Self-employment is an attractive prospect for many. With over 4 million people in the UK now choosing to be self-employed, it comes as no surprise that others are looking to do the same.
Many veterinarians are now seeking to go on their own and choosing to become locum vets. This can be a very appealing prospect, as you have more flexibility over your hours which can lead to a more independent work-life balance.
If you want to know more about becoming a locum vet and how to go down this path, this post includes all of the information you need to know.
What is a Locum Vet?
‘Locum’ refers to a person who fills in for someone else in the same profession, usually referring to medical roles. The word ‘temp vet’ has also been used to describe locum vets, as they are usually temporarily working in a role.
In the veterinary industry, locums are usually required to aid in covering leave for vets who are off due to sickness, maternity, holiday, or retirement. Due to the high demand in the veterinary industry, locum vets are key members of the team that ensure the efficiency of a veterinary practice is maintained when a permanent member of staff has to take leave.
There is no difference in qualifications or skills between employed veterinarians and locum vets, as they are still required to carry out the same tasks and responsibilities. However, one thing to consider when deciding to go locum is that flexibility is a necessity, as a locum vet can be called upon on short notice.
Why Should You Become a Locum Vet?
The main thing to consider is the reason why you want to become a locum vet. There are both advantages and disadvantages to this position, which will work better for some than others.
One of the main reasons to go down this route is that locum vet salaries in the UK are generally higher than those of an employed vet. However, the higher rates in this position come from the notion that they can be called upon on short notice, which can affect planning in your personal life.
Locum vet work also offers more variety, as those in these roles tend to move around practices, which means they get plenty of diversity within their work. However, this can prove challenging for those who prefer more structure.
Those who are seeking more flexibility and the freedom to choose their own hours may also decide that locum vet work is the right choice for them. It is important to bear in mind that each advantage can come with a disadvantage, so it all depends on what you are seeking from your career and how that fits into your life outside of work.
Who Can Become a Locum Vet?
The great thing about becoming a locum vet is that anyone who has completed the training to become a qualified vet can apply for this role. Some locum vets are graduates, whilst others have many years of experience.
Many veterinary practices do ask for a minimum of two years of experience, as this brings reassurance that the job role can be carried out and that general practice procedures are familiar to the locum.
If you’re looking for positions as a locum vet, working with recruitment agencies such as Vet Finders can assist in finding a wide range of roles that currently require temporary cover, which is a great way to get started in your career.
The Advantages of Being a Locum Vet
The main advantage of being a locum vet is that you can create your own hours and have a level of flexibility that is limited when working as a full-time, regular veterinarian. Working for yourself also means that there is no hierarchy, which means no permanent boss.
There are fewer occasions as a locum where work impacts your personal life, as you are generally able to create a work schedule to fit around your lifestyle. If you want to take a holiday you can, as there is much less responsibility of having to work around your team.
Locum vets have also been known to get higher wages than employed vets. This means that you are able to tailor your hours, whilst gaining a higher wage packet. However, the increase in rates as a locum vet usually reflects the on-call nature of the job, as you may be called upon at the last minute to fill a temporary position.
Another advantage is that you will find that locum veterinary jobs are generally easy to come by. Busy practices may need an extra person to temporarily help out, and with veterinarians off on sick, holiday or on maternity leave, you will find that there are plenty of opportunities for work as a self-employed vet.
Working in a variety of veterinary practices opens you up to the different methods and techniques that other veterinarians use. Being privy to how others in the profession work means that you are constantly able to expand your skills and knowledge as you have the opportunity to constantly learn and grow on the job.
The Disadvantages of Being a Locum Vet
With advantages often come disadvantages, and working as a locum vet offers no exception.
When working as a locum vet, it is worthwhile knowing that you are often called to work in places that aren’t always local to you. This means that travel is sometimes required, which can be frustrating when starting early and finishing late. If you dislike driving, this may be a huge disadvantage when deciding to become a locum vet, as your place of work can continue to change as you continually work in roles at different locations.
You must be confident in your abilities as a locum vet and are able to work independently. As there is no routine, you are often missed out on the staff meetings, which means that you will have to adapt and catch up wherever possible. Feeling confident in a role when you are only in it temporarily can be difficult, especially in a job that is known for its fast pace and high-pressure situations. When locums come to a practice, they are often expected to get on with the job without asking other members of the team, which means confidence in your ability and position is essential.
For some, being a part of a team at work is something that keeps them motivated and excited about their role. However, when working as a locum vet, you move around often and frequently find yourself in a new group. This can impact your morale and make it hard to feel as though you fit in when you rarely get the opportunity to find your place within a team.
Usually, vets are very familiar with their clients and customers often ask to speak to the same veterinarian as they are aware of the animal’s history and needs. When working as a locum vet, the opportunity to get to know clients is often limited, due to the shorter stints in these roles. This can also impact your job, as it means you may have to do more research than your colleagues who are already familiar with each case.
How is Locum Vet Work Structured?
Deciding how to structure your work as a locum vet is incredibly important and will determine how you operate within your role.
There are a few different options to consider when choosing which way to structure your work as a locum vet; umbrella services, working as a limited company or employing accountants.
When deciding to work under an umbrella service, such as a locum vet agency, you will essentially be seen as an employee. Although you still work in the same way as any other locum vet, by filling in temporary positions, you will also need to submit timesheets, which the umbrella company will then use to sort taxes. This eliminates the accounting side of the business for you.
A similar route to using umbrella services is that of employing an accountant. Accountants will also ask for you to submit your accounts to them, they will then manage and submit them, to eliminate any need for you to manage the financial aspects of your business.
If you choose to create a limited company, you will be choosing to take over every aspect and responsibility of your business. This means that you will need to manage your hours, and finances, which can help you feel as though you have authority over your business whilst working as a locum vet.
What Does a Locum Vet Do?
The role of a locum vet doesn’t differ from that of a permanently employed vet. The only difference is that locums move around often and are usually only in one position for short periods of time.
However, just like other veterinarians, locum vets carry out the same roles and have the same responsibilities, as they literally step into the veterinarian’s shoes whilst filling their position. Locum vets, generally tend to have a wider range of experience because they are exposed to much more than an employed vet who has worked in the same practice for many years.
The variety that comes with working as a locum vet can be very rewarding and can also help to feel as though you are constantly learning and improving in your career.
How Can Locum Vets Find Their First Role?
Once you have decided that becoming a locum vet is the right choice for you, the next and most important step is to find your first role. This will get you started in your career and will also help build the confidence that is necessary when working as a locum.
There are many ways in which you can find your first place of work and there is no rule book in which way you should do this. Many find that working with a recruitment agency is a great place to start, especially if they are new to the industry. Vet Finders has an abundance of experience as a specialist recruiter in this field and can help you get started as a locum vet with our current jobs here.
Word of mouth is also vital in the industry, as your reputation is something that will help carry you in your career. Being highly qualified, having previous experience and a strong reputation are all things that will help to get people talking, which should help you to continue finding opportunities and positions.
Choosing to become a locum vet is a huge decision that comes with many advantages and disadvantages. Freedom, flexibility and higher wages bring more responsibility as well as having to move around a lot. We hope that all the points above have helped to facilitate your decision-making process so that you can now make an informed choice on whether or not this is the right route to follow.
If you’re looking for locum vet job opportunities within the veterinary industry, Vet Finders is a specialist recruitment agency that can help you get started in your career. For more information, you can contact us here.