Being a vet is one of the most rewarding jobs out there. But it’s also a career that requires high levels of dedication and a real passion for working with animals, along with a relatively unique set of skills that make you particularly suited for the role.
Whether you’re a veterinary student or someone wondering whether they’d be right for the job, this article takes you through some of the top skills needed to be a veterinarian to help you prepare for your career and identify which areas you may need to put more work into.
This is definitely a talent that is quite specific to this profession, but it’s an important skill needed to be a vet. A lot of the time you will be working with your hands, and so having good manual dexterity is incredibly important to ensure accuracy when you’re performing surgery, delivering treatment and checking for issues, especially if your patient is a small animal.
A good vet is also always incredibly gentle when handling animals, as this tends to relax the creature they are treating and ensure that the best possible care can be given. Vets with good manual dexterity will find it easier to confidently and compassionately handle the animals they treat, improving their experience as well as their patient’s.
As a vet, your main responsibility is treating patients who cannot communicate what is wrong with them. Therefore, you need incredibly good analytical skills to diagnose problems and figure out what the best course of treatment is. A lot of these specialised analytical skills will come from experience working with animals, but if you already have an analytical mindset then you’ll find developing this vet skill much easier.
You may not be able to communicate with your patients as a vet, but you will need to communicate with their owners. Being good at communicating is one of the most important skills needed to be a vet, whether you’re having to deliver upsetting news or update someone on the progress of a treatment plan.
A lot of owners don’t know much about the kind of illnesses their animals can suffer from, which means that vets often have to find simple ways to explain why something might be wrong with a pet and what the options for treatment are. You will need very strong verbal communication skills to be able to do this, which will also benefit your ability to talk to other vets and relay important information.
Veterinary work isn’t all about getting to play with cute animals. A lot of the job involves applying scientific and medical knowledge to a wide range of situations, and having an aptitude for science is one of the qualities needed to be a vet that will benefit you the most. Not only will this help you as you study, but it will also make it easier to diagnose issues and identify the best treatments faster.
We’ve already mentioned the importance of good communication in the veterinary industry, but having good interpersonal skills in general is also ideal. As a vet, you spend half of your time speaking with your patient’s owners and the other half of the time working with other veterinary staff, which are both situations that require strong people skills.
The more approachable you come across, the more that everyone you work with will trust and listen to you. A vet needs to come across as compassionate and skilled, and this will be much easier if you are comfortable interacting with and speaking to a range of people.
Many of the treatment situations you come across as a vet will have simple and well-known solutions, but there will also be plenty of moments in your job where you are faced with a situation that doesn’t have a clear solution. Problem-solving is one of the top veterinary job skills that will benefit you in these scenarios, and it will help you to look at the issue from a range of different angles, consider alternate approaches and identify the best solution or explanation.
When you work with animals that need help, compassion is an essential skill for a vet. Not only will this motivate you to treat your patients and restore them to a fit state of health, but it will also make the owners of the animals you treat feel much more reassured when they leave their pets in your care.
Organisation is one of the skills needed to be a veterinarian that will pay off in every aspect of your work. When you treat multiple patients a day, often of completely different species with completely different problems, you need to be incredibly organised to keep on top of everything and ensure that you can do your job properly.
Vets also tend to have busy schedules, especially if your job involves travelling out to different locations to treat animals that can’t be brought into a veterinary surgery. You’ll need to make sure that you can stick to a schedule, plan in advance so that you have all the right equipment with you, and can switch between tasks depending on what you are called on to do.
Studying to be a vet is one of the most time-consuming career pathways out there. Most full-time degrees take five years, and then you’ll need to start out in a graduate role to work your way up the career ladder. An important skill you need to be a vet is dedication, which will help you to persevere throughout your training and any necessary work experience and ensure that you reach the role you want.
Critical thinking ties into the importance of analytical skills for a vet, which will help you when it comes to deciding on courses of treatment for animals or diagnosing what might be wrong with them. Whilst it can be difficult to see an animal suffering and now know what to do immediately, critical thinking can help you to take a calculated step back from the situation and look at the facts, which will make it easier to identify the best course of action.
Management is a particularly important skill for a vet if you are hoping to work your way up to a senior position in your career. Whether you end up running a veterinary practice or working as part of a team of surgeons, management skills will benefit you if you want to progress and take on responsibility throughout your career.
Self-management is just as important as being able to successfully manage other people, and as a vet, this is a key skill that you’ll need to rely on. A lot of veterinary work requires you to go out on your own to treat animals, and self-management will make this much easier to accomplish.
Whilst treating and healing animals is one of the most rewarding parts of a job as a veterinarian, there are also parts of the role where you have to accept that there is nothing more that can be done for the animals you care for. Empathy is one of the top qualities needed to be a vet that you will rely on in these situations, especially when you have to deliver bad news to the owner of a well-loved pet.
Empathy is also a quality that will improve your relationship with the animals you treat, as if you can empathise with what they are going through then you’ll be able to treat them much more considerately and improve the experience of you and your patient.
Attention to Detail
In a job as demanding as being a vet, it can be easy to start skipping over details and cutting corners to make your life easier. However, failing to pay attention to small details could have negative consequences, especially when it comes to caring for animals. Therefore, attention to detail is a veterinary job skill that many employers will be looking for and which will ensure you always complete your job to the best of your abilities.
Plenty of kind qualities have made it to this list of the top veterinarian skills and qualities, and another of these is patience. Firstly, when you are dealing with the owners of animals that may be distressed or upset, it is important to be patient as you listen to them and assure them that you will try to help their pets.
Patience is also important when it comes to treatment. Whether you are performing a long and complicated surgery that needs focus throughout, or a treatment plan for a sick animal is taking longer than expected, having patience will make you much better at your job.
As previously mentioned, there are points in a veterinarian career where you may have to accept that there is nothing more that you can do for an animal. This can take an emotional toll after a while, especially if the animal is young or if you have been treating them for a long time.
A veterinarian skill that will be useful in these situations is emotional resilience, which will help you to separate yourself from any sadness or guilt that comes with being unable to help an animal. You shouldn’t block off your emotions, but you should build some resilience so you can remain professional in difficult situations.
Finally, a skill that all potential employers will be looking for is appropriate veterinary knowledge. This not only applies to what you will have learnt whilst studying for a veterinary qualification, but also the knowledge that comes from experience working with animals and seeing first-hand how certain treatments work and issues are diagnosed.
You need to have a real passion and vested interest in becoming a vet if you want to demonstrate the depth and breadth of knowledge you have in this subject area. It’s not enough to have simply studied; a sign of a good vet is one who genuinely cares about their patients and field of study and seeks out every opportunity to learn more.
Different roles in the veterinary industry require different skills, but the above list has many of the essential qualities that will bring countless benefits to your career as a vet. You don’t need to demonstrate all of them, but it can be useful to identify where your strengths lie and where you may need to work harder to improve certain skills or qualities.
If you’re looking for help landing your dream role as a vet, get in touch and speak to a member of our team about the current opportunities we have available.