University of Liverpool



University of Edinburgh



Unviersity of Glasgow



All stats taken from university websites or if not listed on university webpage.

According to, the average starting salary for vets is £31,150; the data provided by UniStats and the institutions themselves comes out a little lower at £25,773. Many new graduates start out on internships or graduate programmes which offer structured training. These can be in both small local practices or large businesses with a chain of practices up and down the country. Alternatively, some vet roles are simply advertised as “suitable for new graduates”.

For example, Eastcott veterinary clinic and hospital are currently looking for 5 interns to go on rotations (source) whilst this recruiter in Warwickshire is offering £28-32,000 per annun to a 2016 graduate.

Career prospects img1.jpg

Career prospects img2.jpg

Two large chains of vet practices offering graduate programmes are Vets4Pets & Companion Care Vets and CVS Group Plc.. CVS pay their new graduates £30,000 p.a. as well as covering BVA, BSAVA, TCVS and VDS fees; Vets4Pets & Companion Care Vets don’t list a salary. The PDSA also have a graduate scheme if you’re looking to work for a charitable organisation.

Average salaries

Somewhat conflicting with the starting salaries above, the online salary monitor Pay Scale list the average salary for any veterinarian at £30,387. Prospects suggest £41,148 for small animal practice and £44,142 in large animal practice, whilst the 2010 RCVS Survey of the Veterinary Profession lists £48, 951 before out of hours, benefits or overtime payments. To make a very rough and ready measure out of these varied numbers, their average is £41,157.

I tried to do some research using job adverts but most simply say the salary will be “competitive” or even “excellent”. Vet Record Jobs allows you to filter by salary band which I used to put together the following graph for salaries of vets working in clinical practice.

Career prospects img3.jpg

NB: the divisions aren’t equal, but the bar widths are. Can’t help it – don’t complain!

Tthe non-specialist job vacancy website shows the following salary banding. Although it’s harder to filter results on Indeed to make sure we are only looking at full time roles for practicing vets, I didn’t want to leave it out and give an overly rose-tinted view of my future income! I assume these numbers are cumulative, which would give  the following graph:

Career prospects img5.jpg

Senior staff

Prospects suggest that senior vets with over 20 years of experience “can earn up to £69,021” whilst the RCVS survey found that 8% of respondents earned over £100,000 per annun.

Outside of veterinary practice

Of course, not all vets work in practice: 5% of RCVS survey respondents worked outside of this sphere, although nearly half of these were still in animal-oriented organisations. Opportunities including working for government bodies, the army, in the food production industry, in research or in teaching. Most of these people had worked in clinical practice previously, on average for 12.6 years, and their mean average salary was £51,000.

Work-life balance

Many veterinary job adverts list how often you will be on call, such as 1 in 3 or 1 in 6 days per week, 1 in 5 weekends, 1 in 3 Saturday mornings or similar. Some practices now use a separate emergency services provider and state “no out of hours”; my reaction to this is that it’s an individual choice how much disruption to your home life, family and hobbies you’re willing to take on. I imagine at different points in your working life different OOH arrangements would suit.

In many practices working long hours over and above the number listed as “full time” seem to be the norm, although this is certainly not unique to the veterinary profession and from what I’ve seen occurs in lots of roles in private businesses. That’s not to dismiss the long hours of intense work vets do, just to point out that for lots of hard-working people, not being a vet does not equal an easy ride. Compared to other similarly-qualified private sector professions such as law vets do have a low hourly rate, but they do well in comparison to the public sector and other roles that my friends have gone into on the grounds of “I’ve got a passion for it” such as teaching and conservation. To use the example of teachers, commonly they work over 50 hours per week teaching, marking, preparing lessons, planning activities, running after-school clubs and communicating with parents, all of which can also take up much of the holidays. The salary for a teacher in English or Welsh state school is typically between £22,000 and £33,000.


Obviously, I’m not going to vet school because I see it as a fab money making idea. I’m going because I see an opportunity for a challenging career combining academic expertise and hands-on work with both people and animals. It’s a tough career and a lot of work – but so are lots of other jobs, in which case I might as well do something I enjoy. And having considered the numbers, a veterinary education doesn’t look like a terrible investment either. Please comment below if you want to share your view or if you think the numbers I’ve found aren’t a good representation of real life!



Vet Jobs

Vet Times Jobs

Vet Record

RCVS Survey of the Veterinary Profession 2010


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