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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Career advice please!

I'm in my final year of my GCSE's at school and at the moment the teachers are all talking about A levels and even university. However, I'm not sure what subjects to pick. I know I want to work with dogs; they're my life and I want them to play an important part in my future. The only problem is, I have no idea what I'm going to do!
My predicted grades at the moment are six A*'s and three A's and so everyone wants me to become a vet. But I don't think it would be the perfect career for me as I'm certainly not good with coping under pressure or with animals in pain and distress.
I would be really grateful if anyone has any experience or advice on 'doggie' related careers which they could share with me.
Many Thanks,
Jessica Ellis

‘Everyone wants me to become a vet’ – this must surely be a very wrong reason to decide on a career as a vet so stick up for yourself. If you feel it is not the perfect career for you then it really is not a career into which you should be pressurised.
You have been predicted a strong set of GCSE results so keep on working and I wish you all success. They are not, however, the sole reason for deciding to apply to vet school. High grades at GCSE and then at A-Level are required by universities for entry onto a veterinary science course, in appropriate subjects, not just as a guide to a candidate’s ability to assimilate all the knowledge necessary but also because of the high demand for places.
Being a veterinary surgeon is a vocation, a life-style decision. It is very varied work – you do not always know how many legs your next patient will have, in any at all! You are also working with people who will be very concerned about their pet if he or she is ill or injured. In fact, liking working with people is, I feel, as important as a desire to work with animals.
The hours can be very long and under high levels of stress. Many practices use out-of-hours providers so there may no longer be the on-call rota but there are many other practices which do still provide their own out-of-hours cover. There is nothing quite like working 8am – 8pm during a week-day with limited breaks, then being busy with emergency call-outs through the night and another day at work starting at 8am. There is the buzz of fire brigade procedures (stitch ups, Caesarians, bloat and so on) and you certainly learn quickly when you have to stand on your own two feet without colleagues’ brains to pick, but time off becomes incredibly precious, if only to re-charge the tired batteries.
With these predicted GCSE grades, I would imagine you are planning to take A-Levels and in the subjects which you enjoy and which interest you. University choices is another year away so take one step at a time. A major decision you have made is that you do not wish to be a vet. Use the year to research all that is on offer out there. After all, it may be that your dogs will be an important part of your social life whilst you pursue an alternative career.
Alison Logan, Vet


  1. Firstly, don't let anyone tell you what you should become. That's a recipe for disaster!

    If you're not sure what subjects to take try to keep your options open as much as possible. Science subjects are generally well accepted even by non-scientific degree courses/careers so if you enjoy sciences that could be an option.

    Work experience is extremely useful. Perhaps you try some volunteering with a dog trainer, groomer or at a kennels to see whether you can see yourself doing these things as a career.

    If you do decide to look at veterinary work then you'll need to spend time at a veterinary practice as well as on farms/at a stables. Time in a veterinary practice may help you decide for sure whether a career as a vet or VN is for you - you may surprise yourself - I know I did! If the practice is large enough they may deal with some behaviour cases which might interest you.

  2. How about looking at training and behaviour? Both go hand in hand but the behaviour side can be quite academic which it sounds like you are used to.
    There is a Foundation Degree course in Canine Training and Behaviour at Bishop Burton College. It would provide a good overall grounding and during the course you can consider which career.

  3. Yes, I agree. Looking into training and behavioural issues with dogs and other animals would be an excellent and rewarding career.

    If this sounds interesting to you, then why not get in touch with Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs, and other similar organisations, to find out how their trainers became accredited, or how they got into the work they do.

    I find that if you're polite, passionate, attentive and diligent, then most people/organisations will bend over backwards to help you.

    Good luck!