California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Veterinarians in California

May also be called: Animal Doctors; Animal Surgeons; Doctors of Veterinary Medicine; Veterinary Medicine Doctors; and Veterinary Surgeons

What Would I Do?

Veterinarians care for the health of pets, livestock, and other animals. Some Veterinarians use their skills to protect humans against diseases carried by animals and conduct clinical research on human and animal health problems. Others work in basic research, broadening our knowledge of animals and medical science, and in applied research, developing new ways to use knowledge.

The majority of Veterinarians treat small companion animals such as dogs and cats. They may examine animals and diagnose health problems; vaccinate against diseases; medicate animals suffering from infections or illnesses; treat and dress wounds; set fractures; deliver offspring of animals; and perform surgery, dental procedures, and blood tests. They may also advise owners about animal feeding, behavior, and breeding. Veterinarians who work with large animals such as horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs usually drive to the animals' location to provide veterinary services. They also consult with farm and ranch owners and managers about animal production, feeding, and housing issues. Veterinarians may be required to euthanize animals when necessary. Some Veterinarians work with physicians and scientists to research ways to prevent and treat various human health problems. Other Veterinarians may work with aquatic animals, wildlife, or zoo animals.

Some Veterinarians may work in food safety and inspection. They may check animals for transmissible diseases, advise owners on the treatment of their animals, and quarantine animals. Other Veterinarians who are meat, poultry, or egg product inspectors, examine slaughtering and processing plants, check live animals and carcasses for disease, and enforce government regulations regarding food purity and sanitation.

Tools and Technology

Veterinarians who treat animals use medical equipment such as stethoscopes, surgical instruments, and diagnostic equipment, including X-ray units and ultrasound. Veterinarians working in research use a full range of laboratory equipment. They may also use software such as medical records, practice management, word processing, spreadsheet, and e-mail.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Treat sick or injured animals by prescribing medication, setting bones, dressing wounds, or performing surgery.Medicine and Dentistry
Examine animals to detect and determine the nature of diseases or injuries.Biology
Provide care to a wide range of animals or specialize in a particular species, such as horses or exotic birds.Information Ordering
Inoculate animals against various diseases such as rabies and distemper.Chemistry
Advise animal owners regarding sanitary measures, feeding, and general care necessary to promote health of animals.Instructing
Operate diagnostic equipment such as radiographic and ultrasound equipment, and interpret the resulting images.Critical Thinking
Educate the public about diseases that can be spread from animals to humans.Speaking
Collect body tissue, feces, blood, urine, or other body fluids for examination and analysis.Problem Sensitivity
Train and supervise workers who handle and care for animals.Education and Training
Direct the overall operations of animal hospitals, clinics, or mobile services to farms.Administration and Management
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Veterinarians in private or clinical practice may work long and irregular hours such as evenings and weekends. They may attend to emergencies and unexpected appointments. They often work in a noisy environment. Veterinarians work with animals that may bite, kick, or scratch them; therefore, they must take necessary precautions such as requiring that the animals be restrained or sedated for treatment.

Veterinarians who work with large animals spend time driving to farms, ranches, or other locations. They work outdoors in all kinds of weather and may have to treat animals or perform surgery on the spot. Veterinarians in nonclinical positions, however, spend much of their time interacting with people rather than animals, while other research positions may require little interaction with people.

Unionization is not typical for this occupation. However, Veterinarians who work for government agencies may belong to a union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Veterinarians may appeal to those who enjoy searching for facts and figuring out problems. They should also enjoy working with animals and have the ability to get along with the pets' owners. Duties may involve working outside. Veterinarians who intend to go into private practice should possess excellent communication and business skills to manage their practice and employees.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2021 for Veterinarians in California was $112,956 annually, or $54.31 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Benefits generally include medical, dental, life, and vision insurance as well as vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans. Those who are self-employed are responsible for purchasing their own insurance and retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Veterinarians should find job opportunities as people continue to have pets and many are opting for more extensive care of their animals.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Veterinarians is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Veterinarians are expected to increase by 20.7 percent, or 1,800 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Prospective Veterinarians must graduate with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) degree from a four-year program at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. The private Western University of Health Sciences Veterinary School in Pomona offers an accredited four-year program; however, the only public veterinary college in California is University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

The prerequisites for admission to veterinary programs vary. The program at UC Davis does not require a bachelor's degree for entrance; however, most students have completed an undergraduate program and earned a bachelor's degree upon entering the program. Thus, applicants without a degree may have a more difficult time getting accepted to the program. In addition to satisfying course requirements, applicants must submit test scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Programs outside of California may have different admission requirements than UC Davis. About 50 percent of the decision to accept a student at UC Davis is academic, which is the combined grade point average and GRE scores. A GRE score at the 70th percentile or higher may increase a student's chances of UC Davis accepting them.

Other advanced degree programs available to veterinary medicine students at UC Davis include the Veterinary Scientist Training Program (Ph.D. and D.V.M. combination program), the Master of Preventive Veterinary Medicine (M.P.V.M.), and the Master of Public Health (M.P.H.).


When deciding whom to admit, veterinary medical colleges place heavy consideration on candidates’ references as well as their veterinary and animal experience. Formal experience, such as work with Veterinarians or scientists in clinics, agribusiness, research, or some area of health science, is required. For example, UC Davis requires a minimum of 180 hours of experience; however, the average hours of the admitted students is 2,500-3,000. Informal experience, such as working with animals on a farm or at a stable or animal shelter, also can be helpful.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in becoming Veterinarians should take many of the sciences including the different chemistry and biology courses offered; mathematics courses including college algebra, trigonometry, statistics, and calculus; English; and social sciences. Courses in management and business may help those who wish to operate their own offices and clinics in the future.

Some Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) may offer beneficial experience in preparing for a veterinary career. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Apprenticeship and Work-Study Programs

Many new graduates of veterinary medicine may choose to enter a one-year internship. Interns receive a small salary but often find that their internship experience leads to better paying opportunities later. For more information on apprenticeship programs currently available, visit the State of California's Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards Web site.

Continuing Education

Similar to other medical occupations, Veterinarians should keep their knowledge current and be aware of any advancements in their field. In order to maintain their license to practice veterinary medicine, Veterinarians should take 36 hours of approved continuing education every two years.

Licensing and Certification

Veterinarians must be licensed before they can practice. They must complete the D.V.M. degree, or equivalent education level, as well as pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. This exam covers all aspects of veterinary medicine as well as visual materials designed to test diagnostic skills. To practice in California, Veterinarians must pass a state board exam in addition to the national exam. Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

The Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates grants certification to individuals trained outside the United States who demonstrate that they meet specified requirements for English language and clinical proficiency. This certification fulfills the educational requirement for licensure in all states. There is also the Program for the Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence (PAVE) which is accepted in California and many other states.

Additional licensing may be required for Veterinarians who become U.S. government meat and poultry inspectors, disease-control workers, animal welfare and safety workers, and epidemiologists. Commissioned officers in the U.S. Public Health Service or various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces may also need additional licensing.

New graduates with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree may begin to practice veterinary medicine once they receive their license. Those who seek board certification also must complete a 3-to-4-year residency program. The residency program provides intensive training in one of the 39 specialties recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). The specialties include internal medicine, oncology, pathology, dentistry, nutrition, radiology, surgery, dermatology, anesthesiology, neurology, cardiology, ophthalmology, preventive medicine, and exotic-small-animal medicine. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Veterinarians are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Social Advocacy Organizations2.6%
Colleges and Universities1.3%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains an effective job search method for Veterinarians. Applicants can also find employment opportunities through placement offices at colleges and universities. Newspaper classified ads and the Internet provide additional sources for job listings. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Veterinarians.

  • Animal Hospitals
  • Veterinarians
  • Veterinary Clinics
  • Veterinary Labs

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Most Veterinarians begin as employees in established group practices. Many Veterinarians with experience eventually set up their own practice or purchase an established one. Other Veterinarians in nonclinical positions may advance to managerial or supervisory positions. Some Veterinarians may find opportunities in food inspection as they ensure the quality of certain foods.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Veterinarians with links to more information.

Animal ScientistsProfile
Nonfarm Animal CaretakersGuide
Veterinary Assistants and Laboratory Animal CaretakersProfile
Veterinary Technologists and TechniciansGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification29-1131
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)IRS