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Dr Harry or James Herriot?

By James Anthony

Becoming a VetMost people will have had some contact with vets - either through the family pets, or on TV in the form of James Herriot or our own Dr Harry.

The work they do - helping sick creatures - will tug at the heartstrings and while these guys make it look easy, becoming a vet is seriously hard work. In fact getting into a veterinary career is harder than becoming a doctor!

You have to pass Year 12 with very high marks as getting into a university course is a cut-throat business with only the best applicants being accepted.

The University of Sydney, for example, will only take a Year 12 graduate with a University Admission Index of 98.2. Medical science courses only need a 95.45 mark!

The school subjects you must have studied include English, Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics and you need to have passed them at HSC, ACT, QSC, NTCE, SACE, TCE or VCE level.

Not only does your brain need to be switched on to be a vet, but the selection process also checks if have full use of your hands and fingers, are able to stand for lengthy periods, have high observation skills and an eye for detail.

Other requirements are being interested in animals, their health and wellbeing, being a good organiser and being able to talk to people.

Five years study

Once accepted into a course, though, it gets tougher. Ahead of you there is five years of full-time study towards your Bachelor of Veterinary Science degree.

When you graduate you then have to work out which part of the veterinary world you want to be a part of. The large majority of vets will end up working in private practice - small operations of between one and four animal doctors - where family pets will be the mainstay of these businesses.

If small animals don't grab your fancy then you can look at rural veterinary work, which heavily involves cattle, sheep, pigs and larger animals such as horses.

Other potential careers involve work with governmental agencies controlling livestock diseases, eradication of outbreaks or infected herds, quarantine inspection and research into various forms of animal diseases.

Other animal welfare careers

If you don't think you can become a vet, then there are other careers within the animal welfare profession you can look at, such as being a veterinary nurse, receptionist or animal attendant.

Even becoming a vet's receptionist or animal attendant requires qualifications and the first step along that path is a Veterinary Studies course.

It has a Certificate II in Animal Studies course (152 hours) and you need to have completed Year 10 - with English and Science - and have regular access to a vet clinic on a paid or voluntary basis to get in.

The Certificate III course requires the successful completion of Certificate II and an additional 220 hours of study, Certificate IV needs CIII and 170 hours study.

Once you have completed Certificate III in Animal Studies you can choose to branch out into veterinary nursing, which offers the chance to become hands-on in the daily examination, treatment or surgical side of animal welfare.

You can also get into Veterinary Nursing by studying that speciality straight away.

Veterinary Nursing

Veterinary nursing is a challenging career with hands-on requirements that bring you into contact with animals and their owners.

The Veterinary Nursing Council of Australia says its members are a valuable and essential part of the veterinary healthcare team and vets depend upon their skills in all areas of examination, diagnosis treatment and surgery.

Whatever your level of career ambition, if you love animals then there are many different levels of participation in the industry that can meet your abilities and desires.

University Veterinary Studies Courses:

NSW: University of Sydney - Camperdown/Darlington Campus & Charles Sturt University; Wagga Wagga
Victoria: University of Melbourne - Parkville Campus.
WA: Murdoch University - Murdoch Campus.
Queensland: James Cooke University - Townsville.
South Australia: The University of Adelaide.
Tasmania and the NT: There are no courses available so students need to look at Australian universities in other states. Murdoch University (WA), University of Melbourne, University of Queensland, University of Sydney or University of Adelaide.

Here are some of the requirements -

Queensland: Sound Achievement or higher in Queensland Year 12 (or equivalent in other States) prerequisite subjects English, Chemistry, Maths 1/B & Physics.

Victoria: VCE or Australian Year 12 equivalent. Units 3 and 4. A study score of at least 35 in each of English, Chemistry, and one of Mathematics or Physics.

New South Wales: Applications are judged on performance in the 2004 HSCE will be ranked on their scaled aggregate University Admission Index. The University of Sydney will select Year 12 students solely on their UAI. The minimum aggregates required for HECS entry for the past three years were as follows: 98.2 (UAI)

Western Australia (Murdoch): Admission requirements are successful completion of secondary education with Physics (and/or Biology), Chemistry and Discrete Maths.


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