5 Key Skills You Need
for a Career as a Veterinarian

See also: Careers Involving Animals, Farming and the Natural World

A career as a veterinarian means you are responsible for both the animal and the human that owns it. With specialist medical knowledge and experience, a vet is the only person that pet owners can trust if their little companion is unwell or injured.

Veterinarians can't ask their patients ‘What is the matter?’... they’ve just got to know.

So, if you are planning a career as a vet, you need to have excellent skills along with an expert knowledge of this field.

Here we rundown some of the most crucial skills required for this job.


The most important thing that you’ll need to become a qualified and dedicated veterinarian is a detailed knowledge of animals, their various illnesses, and the correct medical procedures to treat these.

The path to becoming a veterinarian is not easy. It demands a lot of hard work and a passion for keeping animals fit. As an aspiring vet, you’ll need to start your preparation in high school to gain proficiency in biology, physics, chemistry, and maths.

Vets need to be methodical and analytical to interpret, detect and cure their patients. Therefore, you must have sufficient knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat animal injuries, diseases, and deformities. Likewise, you’ll need the knowhow to work with technical machinery and interpret information from X-rays, reports and blood tests. With the right education, you’ll have all these skills and end up with the flexibility to work in a diverse set of environments.


Good veterinarians talk to animals. Great veterinarians hear them talk back.

But as well as connecting with the animals you treat, the ability to communicate with people as accurately and comprehensively as possible is a vital skill that must not be overlooked, particularly if you wish for a career as a veterinarian.

As a vet, it goes without saying that you need to be compassionate while treating animals since they cannot express what is troubling them. Having good communication skills to talk and discuss the matter with their owners will help you to understand an animal better and make treating it a much easier experience.

Communication skills are also important because, at times, a veterinary situation might get out of hand or suddenly become more complicated than you initially thought. These are times when a pet owner is likely to get upset, and it is these cases especially where the way you communicate matters the most.

A veterinarian must be able to explain follow-up care instructions for when an animal is taken home that can be easily understood by the pet owners. Being able to communicate in a way that is friendly but still informative will ensure that all the relevant information is remembered, and the pet owners leave your practice satisfied.


Empathy and genuine love for animals is the first and foremost skill you require to become a successful veterinary doctor.

Afterall, if you don’t love animals, why would you pledge to dedicate your time to look after them? Being a vet is more than just loving cats and dogs; you must have the curiosity to learn about farm animals and exotic species that live in the wild as well as domestic pets.

No matter how affectionate the pets are at home, veterinarians often get to see their other side and must be prepared to handle them with compassion, even if the animal is putting up a fight.

As well as dealing with badly-behaved animals, sometimes an owner may not understand what is going on with their beloved animal and may end up being rude and demanding. This is why it is important to have compassion and empathy for everyone you encounter in your work as a vet: you have to handle people as well as their pets.

Being an empathetic person will help you to build a more positive doctor-patient relationship, and you’ll find it much easier to deal with the moods and emotions of the animals you treat and the people who look after them.

Gentle Hands

A vital trait of a vet to-be is having gentle hands.

The patient and the owner of the patient should feel comfortable when you are handling them. The way you'd want to get treated by a doctor yourself should be the way you'd treat every pet too.

A patient only feels comfortable if their doctor treats them with care, so try to make every hand movement as gentle and warm as possible towards the pet. Many of the animals you work with will be in pain, which makes delicate handling even more important. 

The more gently you handle an animal, the calmer they will feel with you. As well as helping you build a better bond with your patient, this also means you’re less likely to be hurt by the animal.


Many veterinary surgeries are busy places, and disorganisation can result in damage to a business, productivity, and the animals that you care for.

You may one day end up in charge of your own veterinary practice and, in this case, you will find it imperative to have a very organised place of work that allows you to achieve your goals and objectives. Organisation also leads to veterinary teams who work better together and are more motivated to succeed, which can only be a good thing for your business.

Being organised means that you can clearly identify priorities in accordance with various needs and outcomes, and this will help your work as a vet by giving you a clear structure in your day-to-day tasks. Veterinary work can be emotional and unpredictable, but it is in these situations that staying focused and organised will be vital.

In your career as a veterinarian, you may one day become a surgeon, and then organisation is even more of a key skill. Organisation is a skill veterinary recruitment firms look for when recruiting anyone in the vet business. Surgery requires intense focus and organisation to run as smoothly as possible, and you will need to manage the operations you do every day to make sure that priority patients are always getting the help that they need.


It is a challenging task to be a vet, but it’s also a very exciting one.

The joy that you experience healing an animal or a pet is incomparable to any other feeling in the world. You contribute in your humble way to mother nature - what could be better than that?

Everyone has the afore-mentioned skills in different proportions, so before embarking on your journey to becoming a vet, try polishing them to ensure your success.

Good luck future vets!

About the Author

This article was provided by veterinary recruitment specialists Vet Finders a leading supplier of locum and permanent vets to veterinary practices, animal hospitals and charities all over the UK.