What Appeals to You about Animals?
Did you like watching documentaries about animals when you were growing up? Did you cry when Bambi's mother died, or sob while watching the movie
Many things draw us to animals. It can be companionship or the foreign aspect of learning about a new species. For William Rives, VMD and director of Wild Safari at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey, nothing is better than his job. Dr. Rives oversees all 1,200 animals at the 350-acre safari park. He grew up watching Mutual of Omaha's
In the field of animal research, the American Veterinary Medical Association follows the “three R's” tenet. “These principles are: refinement of experimental methods to eliminate or reduce animal pain and distress; reduction of the number of animals consistent with sound experimental design; and replacement of animals with nonanimal methods wherever feasible,” says Dr. May of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Promoting a cause that is close to one's heart is what drives Kimberly May, DVM and the assistant director of the Communications Division of the American Veterinary Medical Association. She started her career as a board-certified equine/large animal surgeon and now she works with all sorts of people who want to know about careers with animals. “That takes many different forms,” she says. “In this role, I write and educate the public about animal welfare and working with animals. I'm constantly learning in this profession, and I enjoy teaching everyone from young children to people who inquire about jobs as veterinarians. I'm still doing a lot of research about animals, and there is a lot of contact with people. Studying and educating the public about animals and animal careers is uplifting.”
Being around animals, communicating with them, and helping them are what motivate people in this profession. “We also enjoy the positive feedback we get from the animals,” says Jim Burwell, owner of Petiquette, a dog-training program in Houston, Texas. “With an animal you can tell right away if it likes you, if it is scared, shy, or angry. Just reading their signs and knowing how to handle and help them is a thrill.”
Having a dog lick your face with gratitude or hearing a cat purr his “thanks” is rewarding. “It makes the job so beneficial,” says Burwell.
Some students shy away from specific careers because the study of math and science can be intimidating. Not all careers with animals require biology, chemistry, biochemistry, and other sciences. If you are running a pet shop, you need to have a background in retail business. Dog trainers, shelter workers, and zookeepers don't need a heavy load of math and science in school.
A career as a veterinarian, veterinary technician, animal researcher, or behaviorist, among other professions, does require a certain amount of math and science. “Your major in college is irrelevant,” says Dr. May. “We've had English majors apply and get into vet school. Veterinary schools look at the overall package. You need to have some experience working with animals before applying to vet school. That can be by working or volunteering at a zoo, animal shelter, or local veterinary office. Vet schools want someone with leadership skills.
“Yes, good grades are important, and you have to be well-rounded too,” adds Dr. May. “Vet schools look closely at extracurricular activities. Just because math and the sciences are daunting to some, doesn't mean you shouldn't apply. If you want something badly enough, go for it.”
Doug Vermeeren strongly agrees. “Many times people are afraid of the work,” he says. “They want something; they dream about it; they hope for it; but they are afraid of the work it will take to get there. Anything worthwhile is worth investing your all into. Don't be afraid to work at it.”
According to Dr. May and Vermeeren, only you can impede your success. “You can always find a tutor to help you with those tough courses,” says Dr. May. “Not everyone in vet school finds science, math, or other subjects easy to tackle. If you want a career as a veterinarian or in a similar field, you shouldn't give up before you try.
“The same thing can be said about the cost of veterinary school,” Dr. May continues. “After four years of college, there is vet school on top of that. It isn't cheap, but there are scholarships and student loans. The salaries are good, and are getting better because of those student loans. If you are thinking about applying to vet school, look at the big picture. The schools are here to offer advice too.”