Careers Service Occupations

Veterinary & Animal Care

Veterinary and Animal Care

About

The veterinary profession is highly respected and generally well-paid but requires significant qualifications and training. There are also many other animal care roles available.

The starting annual salary for a newly qualified vet in the UK is around £30,000, with experience this rises to £43,000 - £44,000, depending on the size of the practice. 

According to Lantra it is estimated that 222,850 people in the UK work in the animal care industry, in over 20,000 different business.

Careers advice

Industry news 

Professional bodies 

These represent people working in the sector, providing training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates.

They also provide development for people already working in the sector. Follow them on LinkedIn, or visit their websites for news, contacts, work experience and vacancies. 

The main professional associations for this sector include: 

Animal care

And:

Veterinary

Find professional bodies outside of the UK on GoinGlobal by selecting ‘Professional and Personal Networking’ on each of the individual country guides. 

Making contacts

Making contacts is essential for success in this sector. Many jobs in this field come through networking and speculative applications. You could start with:

Events

Recruitment fairs, open days, talks and events give insight and opportunities to make contacts.

For events listings see Careers Service events or External Events.

Related sectors

You may also be interested in Agriculture or the Environment.

Or see our other sector specific information for more options.

Roles

The following job profiles include descriptions of typical duties, entry requirements and case studies.

There are many different roles available in animal care, including opportunities to work in animal health, welfare, behaviour and nutrition.

In animal care you could work in variety of locations including veterinary surgeries, animal charities, zoos and wildlife parks. Along with dog handling roles within the military, emergency services and prisons. 

Vets are in demand, there is currently a workforce shortage of 11% in small animal practices. Brexit could also potentially bring implications for the sector with around half of vets registering each year in the UK being graduates from the EU. Strong case for vets to be on shortage occupation list, British Veterinary Association, 2017.  

The National Careers Service has a number of animal, plant and land-related job profiles. 

Animal chiropractic

Animal behaviourist/counsellor

Animal physiotherapy

Animal technologist

Dog handler

Gamekeeper

Veterinary nurse

Veterinary surgeon

Zookeeper

Zoologist

Skills employers look for

  • the ability to communicate effectively with pet owners, clients and visitors
  • confidence in handling, treating and caring for animals of all sizes
  • attention to detail, high levels of concentration and strong observation skills
  • the ability to work well in a team, often in stressful situations
  • compassion, empathy and the ability to remain calm and practical in emotional circumstances
  • knowledge of animal health, welfare and ethical issues

Gaining Experience

Relevant work experience in this sector is crucial in developing expertise and demonstrating your motivation and commitment.

Applications for Veterinary Medicine: FAQs  answers questions about getting work experience for veterinary medicine (PDF: 210 KB).

In this sector it is common for offers of placements and work experience to be on an unpaid basis. With work experience often taking place on a voluntary basis for a charity.

Eligible students can apply for a Career Insights Bursary and receive a bursary of up to £500 to help with costs related to undertaking unpaid experience.

Professional bodies and research councils also advertise opportunities. See About for a list of organisations.

Volunteering

In the North East:

  • Go Volunteer - offer a variety of volunteering projects to Newcastle University students, including environmental and animal-related opportunities
  • Search for opportunities on My Career
  • Northumberland, Durham and Tees Valley Wildlife Trust offer voluntary work

UK wide:

Overseas opportunities include:

Internships and placements

Undertaking an internship or placement year is a great way to gain in-depth experience, however placement years are not commonly advertised in animal care. It may be possible to arrange a placement by researching relevant organisations and contacting them directly, through a speculative application. Penultimate year undergraduate students can opt to take a 9-12 month placement, extending your degree programme by one year. For more information, or to register your interest, see Careers Service Placement Year.

Read how Alex Bain from Newcastle University found his reptile and invertebrates placement year at Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens.

See Internships, Placements & Shadowing for additional sources of opportunities for students and recent graduates.

Finding organisations

Speculative applications are when you contact employers not in response to an advertised vacancy. They can be a useful way to approach employers who don’t offer formal internship schemes. They are also useful for finding opportunities in a highly specialised field or specific location. 

Find organisations that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for.

Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen. 

Try the following sites to find companies to approach:

You can find companies to approach for work experience by:

Scholarships, projects and competitions

Related sectors 

You may also be interested in the Gaining Experience sections on Agriculture and Environment.

Finding Jobs

Competition is strong, especially for entry-level positions. Use the following resources to find advertised vacancies and also research employers for speculative applications.

Vacancy sites

General vacancy sites include:

Role profiles link to employers and vacancy sources for specific jobs.

Find jobs and additional vacancy source websites outside of the UK on GoinGlobal.

Veterinary

Overseas

Careersabroad offer opportunities in sustainable development, biological and zoological research and conservation.

The Environmental Information Service has alphabetical lists of environmental organisations. These include agricultural, horticultural and animal welfare organisations by area (PDFs): 

See Graduate jobs for more vacancy sources. 

Charities 

There are many charities operating in this sector with both voluntary and paid opportunities. Examples include:

Search Charity Choice for a list of other animal charities.

Specialist recruitment agencies 

Recruitment agencies often advertise graduate and entry-level positions. They also have a wealth of industry knowledge.

Finding companies

Not all jobs are advertised. You could also approach firms directly or find work through networking in the industry.

Find firms that interest you and get in touch – always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for.

Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.

Try the following sites to find companies to approach: