Veterinarians diagnose animal illnesses, treat diseased and injured animals, perform surgery and dentistry, provide preventive medical services and provide advice regarding the care and breeding of animals, food safety and security and public health.
Also Known As:Animal Doctor, Doctor, Epidemiologist
NOC Number(s):3114
Minimum Education:6 years post-secondary education/training
Employment Outlook:Job openings generated due to employment turnover. Occupational outlook currently unavailable.
Interests:I O s

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Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Related Legislation | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study


Veterinarians provide animal health and welfare services, and are involved in food safety, public health and environmental management. In general, they:

  • perform routine, emergency and post-mortem examinations
  • diagnose diseases
  • provide advice regarding preventative health care and herd health
  • inoculate animals against infectious diseases
  • treat a wide range of injuries and disease conditions
  • perform dental procedures on various species
  • perform surgery on animals
  • provide obstetrical and embryo transfer services
  • keep records of sick animals
  • provide euthanasia services when necessary.

Diagnosing and treating diseases, injuries and other conditions often involves:

  • collecting, examining and analyzing body tissue, feces, blood, urine or other body fluids
  • taking and interpreting x-rays
  • administering anesthesia and performing exploratory surgery.

Preventive medical services include:

  • parasite control programs
  • vaccination programs against common viral and bacterial diseases
  • routine examinations
  • consultations regarding hygiene, nutrition, and general care and breeding of animals
  • quality assurance programs for food animal species.

Some veterinarians operate mixed animal practices, providing services for a wide range of animals. Others restrict their practices to acquaculture or particular types of animals such as:

  • food-producing animals (beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goats, swine, poultry or fish)
  • domestic pets and small animals
  • exotic birds and animals
  • wildlife and alternative livestock
  • horses.

Some veterinarians specialize in a medical discipline such as reproduction, surgery, oncology, dentistry, anesthesiology, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, cardiology or pathology. Veterinarians who work with large animals may focus their practice on herd health where head management, monitoring and regulatory medicine are important.

In addition to the above duties, veterinarians who own private practices have all the responsibilities of small business owners (for example, human resources and financial management, inventory management, marketing).

In salaried positions, veterinarians may provide wildlife conservation, public health, food safety, agriculture development, disease surveillance or animal welfare services.

Working Conditions

The work can be physically demanding when working with large animals. Depending on the work situation, veterinarians may be required to lift up to or over 20 kilograms. Some have mobile clinics for treating animals in barns or open fields.

Occupational hazards include contact with potentially dangerous animals and exposure to diseases which may be transmissible to human beings.

After-hours emergency work is required in many types of veterinary practice.

Personal Characteristics

Veterinarians need the following characteristics:

  • confidence in working with animals
  • a strong commitment to public health and food safety
  • stamina and strength
  • good powers of observation and judgment
  • good communication and public relations skills
  • the ability to work well in a team environment
  • a willingness to keep up with current developments in the fields of veterinary medicine and business.

They should enjoy working outdoors, working independently and with the public, helping others and making decisions quickly under pressure.

Educational Requirements

Prospective veterinarians must complete at least two years of university studies followed by a four year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE), administered in the fourth year of the DVM program. Most applicants for DVM programs have completed more than two years of university work in a related faculty such as science or agriculture. Suitable pre-veterinary medicine programs are offered by post-secondary institutions throughout Alberta. Entrance requirements vary from one instititution and program to another but, in general, include a competitive average in English Language Arts 30-1, Pure Math 30, Biology 30, Chemistry 30 and Physics 30.

The following post-secondary institutions offer DVM programs:

The University of Calgary offers a four year Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program. Applicants must have completed at least two years of full time post-secondary instruction at a recognized college or university, and complete an interview. The program is open to Alberta residents only.

The Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon accepts 20 Alberta students annually as part of an interprovincial quota system agreement. Applicants must have completed at least two years of full time post-secondary instruction at a recognized college or university, and complete an interview.

Elsewhere in Canada, four year DVM degree programs are offered at the following institutions, however applicants must be residents of the province for at least one year prior to applying:

Students planning to apply for admission should consult institution websites or calendars for information about post-secondary course requirements and residency requirements.

Post-secondary institutions throughout Alberta offer university transfer programs that allow students to apply up to two years of study toward university bachelor's degree programs. It is the student's responsibility to ensure that the courses they choose to take will be accepted for credit at the institution to which they wish to transfer.

Related Legislation

Under Alberta's Veterinary Profession Act and General Regulation, only registered veterinary members of the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (AB.VMA) may call themselves or practice as Veterinarians. However, animal health technologists may provide veterinary services under the supervision of a Registered Veterinarian.

To find more information on the certification process see Veterinarian Licensing Process on the website.

Section revised June 2013

Employment and Advancement

Some veterinarians establish their own veterinary practices but most find employment as associates or partners in established veterinary practices.

Veterinarians who do not choose private or clinical practice may be employed as:

  • agricultural commodity inspectors (see the Agricultural Commodity Inspector occupational profile)
  • food hygienists
  • researchers in the field of animal disease
  • pharmaceutical company representatives
  • administrators of veterinary public health programs
  • race horse inspectors at racetracks
  • teachers at veterinary colleges
  • animal health or public health researchers
  • clinical veterinarians for laboratory or zoo animals.

Veterinarians employed by government agencies may advance in grade and salary as they accumulate time and experience on the job.

In Alberta, most veterinarians work in the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised October 2012


According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Veterinarians occupational group earned on average from $42.21 to $68.42 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $53.06 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

Section revised February 2012

Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

EDinfo website:

Alberta Veterinary Medical Association (AB.VMA) website:

Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) websites: 

Related Occupational Profiles
Agricultural Commodity Inspector
Animal Health Technologist

Related High School Subjects
English Language Arts; Health, Recreation and Human Services (Health Care Services); Mathematics; Natural Resources (Agriculture); and Science (Biology; Chemistry; and Physics)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Agriculture and Related Technologies

Produced November 2010
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.

Government of Alberta, Human Services