An exotic veterinarian is entrusted with the care of rare or unusual animals. The salary for exotic veterinarians is often higher than normal veterinarians due to the extra demands of their job.
The demand for exotic veterinarians has increased in recent years. It is a job that requires more specific qualifications than an average veterinarian, so the average salary of an exotic veterinarian is higher than that of ordinary vets. Exotic veterinarians require medical training, but their salary is often lower than other medical professions.
Exotic veterinarians work in veterinary hospitals, private clinics, zoos, and on-site locations when requested. Their duties often involve the regular day to day services of any veterinarian, but they are required to have additional training to serve owners of exotic pets and animals, as well as household animals.
Exotic veterinarians are offered more freedom in what animals they work with. An exotic veterinarian might refuse to work with poisonous snakes or animals if they are personally uncomfortable with it, for example.
The most common desire exotic veterinarians have is to work with wildlife or in a field setting. It’s much more common for an exotic veterinarian to work at a zoo, however. Those who cannot find an exotic veterinarian position can still work at a veterinary clinic and be employed as a normal veterinarian.
Exotic Veterinarian Salary
The average salary growth of exotic veterinarians has remained around one percent per year since 2010. This has been a slow but consistent growth, in line with many medical fields. This amount may lessen near the end of the 2010-2020 period, though it was noted these statistics are mere speculation at this point.
Exotic veterinarians require training beyond ordinary veterinary school. This niche training makes exotic veterinarians rarer than other veterinarians, and their exclusive knowledge means their salaries tend to be higher than all other veterinarians to compensate them for their time spent training.
Like most medical fields, an experienced exotic veterinarian is expected to make more than inexperienced exotic veterinarians. By the sixth year of work, an exotic veterinarian is expected to be making the average salary of an exotic veterinarian or higher. Like all medical professions, mistakes and poor performance during this time may lessen the salaries offered to them.
Schooling and Training Required For The Position
Although the average salary of exotic veterinarians is lower than most medical fields, it still requires significant training. Exotic veterinarians are expected to have a Bachelor’s Degree in medical sciences. They must then apply to a veterinary college for four years.
The first three years of a veterinary college are dedicated to classroom studies and lab work. During the final year, much like other medical professions, students are added to a clinical rotation where they must interact with patients and treat diseases to receive hands-on experience.
Less than half of veterinary college applicants are accepted, according to a 2010 study. Applicants are expected to have a Bachelor’s in the sciences, but they are also expected to have experience working with animals or exotic animals already. Taking internships or working at a local clinic are highly recommended before applying to a veterinary college.
An exotic veterinarian with six years of experience may apply to become a diplomate under the Exotic Companion Mammal Practice category. The only way for an exotic veterinarian to apply to become board certified is through the board exam offered in this manner, and after six years of experience in the field with a reputable employer.
Exotic veterinarians are required to be licensed in all fifty states of the United States. It is acceptable to become licensed by the state you work in, but many state licenses aren’t accepted in other states of the union.
Value Of An Exotic Veterinarian Salary Versus Work Required
Unlike medical professionals who work with humans, exotic veterinarians are constantly at risk when working with their patients. Large and wild species may react violently at the approach of an exotic vet. Poisonous species, even ones that are normally docile, always carry the risk of harming the exotic vet. Exotic veterinarian salaries are low compared to other medical fields.
In the 2010 census of the profession, nearly 25% said that they worked more than fifty hours per week. The extra work hours lower the value of an exotic veterinarian salary even more on an hourly-wage basis.
Exotic animals are more susceptible to disease and causes of early death in homes and controlled environments. For this reason, exotic vets have to deal with the stress of animal deaths and terminal diagnosis at least as often as regular veterinarians. Those who work on-site may deal with the stress of an endangered species they are working with dying out, as well.
Exotic veterinarians have to perform examinations, provide medication, and perform surgeries on exotic animals. Administering medication and performing surgeries come with an inherent risk, so exotic veterinarians must be prepared to deal with the loss of life, the grief of exotic animal owners, and other emotionally difficult duties.
The field is expected to continue to grow, with one estimate saying the field would grow by 12% from 2010 to 2020, while another said it would grow by 9% from 2014 to 2024. This growth may lead to a decrease in work hours demanded of an exotic veterinarian, while the salary is expected to continue its trend of increasing per year.
The interest in exotic pets continues to grow in the United States. This trend means that exotic veterinarians are in higher demand. It also means that an exotic veterinarian willing to work with household pets and work in a clinic near high population areas will have better job prospects. Exotic veterinarians planning to work in the field will not benefit from this trend.
Duties of An Exotic Veterinarian
How an exotic veterinarian earns their salary can differ greatly depending on where they work. While the salary doesn’t differ greatly from location to location, the amount of responsibility the job entails can.
An exotic veterinarian who works in a zoo is often expected to set regular nutrition schedules for the animals. They are more likely to be put in charge of other veterinarians working at the facility. They must plan for vaccinations and handle breakouts of disease and unexpected health risks, while also being prepared to perform duties as a healthcare provider when it is required.
Exotic veterinarians who work with wildlife, on conservation areas, or on-site have different roles. They may be required to study exotic animals, or participate in experiments to understand the ecology of a species. Alternatively, they may operate a clinic near an exotic wildlife preserve, and injured animals will be brought to them in a secure environment.
Exotic veterinarians who work in veterinary clinics or hospitals have unique challenges. They must deal with far more animals than exotic veterinarians in other positions. These animals may include snakes, exotic birds, and other household pets. Some of these may be dangerous, but most exotic veterinarians in these positions say the largest challenge is the number of patients.
All of these positions involve a level of inherent risk, but vets working with endangered species and conservation efforts are at the highest risk. As a close second, exotic vets working in clinics may set what animals they treat, as the volume of patients increases the chance a poisonous snake or other, deadly animal could enter their office and cause harm.
Related Job Fields
Wildlife biologists are one of the most closely related fields of work. Wildlife biologists study animals, their environments, and the impact encroaching humans have on them. Being a wildlife biologist requires a Bachelor’s degree in the sciences, but it does not require medical training as exotic veterinarians do.
The median salary for wildlife biologists is slightly lower, at $60,000 per year. Many wildlife biologists apply for veterinary college and use the additional training to advance their career. The experience of working with animals is also taken into consideration when applying to veterinary colleges, which are exclusive.
Marine biologists and marine veterinarians are also an acceptable alternative. Many exotic veterinarians who work in zoos are required to work with aquatic animals, so the additional training is required even if they remain in the exotic veterinarian field.
It is also considered an area of advancement for those looking to move beyond an exotic veterinarian position. Many who pursue additional training in marine biology can retain their position at a zoo but may take on additional work at a local aquarium or perform occasional fieldwork to examine different aquatic species.
The equivalent medical field is a physician. The position has similar educational demands, and you must still interact with patients and visitors regularly. You must serve the health needs of humans instead of animals, and the average salary is much higher, at close to $180,000 per year. This increase is balanced by the additional risks of a position dealing with human illnesses.