About the job

Nature of work:

Veterinarians prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and disorders in animals and advise clients on the feeding, hygiene, housing and general care of animals. They may choose small-animal, large-animal, or mixed practice, or specialize in a particular species or medical field. Veterinarians work in private practice or may be employed by animal clinics, farms, laboratories, government or industry.

Small (companion) animal practices generally accept dogs and cats as patients and sometime treat exotic species, such as birds, small mammals, and reptiles. Services provided often include pet selection and care, nutrition and behaviour counselling, boarding, and grooming.

Large-animal practices provide medical and surgical services for livestock and horses. In addition to treating patients, large animal veterinarians offer preventative herd health management and also monitor for possible disease outbreak.

Job duties:
Veterinarians perform some or all of the following duties:
  • Diagnose diseases or abnormal conditions in individual animals, herds and flocks through physical examinations or laboratory tests.
  • Treat sick or injured animals by prescribing medication, setting bones, dressing wounds or performing surgery.
  • Vaccinate animals to prevent and treat diseases.
  • Perform routine, emergency and post-mortem examinations.
  • Advise clients on feeding, housing, behaviour, breeding, hygiene and general care of animals.
  • Provide a range of veterinary services including obstetrics, dentistry and euthanasia.
  • May supervise animal health technologists and animal care workers.
  • May be responsible for overall operation of animal hospital, clinic or mobile service to farms.
  • May conduct veterinary research related to areas such as animal nutrition, health care products development and disease prevention and control.
  • May enforce government regulations in disease control and food production including animal or animal-based food inspection.
Sample job titles:
  • equine veterinarian
  • farm veterinarian
  • veterinarian
  • veterinary dentist
  • veterinary inspector
  • veterinary laboratory diagnostician
  • veterinary parasitologist
  • veterinary physiologist
  • veterinary surgeon

To work in this field, you should have compassion, a fondness for animals, and an interest in science, especially biology, chemistry, and physics. Good health, stamina, and emotional stability are necessary, as veterinarians often work long and irregular hours. You must be patient, reliable, mature, and responsible. Good oral and written communication skills are also needed. Some business knowledge would be helpful in running a private practice.

Job requirements:
  • Two years of pre-veterinary university studies or completion of a college program in health science and a four to five year university degree in veterinary medicine and completion of national certification examinations are required.
  • A provincial licence to practice is required.
  • Entry into research positions may require post-graduate study.
Other considerations:

Although many veterinarians work regular hours, those in private practice often work long hours, including evenings, weekends and holidays. The duties of veterinarians performing research may be similar to those of some biologists.

Labour Market Information

Work Prospects:Undetermined

This is not a large occupation in Nova Scotia so job opportunities may not be that frequent. With a large percent of workers being 55 years of age and older, retirements are expected to be a key contributor to employment opportunities over the coming years. Veterinarians most commonly work full-time hours. Furthermore, the jobs are typically permanent positions.

The median employment income for 68% of Veterinarians who worked full-time, year-round in 2015 was $72,950. Across all occupations in Nova Scotia, 59% of those who worked full-time year round had a median employment income of $43,600.
(Source: 2016 Census)

OccupationEstimated employment in 2018Estimated change in employment between 2017 and 2019Estimated openings due to growth and retirements, 2017-2019Estimated rate of unemployment in 2018 Estimated hourly earnings in 2015 (learn more)Estimated annual earnings in 2015
Minimum:  N/A
Median:  N/A
Maximum:  N/A
Minimum: $13,100
Median: $68,352
Maximum: $101,222
Occupations in Health36,515Strong growth4,385Low
Minimum: $16.38
Median: $25.50
Maximum: $41.00
Minimum: $10,740
Median: $43,853
Maximum: $88,944
VeterinariansCompared to: Occupations in Health
Percent employed full-time89%77%
Percent self-employed7%10%
Where will I likely work?
Area of EmploymentVeterinariansCompared to: All NS Occupations
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Cape Breton8%x13%$32,974
Annapolis Valley21%x13%$32,958
What are the workers like?
AgeVeterinariansCompared to: All Health
% Employed% Employed
Median Age4344
GenderVeterinariansCompared to: Occupations in Health
% Employed% Employed
EducationVeterinariansCompared to: All Health
% EmployedMedian Annual Income% EmployedMedian Annual Income
Less than high schoolN/Ax1.1%$27,581
High schoolN/Ax6.9%$24,119
Trades certificateN/Ax5.0%$31,728
College certificate or diplomaN/Ax39.4%$36,693
University certificate or diplomaN/Ax4.8%$50,769
Bachelor's degreeN/Ax27.6%$57,186
University advanced certificate or diplomaN/Ax2.3%$61,833
Master's degree86.2%$86,5625.1%$87,808
Medicine, dentistry, veterinary, optometry4.6%$92,9597.2%$83,000
Wage Disclaimer

Hourly earnings data are from the Labour Force Survey by Statistics Canada. Data are not available for all occupations. Hourly earnings are calculated based on usual hours worked per week. This is how an annual salary, for instance, gets converted to an hourly rate. The data include full and part-time workers along with new and experienced workers. Self-employed workers are excluded.

Annual employment income data reported in the Work Prospects section, are from the 2011 National Household Survey by Statistics Canada. Much of the data (around 70%) came directly from tax records. The data relates to the year 2010 and includes total wages and salaries and net income from self-employment.


Employment Requirements & Contacts

Right to Title and Practice:This job is regulated and the job title is protected in Nova Scotia (you may not use this job title without holding a provincial licence). A licence shows that the holder has met provincial requirements and is required to work in this job.
Regulating body:
Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association
15 Cobequid Road
Lower Sackville, NS B4C 2M9
(902) 865-1876
(902) 865-2001 
Useful contacts:
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
339 Booth Street
Ottawa, ON K1R 7K1
Tel: (613) 236-1162
Fax: (613) 236-9681
Nova Scotia Veterinary Medical Association
15 Cobequid Road
Lower Sackville, NS B4C 2M9
Tel: (902) 865-1876
Fax: (902) 865-2001
Atlantic Veterinary College
University of Prince Edward Island 550 University Avenue
Charlottetown, PE C1A 4P3
Tel: (902) 566-0882
Fax: (902) 566-0958

Training Paths & Education

Program Name:Preveterinary studies
Education Level:This program is typically offered at the college or university level.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that prepares individuals for admission to a first-professional program in veterinary medicine.
See all institutions providing this program+
Universite Sainte-Anne
Siège Social: 1695, Route 1
Pointe-de-l'Église, NS B0W 1M0
(902) 769-2114
Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture
PO Box 550
Truro, NS B2N 5E3
(902) 893-6600
Program Name:Veterinary medicine (DVM)
Education Level:This program is typically offered by a university school of medicine.
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any program that prepares individuals for the independent professional practice of veterinary medicine, involving the diagnosis, treatment, and health care management of animals and animal populations and the prevention and management of zoonosis. These programs include courses in the veterinary basic sciences, infectious and non-infectious disease, diagnostic procedures, veterinary clinical medicine, obstetrics, radiology, anesthesiology, surgery, toxicology, animal health and preventive medicine, clinical nutrition, practice management, and professional standards and ethics.
There are no schools in Nova Scotia offering this program.
Program Name:Veterinary sciences/veterinary clinical sciences (Cert., MSc, PhD) - General
Education Level:This program is typically offered at the university graduate level (Masters, PhD)
Program Description:
This instructional program class comprises any integrated program of study in one or more of the veterinary medical or clinical sciences or a program undifferentiated as to title.
See all institutions providing this program+
Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture
PO Box 550
Truro, NS B2N 5E3
(902) 893-6600
Additional resources:

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