What are veterinarian CV skills and how do you improve them?

Updated 5 September 2023

A strong veterinary CV is critical to landing a job as a veterinarian. Your CV helps demonstrate to potential employers that you possess the necessary skills, abilities and experience to succeed as a veterinarian. Knowing how to convey your core veterinary skills when applying for jobs is beneficial if you are a practising veterinarian or are looking to embark on a veterinarian career. In this article, we explain what some of the most in-demand veterinarian skills are in the workplace, how to improve these and how to demonstrate them in all stages of your application.

What are veterinarian CV skills?

Veterinarian CV skills are the skills a vet puts on their CV to help them get a job in this field. Veterinarians are medical professionals who diagnose, treat immunise and perform medical treatments on animals. Veterinarians either specialise in one species of animal or care for a variety of animals. Key vet skills include things like the ability to work with animals, the ability to diagnose and treat animal illnesses and the ability to communicate effectively with clients.

Related: How to become a veterinary nurse

Examples of veterinary skills

Veterinarians require both hard and soft skills to succeed in the role. To perform sophisticated medical treatments, veterinarians require hard skills. They draw upon their soft skills to deal with animals and connect with their owners. Veterinarian CV skills include:

  • communication

  • time management

  • expertise in animal science

  • decision-making and problem-solving

  • administration and documentation

  • compassion and empathy

  • team-working and relationship-building

Related: 10 valuable soft skills that you need to succeed in your career

How to improve your vet skills

To be successful in any job application, it helps to continuously develop your skills. Start by following the steps below:

1. Take a course in veterinary medicine

If you're looking to improve your skill set, then taking a course in veterinary medicine is key. This can provide all the knowledge you need alongside offering placement options and opportunities to excel in higher-paid roles rather than assistant positions. Studying modules or standalone courses in animal behaviour and psychology and even human psychology can help you to understand some of the factors that come into play when diagnosing animals and working with their owners.

2. Supplement your study with extra learning

If you've already taken some classes but still want to learn more about the subject matter, reading books and journals is an excellent way to do so. There are plenty of books and periodicals available online and offline that can inform you about all sorts of topics related to animal care, from how animals act when they're sick or anxious to why they might be suffering from certain conditions. Keeping up to date with the latest research can impress employers and make you a better vet.

3. Acquire more work experience

There are many benefits to getting a placement alongside an established veterinarian. First of all, they can teach you about the various procedures used in their practice. Working with an experienced vet also offers more opportunities for hands-on experience with animals. Working with animals on a daily basis gives vets a better understanding of the full spectrum of needs and behaviours, particularly how they behave when ill or in stressful conditions. Working directly with animals also teaches you how to build relationships with their owners, which can help you in future employment.

Related: How to start volunteering at an animal shelter

4. Get experience across a range of species and environments

Getting experience across a range of species helps you better understand the many different kinds of animals you might encounter. It also helps to gain experience working in the field, such as remotely or by telemedicine. Seek opportunities at a shelter, farm or zoo or look into programmes that allow students to practise on animals that need care but aren't being treated as patients. If there are no such opportunities available near you, try emailing veterinarians who specialise in niche or exotic animals and ask if they're willing to let you shadow them for a day or two.

5. Keep training and developing

Veterinary care is changing all the time with new medicines and technologies coming to the fore. One way to stay abreast is by attending conferences and following pioneers on social media or by attending workshops and training programmes. For example, there are lectures that discuss potential treatments using laser therapy, stem cell therapy or even using remote telemedicine.

Related: Top 20 popular jobs for animal lovers in the UK

Examples of veterinary skills in the workplace

Some of the ways vets use these core skills in the workplace include:

  • Illness diagnosis and treatment: Animals can present at a vet clinic with a range of ailments, many with only a few subtle clues. Vets call upon their vast knowledge of animal biology, science and psychology to interpret these signs into a diagnosis and provide appropriate treatment for each species and condition.

  • Verbal and written communication: Animal conditions can be difficult to explain to those without a scientific background. Vets require good communication skills to distil complex details and instructions into information owners can understand and follow and document these in medical records for future reference.

  • Confidence under high stress and time pressure: Some conditions require fast intervention to save a life, so vets benefit from quick and confident decision-making. With pet ownership rising, veterinary clinics are also increasingly busy, so vets may attend many appointments in a single day.

  • Conflict resolution and problem-solving: Like any health care setting, tensions can be fraught at times and vets may find tactful solutions to a range of problems. These include dealing with problematic owners or pets and managing practice budget constraints.

  • Confident decision-making: Vets are responsible for making some very difficult decisions that could even include whether to treat an animal or recommend euthanasia. They call on their vast experience and education and use this to help owners make decisions too.

  • Teamwork and interpersonal skills: Vets often work with other vets and administrative staff. They may also support work placement students so require good teamwork and interpersonal skills to ensure success for the practice and good results for the owners and their pets.

  • Leadership and management: Veterinary surgeons may take charge of difficult situations and implement new processes for the clinic, so being able to manage, inspire and lead a team through change is key.

  • Compassion and empathy: Though vets carry out many difficult decisions in a practical manner, they succeed when they're aware that there's an emotional toll on the pet's owner(s) and act with empathy and compassion.

Related: How to write an effective veterinary CV (with example)

How to highlight veterinary skills

Though you may have a good range of veterinary skills, one of the most important aspects of getting a job is ensuring you demonstrate these well in your application. Find out how to highlight these skills in your CV, on your cover letter and at interviews with these tips:

1. On a CV

Following a professional CV structure with a profile at the top and a skills section can help draw attention to your specific skills, helping them stand out from your experience and education. Using the skills outlined above as inspiration, add these strategically in these sections to highlight your breadth of both soft and hard skills.

Try to look for clues in the job description for what kinds of skills the employer is looking for as these may vary per role. For instance, some may wish to see more evidence of fieldwork than practice work. Other general keywords for veterinarian positions might include veterinarian, veterinary medicine, animal medicine, animal behaviour and animal health care. Only include information relevant to the position of a veterinarian, such as placements, and highlight skills used when detailing core duties.

2. On your cover letter

A cover letter complements your CV and is a good way to draw out the main points for an employer to scan quickly. Use your cover letter as an opportunity to explain why you want the role and what value you can bring to the company.

Focus on examples of times when you've used your vet skills, both soft and hard. This could be a significant moment when you diagnose an ill animal to provide effective treatment or when you helped to calm a distressed owner. Explain how you used these skills in these situations and what they taught you. Draw out the most important incidents and placements that have contributed to your career development.

3. In an interview

If you get an invitation to an interview, prepare a few examples in advance that you can use when answering questions. These could be examples from a pet of your own you have cared for or work you have done at an animal shelter or on placement. Employers want to see how you've made decisions on behalf of the animal, what those decisions were and how you communicated these to the owner.

Also, prepare to explain your approach to handling difficult situations with animals or owners, such as dealing with aggressive animals or handling emergencies. Prepare for an employer to potentially challenge your response. This is natural, so listen constructively to their questions and answer respectfully but with confidence in your abilities.


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