If you have a pet, you have probably visited your local veterinarian's office. Depending on the size of the office, private practitioners usually work with a team of technicians, assistants, and office managers. Veterinary offices can have a small or large staff.
“I got my first taste of what would be my life's work tagging along with a neighbor who happened to be a veterinarian,” says Dr. Tony Kremer, a veterinarian and owner of Kremer Veterinary Services in Illinois, which oversees the day-to-day operations of Animal Care Center of Plainfield, Plainfield Veterinary Clinic and Surgery Center, and Mallard Point Veterinary Clinic and Surgery Center.
“I wasn't quite old enough to work, but I loved just being around all the animals,” he says. He was thirteen at the time.
“He took me under his wing and I continued working for him, doing odd jobs nobody wanted, cleaning cages, feeding, and making sure there was enough water for the animals. I got to walk the dogs for several summers and really developed my love and respect for animals. During these experiences, I realized I didn't just want to tag along. Caring for pets had become my lifelong goal. I wanted to be a veterinarian. I attended the University of Illinois in Urbana, where I graduated with a degree in veterinary medicine.”
With degree in hand, Dr. Tony (as he prefers to be called) went back to the same clinic to work. Working at the clinic was a joy. However, after a few years he started his own clinic. Today, he owns three veterinary clinics and has a staff of ninety — from kennel workers to associates.
He finds so many aspects of the job to his liking. “We do a lot of routine care, preventative medicine, wellness checkups, vaccinations, and surgeries,” he says. “Every day is different because of the scope of the animals and people you are dealing with. Each and every one of them is unique.
“I have seen the profession change over the last twenty years,” he says. “A lot of our office visits are spent educating pet owners about preventative medicine and vaccines. They care so much about their animals and take a deep interest in what we do. It's like a partnership of sorts.”
Most veterinarians need to learn basic managerial skills because they work with a team of technicians, assistants, and office workers. Even the small private practitioner with one assistant and office manager should learn basic business practices in order to run an efficient office.
Dr. Tony, who lives with his wife, Meg, as well as two cats, two dogs, fish, and a quarter horse named Tango, has grown the business to include grooming, daycare and boarding, behavior and nutritional counseling, obedience classes, and emergency and critical care. His advice to people interested in becoming veterinarians is to “intern, volunteer, or take a part-time or summer job working at a vet's office. This way you can see if this is work you really want to do.”
Did you know that veterinarians help people too? While working to heal a fractured bone in a dog, Dr. Otto Stader, a veterinarian, created the reduction splint. Medical doctors took a look at the reduction splint, studied it, and adapted it to use on healing broken bones in humans.
Most veterinarians work late hours and on weekends to accommodate their clients. Others have a more normal schedule. In larger cities, emergency clinics are open throughout the night and early morning hours.
Veterinarian's salaries are rising. This is in part due to the high cost of veterinary school. Starting out, you can expect to earn anywhere from the mid-$30,000s to $50,000. Veterinarians in private practice or in hospital settings with more experience can earn over six figures, depending on where you live in the country. Remember that in addition to the salary itself, you need to consider cost-of-living factors.