Each month we take a look at one of the 650 career pathways featured within Indigo. This month, we explore the role of a Veterinary Surgeon.

Vet Gemma Crossan shares her insights with this video career profile from the Indigo Careers module.

So what is a Veterinary Surgeon?

Vets treat animals that are suffering because of disease or injury. They administer vaccinations, prescribe drugs and deliver newborn animals. They also advise owners on caring for their animals. You might carry out surgical operations and be involved in the inspection of livestock.

You could work in local practices and become a specialist carrying out complex surgery on a certain part of the anatomy or become an expert on a particular animal.


You will work long hours and be on call to cover emergencies 24/7.


Your working conditions will depend on the type of practice that employs you. In veterinary practices for small animals, you will spend a lot of time in the surgery. Working with farm livestock and horses, you will travel to visit your patients.

Some of this work will be unpleasant or smelly and involve travelling long distances. A driving licence is required.

Type of work

Your job may be dangerous as animals can be unpredictable.

You must have good communication skills to talk to the owners.

Working with large animals is physically demanding so you will need to be in good health.

Things to consider

Demanding training
The training is long. 

Very competitive
This profession is very competitive to enter. 

Varied work
In this career you will never stop learning – more experience will make you a better vet. 

Heavy responsibility
It can be a very stressful but rewarding job, with lots of responsibility.

Distressing aspects

You will have to deal with the death of some of the animals you treat, including times when you put them down. 

Most people have an undergraduate degree and you will need previous experience/passion for the field

In order to practise as a vet, all candidates are required to have a degree in veterinary science/veterinary medicine and register with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). Degrees approved by the RCVS are currently available at 8 institutions in the UK. Normal minimum entry requirements for a degree are 3 A levels/4 H grades including Biology and 1 or 2 from Chemistry, Physics or Maths. Depending upon the individual university, you will be expected to have either 2 A grades and a B or 3 A grades (or equivalent). A good range of GCSEs/ National 5s (C or above, or 4 or above in England) is required.

Degree courses usually last 5 years but courses may include an optional additional year in which students gain an Honours degree in a related science subject. All courses include the 38 weeks of practical experience required by the RCVS.

All universities expect applicants to demonstrate their passion for animals and commitment to a career as a veterinary surgeon by undertaking relevant work experience. Candidates could work on farms, in stables, kennels or vets and opportunities to volunteer with animals are available on the Do-it website or through the RSPCA, SSPCA and the Blue Cross.

Salary progression
Newly qualified vets have a starting salary of £21,000 – £33,000.

As you gain experience, your earnings can range from £40,000 to £44,000. 

A senior vet with many years of experience can earn between £50,000 and £70,000 a year. 

Top Tip

With experience, you could progress to become a partner (effectively part-owner) of a practice. You could also undertake further training to become an expert in a niche area such as ophthalmology. Some vets work for government departments and others work within major supermarket retailers, advising major bodies such as these on animal products.

Click here to explore the full library of over 650 career profiles, including multimedia content and LMI data for students to interpret and discuss.