Veterinarians held about 70,300 jobs in 2012, of which 74 percent were in the veterinary services industry (direct animal care). The remaining 26 percent held positions at colleges or universities, in research laboratories, or in the government. About 18 percent were self-employed, double the percentage of self-employed veterinarians in 2010.
Not all veterinarians work in a traditional clinic setting. Veterinarians who treat horses and other livestock must travel between their offices and farms or ranches. They work outdoors in all kinds of weather and may have to perform surgery, often under unsanitary conditions. Those working in food safety and inspection also travel to farms, or even slaughterhouses and food-processing plants. Some veterinarians choose to conduct research, and work in a laboratory or office. These veterinarians spend little time working with animals.
Veterinarians’ work can sometimes be emotionally stressful, as they deal with sick animals and anxious owners. The workplace can also become noisy due to sick or distressed animals. When working with animals that are frightened or in pain, veterinarians risk being bitten, kicked, or scratched.
Veterinarians often work long and erratic hours. Some work nights or weekends, and they may have to respond to emergencies at any time. About 1 in 3 veterinarians worked more than 50 hours per week in 2012.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Veterinarians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/veterinarians.htm (visited August 14, 2014).