Many animal lovers dream of being a zoo veterinarian, but few stop to consider the practical details like salary information and other benefits. Veterinarians that work at a zoo typically work with a wide variety of exotic animals, some of which can be quite large.
Being a veterinarian can be quite exciting when you work at a zoo as many of your clients will include animals such as:
Having the necessary knowledge to treat these animals is essential, and often requires the pursuit of advanced degrees.
Salary Information and Education
The salary for a Zoo Veterinarian will vary based on location and the employer, but you can expect the pay to be between $ and $$, with the average landing somewhere between $ in most cases. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the average salary for all veterinarians as of 2011 was $.
Salaries for this job can vary widely, and to some extent will depend on your education, experience, and other skills that you bring to the job. Many veterinarians have master’s degrees, but there is also a collection of veterinarians that have doctorates as well.
The education needed for a veterinarian at a zoo will include a diverse range of topics as this individual will be responsible for taking care of animals from a variety of groups that have very different needs.
The salary for this position may also reflect the amount of inherent danger there is in performing this job, and the potential for working more than 40 hours per week. Many of the statistics that you find that provide salary information will be for all veterinarians working in all fields and not just for zoos.
If you work for a private company or an individually owned company, you can expect to get a salary slightly higher than the average in most cases if there's money in their budget. Most veterinarian positions are for companies, but some individuals have their own private practice instead.
For those that work as part of their own private practice, their salary is around $$$ according to a survey conducted in 2009 by the American Veterinary Medical Association. For those that work at the private practice, the average salary was around $.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also has a category called “museums, historical sites, and similar institutions” which can include aviaries, aquariums, zoos, and other wildlife sanctuaries and parks. Veterinarians that work at these kinds of institutions can expect to earn slightly less than their colleagues with the average being around $ in 2009.
It's also worth mentioning that veterinarians that work at a zoo are one of the lower paid kinds of veterinarians around. The highest paid veterinarians are ones that work with animals that are raised as a food sources such as cows and pigs. The average income for this kind of veterinarian is $$ annually.
Veterinarians that work with horses are also extremely well paid at about $$. Vets that take care of conventional companion animals such as cats and dogs are also paid well at around $$.
The potential to work with exotic animals is one of the key perks that excites many soon to be veterinarians. Exotic animals are rarely seen in private practices, or your conventional veterinary offices, and can offer a unique challenge.
Exotic animals also tend to have a wide variety of needs as they can be very different creatures than your average cat or dog. Working as a veterinarian for a company that is responsible for many different exotic species can help ensure that your day is never dull.
As the veterinarian responsible for many different species you can look forward to solving a complex array of health issues and providing general routine care for the animals. In general, animals will need regular check-ups to confirm they are in good health and will need other proper care such as teeth cleanings and vaccinations.
For animals that are being bred, they will also need regular check-ins to confirm that the gestation of their young is going according to plan. They may also need assistance with birth, and their newly born young may need extra medical care in their early days of life.
Veterinarians will also work with animals who are injured in various ways or suffer from illness, allergies, or chronic pain. Older animals will generally require more care from a veterinarian, and you can expect to see reasonably common ailments that humans also suffer from such as arthritis, pneumonia, sprained joints, broken bones, and mobility issues.
The responsibilities of a veterinarian can also be somewhat dangerous as caring for wild animals can put you in harm’s way on a regular basis. Although many of the animals that a zoo veterinarian will care for are somewhat safe to work with, many will be sedated, or fully anesthetized.
Sedating animals, or putting them under full anesthesia, can make a safer working space for the veterinarian but can also keep the animal safe and prevent them from harming themselves during transport or during a medical procedure.
There are times when a veterinarian will need to sedate an animal but keep them somewhat awake for various treatments, but larger animals such as tigers and lions will often be given full anesthesia due to their dangerous behaviors towards humans.
Larger animals such as elephants can also pose a danger to veterinarians who are trying to provide them with medical care, but not because they are vicious. Larger animals such as elephants may be harder to sedate due to their size, but their size also makes them a danger to a veterinarian trying to provide them medical care.
As a veterinarian, you can also expect to witness the death of animals or the need for an animal to be euthanized in order to avoid unnecessary suffering. An animal may need to be euthanized for a variety of reasons, such as illness, old age, injury, or temperament.
Some animals will also need special medication for their particular health conditions, and this medicine will be prescribed by a veterinarian in most cases. A veterinarian will also work with the animals’ caretaker to monitor how they tolerate the medication and how well it manages their particular condition.
In general, a veterinarian can expect to work with other members of the staff at the institution where they care for animals regardless of what kind of entity it is. Veterinarians that work in wildlife parks may also be expected to travel out into the field to assist an animal.
Veterinarians that work at zoos will likely not have to travel much, but they will have under their care a significant number of patients that all have different needs. A good veterinarian will also keep up to date on the latest treatments and medications available for use with their patients.
What to Expect
Whether you work in a conventional mid-sized zoo or a giant zoo with ample funding, you can expect to see a consistent flow of patients as the veterinarian. Regular medical checks and follow-ups with patients that have ongoing medical conditions will likely take up most of the workday, but occasionally there will also be injuries and other events.
Most veterinarians keep up with seeing each animal on a regular basis, and this can help prevent injuries and catch medical conditions early. However, some vets have too many patients to see, and issues can arise between visits.
As a veterinarian, you can expect to see all kinds of animals of all ages and some will present with benign symptoms while others may need urgent care. The variety of working with this range of animals is what makes being a veterinarian at a zoo exciting for some, while others find it exhausting.
Around 25% of vets put in more than 40-hour weeks, and this may be true depending on what zoo a veterinarian works at. Larger zoos may also be able to hire more than one vet who may help to lighten the load of patients assigned to one individual.
Veterinarians at zoos will often work with other staff members to care for the animals, and this can include consulting with animal caregivers and providing instructions to staff on the ongoing care for a particular patient.
Zoo animals are often transferred from one zoo to another, and this will frequently require that the vet from one zoo work with the vet from the zoo where the animal is currently located.
By working together, the veterinarians can communicate vital information about the needs of the animal; it's medical history, any specific transportation needs, and other relevant details. Veterinarians also may be expected to travel to conferences across the globe to further their knowledge, meet with other professionals, and keep their credentials valid.
The job of a veterinarian at a zoo can also be quite physical, and individuals should be prepared for working long days that often require you to be on your feet and moving heavy objects such as patients. You may also need to work with sophisticated equipment, use computers on a daily basis, and keep detailed patient notes.