What’s it Like Being a Locum Vet?

Lots of people assume that animal doctors only come in one shape and size, but there are multiple different types of vets who work different timetables and require specific types of training, skills and credentials. 

The popularity of locum vet jobs is growing, with the idea of having more control over your life becoming increasingly attractive to those in the field. In this article, we will share all you need to know about working as a locum vet so you can make an informed decision on whether this career path is right for you.

What is a Locum Vet?

Instead of working permanently, locum vets cover for permanent members of staff when they are off work. For example, if an employee is ill or on holiday, locum staff are called in to complete their tasks and temporarily fulfil their role in their absence.

Locum vets also fill in the gaps when staff members resign, retire or are on maternity leave. As injuries and illnesses sadly stop for no man (or animal!), locum vets play an important role in ensuring that furry patients can receive their treatments even when permanent staff members aren’t there to see them.

Most locum vets are self-employed which comes with a lot of pros and cons which we will cover later in the article. Be sure to think long and hard before jumping into this type of job as it requires a lot of responsibility and adaptability.

How to Become a Locum Vet

On top of all of the skills and qualifications needed to be a veterinary surgeon, to be a locum vet you will have to demonstrate the initiative and confidence to go out and find your own clients. You can opt to go through a recruitment agency that will assist you in finding the right kind of cases and help you with the overall process. 

Alternatively, you can go it alone by scanning job boards and employment platforms such as LinkedIn for opportunities. 

It is also a great idea to keep a lookout for networking events as these are great for finding potential clients as well as staying in the know with all the latest from fellow professionals in the sector. It can be difficult to know where to start in the beginning, but try to be confident and put yourself out there.

It will all start to get easier after your first client, as you will not only start making a name for yourself in the industry and hopefully be called upon again. Word travels fast, so be sure to put your best foot forward every time you’re on a job. This will make employers keen to get you back and more likely to give you a glowing recommendation to others. 

Also, you must have a top-notch CV. Locum vets are called in when practices are under strain, sometimes unexpectedly, so make sure your resume presents you as an expert candidate who is capable of jumping right on the job. However, be sure to keep it concise and to the point to avoid putting off a client who may be under pressure and looking for someone to come in as soon as possible. 

On the same note, you must keep your CV up to date with all of your most recent experiences, skills and achievements as this will show that everything is still fresh in your mind and your abilities have not run stale, making you much more attractive to potential clients.

How Much does a Locum Vet Earn?

Typically, a locum vet has a much higher pay rate than those in permanent positions, but these high earnings are supposed to compensate for the lack of job security and holiday pay in the profession. Typically, most locum vets will begin a shift at about 08:00 or 08:30 in the morning and continue until 18:30 or 19:00, with a break in the middle somewhere around lunchtime.

Your earnings will of course depend on your level of experience, with those who have been in the profession for a few years being paid more than those that are fresh out of university. Wages also vary depending on the role and the practice itself.

The typical daily wages for locum vets are:

  • £250 – £280 for those that have recently graduated
  • £250 – £280 for only consults
  • £280 – £330 for locum vets that have been working for 1 – 2 years
  • £300 – £380 for very experienced vets that have been working for 5+ years

However, do remember that what you earn will vary depending on where you are and what is being asked of you!

Advantages of Being a Locum Vet

Freedom: the best thing about locum vet jobs is that you can decide when you work and who for, giving you complete control over your career while allowing you the flexibility to choose when you have your holidays or require a break! This means that you can dictate your own work-life balance and build your hours around when is best for you, which can be especially convenient if you have family commitments.

The flexibility of being a locum vet also comes in very handy when you are in-between permanent roles. If you are searching for a long-term role or waiting for it to start, the lack of commitment involved in this type of career makes it great for filling these little gaps.

On top of this, the flexibility is also great if you are looking to go travelling, which is a perfect way of brushing up your skills, keeping your CV looking fresh and earning a bit of cash while exploring the world. However, make sure you check visa requirements before going down this route. 

Nowadays, many owners seek the help of Out of Hour emergency clinics when their pet falls sick or gets injured while their local practices are closed. Locum vets are frequently called upon in these critical hours of need, meaning that you will get the opportunity to jump on lifesaving cases and probably earn more for being called upon at late notice, during atypical times and potentially having to travel.

You will be able to enjoy a bit of variety, which we all know is said to be the spice of life! You will get to work with lots of different people in various places meaning that you will have lots of opportunities to make new friends, see how other practices work and learn from many different people with unique approaches and techniques.

And of course, the higher wages; working as a locum vet means that you will be paid at a significantly higher rate compared to those in permanent positions of the same experience level. While there is of course the downside of not always being guaranteed a shift, always being on your A-game will give you a great reputation and is likely to ensure that you are always in demand.

Disadvantages of Being a Locum Vet

Locum vets are called in when the workforce is strained and in need of someone to take on some of the work so you’ll have to be self-assured and ready to step right in without too much hesitation or bothering the busy staff with lots of questions. While you will of course get a rundown of how the practice operates when you arrive, the team are already worked off their feet and are likely to appreciate as few interruptions as possible.

It can be exhausting to have to put yourself up for one job after the next. Although you are likely to be called back into a practice as long as you work to a high standard, it can be draining to have to repeatedly have to sell yourself for roles. 

The lack of security and guaranteed hours can be stressful. Not knowing when your next job or paycheck will be can feel like an insecure position which some people find to be a lot of pressure and too much financial risk. 

While most of the people that you work with are likely to be friendly and polite, you may never feel like part of the team when working as a locum vet which can be a little lonely. That being said, you are likely to be called back to the same practices repeatedly which might be enough to build strong relationships with those working alongside you. 

In a similar vein, you may not be able to build a rapport with clients like you would if you were working in the same practice all the time. Therefore, you might feel as though you’re missing out on the chance to be the ‘family vet’ that customers know and trust with their pets. 

Responsibilities of a Locum Vet

As a locum vet, you have complete responsibility to build your career right from the bottom, be your own boss by finding and maintaining your clients, as well as deciding where and when you work. While this can seem intimidating at first, this definitely gets easier with time especially as you build relationships with practices and work with them a few times.

In this profession, your reputation is everything so you must perform to the best of your ability in every job and leave clients with a great impression of you. Failing to do so could result in a practice choosing to go with someone else in the future or advising others against hiring you.

Being self-employed, you will also have to keep on top of your finances by organising your own tax payments and ensuring that everything is duly taken care of. 

You will have to comply with the rules and regulations of each practice, quickly catching yourself up to speed with how they operate while ensuring that you work to a high standard.

Additionally, you may also be responsible for organising your own travel, accommodation, insurance and materials. 


Choosing whether or not to work as a locum vet is a big decision that should not be rushed into or taken lightly. Along with many benefits such as a higher wage, freedom to choose your working hours, and location, a locum vet job also comes with a lot of responsibility. You will have to work to upkeep your career and always be prepared to put yourself out there, so be sure to take the time to assess the pros and cons of this profession. 

If you’re looking for job opportunities in the veterinary industry and would like the help of a specialist recruiter, get in touch and find out about the kinds of roles and support Vet Finders can give you.

For Work

We work with most of the large vet groups, many of the independents, animal hospitals, and charities. We always have several roles we are working on and dedicate our time to listen and understand what drives you, the type of working environment you require, promotional opportunities, and suitable location.  Lots of roles aren’t advertised so we can confidentially market your CV to practices and help you secure that perfect role.  If that dream role is out there, we will find it for you!

For Staff

We have over 40 years of recruitment experience in the team and access to a large number of candidates looking for work.  Our large candidate pool has helped us place many  perm and locum candidates in a variety of roles. Our guarantee to you is  every candidate we send will be fully interviewed, completed our detailed skilled matrix and ‘interview ready.’  With our charity led mission and focus on giving back to the industry we love, we find candidates register with us over our competition as they find we deliver a great recruitment service whilst helping those in need.