How to get vital work experience before applying to Vet School

There is a popular image of what it takes to be a vet; long hours, as well as being able and caring. However the role of the vet is also about education, not just for the vet but for the owners and the public. Learning about the individual animal and their needs.

What makes a good vet?

  • Focus – becoming a vet isn’t an easy task. There is a lot of work involved throughout your study and career as new techniques, treatments and medicines are created.
  • Empathy – not only for your patient but also your client. Neither will understand what is going on sometimes and you need to be the one that helps them.
  • Know your limits – you are looking after the life of another, if you are unsure never be afraid to ask for help. Knowing your limits lets you realise that there will always be more to learn.

What kind of work experience will you need?

Work experience is one of the conditions of being accepted into a veterinary course at university.

  • Veterinary practice – most universities like you to have at least two weeks of experience within a veterinary practice. Learn from the nurses, clean up after the animals, all of this will look great on your application and show the universities that you are serious for this career.
  • Stables – get used to working with the larger animals as well. Riding stables are a great way to work with animals and people. Build up your skills of talking to people about the animals that you are dealing with.
  • Farm work – when training to become a vet you will spend some time on a farm, so it’s always good to get a head start. By working on the farm you will be able to build up a rapport with local farmers, as well as understanding all the duties of a vet on a farm.

How to get work experience?

First impressions always count, so make sure that you are the one to make initial contact with anywhere that you are looking to gain work experience. This is for your future and if your parents are the ones to contact potential work experience placements, it suggests a lack of commitment.

Talk to your local vet, even if they are unable to offer you a placement at that moment, ask them if they can introduce you to a large animal practice or a local farmer. Take initiative and start to build up your network within the animal care community.

Exhibit confidence and self-reliance when discussing the possibility of a work experience placement as this will lead to a good impression, showing that you are ready for this step in your career.

How to make the most out of your work experience?

  • Work Experience journal – by keeping a detailed account of all the things that you accomplished, learned and discovered through your work experience will be useful when it comes to university interviews as you will be able to exhibit a greater knowledge of what the job entails.
  • Get to know the staff – try and talk to as many people as possible, not just the veterinary surgeons, but also the nurses and the administrative staff. It is a business and it’s a good idea to learn about all the aspects of it before moving on to study.
  • Talk to the pet owners – get to know the people and the animals that you will be dealing with throughout your career. It also allows you to work on your communicative skills as well as handling different animals.

For more advice on how to get into veterinary school, see the new edition of

Getting into Veterinary School

by James Barton