Veterinary Surgeon
What do you do for a living?
Veterinary Surgeon, currently working as a senior lecturer at Edinburgh Vet SchoolHow did you get interested in what you do? What advice was available to you when you chose this career direction?
I decided that I wanted to be a vet when I was 7 ( just after I decided that being a zoo keeper wasn’t such a good idea) From then on all everybody asked me was “what are you going to do when you don’t get in to vet school?”- so I became determined to show them that I could get in and didn’t really give any further thought to whether it was what I wanted to do.

What was your journey to reach the role you are in today?
I enjoyed and did well at maths and science at school, I chose Maths, Biology and Chemistry at A level and needed to get at least AAB to get into vet school ( the requirement is now AAA at A level, AAABB at higher+ Advanced higher in science/maths)

It’ a 5 year degree course. You are expected to complete 38 weeks of work experience on farms and in vet practices during your holiday times. The course is very intensive and compared to other degrees (other than medicine) you have more lectures and exams throughout the course. You graduate with expertise to work with any species. Work availability for practicing vets is around 85% small animal, 10% equine, 4% farm 1% other. Most new graduates start working in practice, but many other job opportunities are available as you progress through your career e.g. research, industry, government

Talk me through a day in your life… what sorts of things would it involve?
For 16 years of my career I worked as a practicing small animal vet. Typical day starts at 8.30 am and finishes around 7pm. Sometimes there was time to break during the day, but not always. It’s a very rewarding job if you enjoy working with people, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who just wants to work with animals. During the day you may spend 4-5 hours consulting seeing 4-6 clients per hour dealing with a wide range of issues from puppy vaccination, to seriously ill elderly patients. Often 3-4 hours would be spent in surgery, anaesthetising patients and performing both routine procedures (castrations, spays, dentals etc.) and more complicated surgery and investigations( lump removals, fracture repairs, radiography etc.)

The rest of the time is spent caring for inpatients, dealing with client queries, researching and planning treatments.

For 11 years I ran my own surgery so had control over my working environment and the conditions for my staff which was very satisfying and financially rewarding. It was a very demanding job and once I started a family I found that it was very difficult to be the parent that I wanted to be as well as run a veterinary practice.

I sold my surgery and now work at the University training undergraduate vets. My time is divided between teaching, student support and research. The hours are much shorter ( 35 hour week) but the job remains very rewarding.

Was it your planned career when you were 18?
Not lecturing – I thought I would stay working in practice for my whole career.

What did your mum and dad want you to do?
No- they wanted me to be a doctor- I’m glad I chose what I wanted to do.

What advice would you give to someone interested in your career?
If you want to be a Vet make sure that you enjoy working with people as well as animals. Unless you run your own practice salaries are low compared to other similar professions (less than half that of doctors/dentists/lawyers)

What other directions could you go in /work in within your field other than the job you have chosen?
Research, pharmaceutical industry, government work