A surgeon or vet is responsible for the prevention of disease and for the medical and surgical treatment of animals including household pets, zoo animals, farm animals and horses. The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) is the governing body of the profession in the United Kingdom. Under the provisions of the Veterinary Surgeons Act of 1966, with certain minor exceptions, only a registered veterinary surgeon is permitted to diagnose and treat the injuries and ailments of animals.
To become a vet, one must have, first and foremost, a tremendous love of animals. After all, your entire career will be spent caring for them. Secondly, it requires an enormous sense of responsibility, as befits a profession where life and death decisions have to be taken. Thirdly, to become a vet, you must be extremely good in studies, especially the science subjects. Since any medical profession requires the practitioner to memorise prodigious amounts of information and recall them as and when required, while at the same time deciding on the correct course of treatment that may spell the difference between life and death, the importance of academic intelligence cannot be discounted.
Fourthly, a vet must be a good communicator. Animals have owners, and it is as important to communicate with them as with the animals under treatment. Finally, you need to be willing to learn. Veterinary science, like any other medical science, is virtually limitless. There are new treatments being discovered every year, new discoveries being made, constantly expanding the frontiers of knowledge. Moreover, with the richness of the , there are often exotic animals whose physiology is unknown to the vet accustomed to dealing with common animals. Therefore, a vet must never stop learning.
The academic acumen of an aspiring vet is tested during application to a course in veterinary science, the degree being compulsory for the aformentioned registration with the RCVS. You need to have a degree from one of the six colleges approved by the RCVS, at universities in Bristol, Cambridge, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Liverpool and London. Admission requirements are strict, and you will probably require a strong academic record evinced by the following credentials in your record:
- Biology 'A' Level, as well as one or two from Physics, Chemistry and Maths. - Grades at 'A' Level, two A's and a B, or, in some cases, three A's. - Alternatively, a distinction in BTEC Diploma in Animal Science may be considered. Additionally, you need to have considerable hands-on experience working with animals to be considered for admission to the course.
After successfully completing the course and getting your degree, you need to register with the RCVS, following which you can practise in the UK. You are also eligible to add the letters MRCVS, standing for Member of The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, after your name. If you want to specialise in any particular field, you can study and obtain additional diplomas on the subject area. Soft tissue, orthopaedics, ear, nose and throat and dermatology are some common areas of specialisation for small animal practice. Other options include equine veterinary practice, mixed practice, zoo animals, food-producing animals, wildlife, research and genetics.
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