Becoming a veterinarian or an “animal doctor” is tough work and involves many years of education, similar to medical doctors for humans.
In Australia, veterinarians are in great demand due to high levels of pet ownership and farms with livestock around the country.
But exactly how long does it take to become a veterinarian in Australia?
Depending on the circumstances and specializations needed, the precise amount of time can vary.
However, it generally takes between five and seven years to become a veterinarian in Australia.
It’s also important to understand that this is a profession where ongoing training and education are needed.
Table of Contents
- What does a veterinarian do?
- How many veterinarians are there in Australia?
- Are veterinarians regulated in Australia?
- How much money do veterinarians make in Australia?
- What are the requirements to become a veterinarian in Australia?
- Where do veterinarians go to school?
- Do Australian veterinarians need more or less education than medical doctors?
- Is it easy to become a veterinarian?
- How in demand are veterinarians in Australia?
- How many hours a week do veterinarians typically work?
- Where do veterinarians work in Australia?
- Why do people want to become veterinarians?
- Is being a veterinarian hard?
- What are some alternatives to becoming a veterinarian in Australia?
- Can you move to Australia from another country as a veterinarian?
A veterinarian is a medical doctor for animals, primarily dogs, cats, and livestock. Some may specialize in certain species (for example, many only treat dogs and cats while others may only treat cows, horses, and other farm animals).
The tasks a veterinarian may routinely perform vary depending on the needs of the patient and how large a veterinary practice is. They generally include:
- Routine physical exams
- Symptom/sign assessment and diagnosis
- Surgical procedures
- Education – teaching people how to properly care for their animals
- Administer vaccines
- Prescribe medications
- Dental cleanings
- Emergency services
There are more than 13,000 veterinarians working in Australia, according to statistics from the Australasian Boards Council.
This amounts to only about 0.05 percent of the Australian population as a whole.
Yes, Australia is a country that places veterinarians under strict standards and regulations in order to promote the safe treatment and care of animals.
All veterinarians who want to actively practice animal medicine in Australia are required to register with their local veterinary registration board as well as obey veterinary and other legislation in each state/region.
Failure to do so may cost them their license and right to practice.
Veterinarian salaries vary greatly in Australia, depending on factors like location, type of practice, specialization, years of experience, and number of clients.
According to Indeed data, the average Australian veterinarian’s salary is $98,884 a year. The actual range spans from around $50,000 a year to over $150,000 a year.
In addition to base salary, some veterinarians may receive monthly or yearly bonuses. Others may also receive gifts from clients, though this is typically not included in their earnings.
Undergraduate degrees in Australia typically take between three and four years to complete.
In most cases, however, these degrees only form the basis of the requirements to become a veterinarian.
Candidates must go on to achieve a doctorate degree in either Veterinary Science or Veterinary medicine, which will usually take another three to four years.
Some schools offer accelerated programs that can allow students to shave down the number of years of study, but the basic class and degree requirements remain the same.
After graduation, however, veterinarians must apply and become licensed by the veterinary board.
Depending on if additional specializations are pursued, additional certifications may be required.
Attending and completing veterinary school is required in order to become a veterinarian in Australia.
The country offers veterinary programs both through specialized schools and programs at mainstream universities.
The highest concentrations of veterinary programs can be found in Australia’s cities, namely Sydney and Melbourne.
It’s also worth mentioning that Australia’s veterinary programs are considered prestigious on a global scale.
For example, the Sydney School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney is routinely ranked among the top 10 in the world.
The school offers four different bachelor-level degrees: Bachelor of Veterinary Biology/Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Bachelor of Animal and Veterinary Bioscience, Bachelor of Veterinary Science, and Bachelor of Science (Veterinary).
It takes people in Australia between five and seven years to become veterinarians, assuming secondary school (high school) has already been completed successfully.
This is comparable to the educational requirements for human medical doctors, who must complete between four and six years of in-school study prior to practicing medicine in hospitals (though residency programs are required before the doctor can be fully independent).
There’s a common misconception that it is easy to become a veterinarian, or at least easier than becoming a medical doctor.
While the exact level of difficulty may be up for some interpretation, this is objectively not true.
Not only does it take several years of study to become a veterinarian, but good grades are needed throughout in order to successfully pass.
Another topic that frequently comes up in discussion over how easy becoming a veterinarian is the diversity of the patients themselves.
Veterinarians must learn different kinds of animal anatomy and how different illnesses affect them.
They must be equally adept at providing care to different species of patients, not to mention learn how to diagnose patients that cannot express pain levels or symptoms.
Veterinarians are considered to be in high demand in Australia, thanks to a number of factors.
Pet ownership runs high among residents, with over 60 percent of Australian households being home to at least one animal.
With over 29 million pets total (not counting livestock or zoo animals) and only around 13,000 veterinarians, the need for more individuals in the veterinary field is tangible.
The average veterinarian work week is set at around 40 hours, but there are numerous exceptions.
Depending on available staff and whether or not emergency services are offered, veterinarians may work longer than average shifts or even be on-call 24 hours a day.
Some may also be on overnight shifts as pets require monitoring post-surgery or other treatments.
This also does not include travel time for veterinarians who treat livestock or other animals in rural and agricultural areas.
More recent veterinarian graduates may also work longer hours as they establish themselves and do internships at veterinary practices.
Veterinarians can be found working all over Australia. There are around 4,000 veterinary practices across the nation.
In addition to private veterinary practices and animal hospitals in cities and suburbs, these individuals are found working in rural clinics and for zoological associations.
Depending on their specializations, veterinarians are also employed as laboratory workers and researchers, veterinary professors, and members of animal welfare associations.
Others may also work in telehealth and not deal with patients in person.
According to Indeed, some of the most common reasons people want to become veterinarians are getting to work with animals, experiencing a variety of tasks throughout the day, being able to work independently (particularly with private practices), and helping local communities.
Most veterinarians want to work with dogs and cats. Pay scales are not cited as a top reason for wanting to become a veterinarian.
Being a veterinarian is considered a difficult job that comes with high levels of stress and burnout.
In fact, some surveys show that more than a third of Australian veterinarians are experiencing poor psychological health.
Other studies report high rates of depression that are on par with emergency responders and human medical professionals.
There are some other positions working closely alongside veterinarians in the field that do not require as many years of training or adhering to strict regulations.
For example, veterinary technicians are also in high demand and require only a bachelor’s degree in the field.
This degree can take three to five years to complete but may be expedited under certain programs.
Veterinary assistants are also a popular and much-needed position in modern veterinary care.
The positions often only require on-the-job training or attendance in a short certificate program.
It is possible to move to Australia and practice as a foreign veterinarian. To do so, a valid work visa is required, and previous experience working as a veterinarian in another country with a regulated profession is strongly preferred.
Once this expires, permanent residency will need to be established.
The good news is that because veterinarians are in high demand in Australia, obtaining a work visa and residency is a bit easier for foreign veterinarians wishing to practice than for someone without a job lined up or skill in demand.