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What you’re in for
Cute animals aside, one of the best things about being a vet must
surely be having the ability to treat and cure disease and sickness
in animals and increase their quality of life. If you have a passion
for animals and good communication skills to deal with their
owners, along with a strong stomach that will no doubt be
necessary at times, then a career in veterinary science could be
While the majority of veterinary science graduates work in
private practice (most of whom are in suburban general practice),
there are many alternative career destinations available to
graduates. Each year, a number of graduates find employment in
government services (in areas like livestock disease control,
diagnostic service work or disease research), research or rural
industries. Some take the academic route, entering the higher
education sector as university lecturers. Opportunities for
veterinary science graduates are also beginning to emerge in
additional areas such as genetic technologies, food safety, animal
welfare and urban animal management. For more information
about careers in this field, visit the Australian Veterinary
Association website at www.ava.com.au.
Other fields of study that may be of interest include
agriculture, dentistry, environmental studies, health services and
support, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, rehabilitation and some of
the sciences, especially the life sciences.
Courses and specialisations
Almost all veterinary science courses, which involve five to seven
years of full-time study, insist on the same broad-based training to
prepare graduates for all areas of practice. Courses place a
strong emphasis on practical work, with students working under
supervision in external or university-operated veterinary clinics,
often in a farm setting. Courses also require students to
undertake professional practical work in semester breaks and
between academic years. Australian veterinary practitioners must
abide by the code of practice dictated by the AVA. They are
required to register each year with the Veterinary Surgeons’
Board or Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board in the state
or territory in which they intend to practise.
Where to study
Entry into veterinary science courses is extremely competitive
and often demands near-perfect ATAR or OP scores. They may
also require prerequisite subjects (typically in one or more of
maths, physics, biology and chemistry), but this should be
checked with individual institutions as they do vary.
Part of the reason for the tough entry requirements of
veterinary science courses is that only a limited number of
institutions offer them. Currently, seven universities offer
veterinary science courses, with a few of the more recently
accredited courses based in (and focused on) rural areas in
response to the recognition of a skills gap in the rural industries.
Courses are available at universities in New South Wales,
Queensland, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
Each course is recognised throughout Australia as well as in
certain countries overseas.
For details about entry difficulty at different institutions, see
the ‘How tough is it to get in?’ tables in Section 4.
A new degree structure, which has already been established in
some fields at selected institutions, has the potential to become
more common in the veterinary science field. The structure
follows a US-style model where undergraduates enter a general
pre-professional degree (perhaps in science or applied science)
and progress to a specialist postgraduate qualification in
Those considering studying veterinary science should also
consider the challenges being reported by the profession in
recent times before committing to a degree. Industry bodies have
reported that the increase in degrees has resulted in an
oversupply of veterinary graduates, many of whom are struggling
to find full-time employment. Industry bodies have also reported
that — despite the length and high cost of degrees in this field,
the long working hours and often stressful working conditions —
veterinarians command one of the lowest professional salaries.
The student body and graduate ratings
THE STUDENT BODY
tuition costs for
Teaching quality Generic skills
The fees shown are for the whole course and are approximate. Confirm with the institution concerned. For an explanation of abbreviations, see page 429.
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