Billings_OVRS_iStock_000064223829_LargeMany things in veterinary medicine have changed over the last 100 (or even 20 years). The field has evolved tremendously from the days of James Herriot, when the family veterinarian was a one-man show, treating all species great and small within a town.

Another major thing that is different in modern times is the number of women involved in the field. In honor of Expanding Your Horizons, an organization dedicated to encouraging girls to enter science and engineering fields, Billings Animal Family Hospital is excited to take a look at the role of women in veterinary science and what opportunities await girls interested in the field.

The Changing Face of Veterinary Medicine

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, as of the year 2009 the number of female veterinarians in the field officially outnumbered the males in a traditionally male dominated industry. And with greater than three-quarters of enrolled veterinary students being women, that doesn’t look to be changing any time soon. So why the shift?

There are a few reasons for the recent boom in women in veterinary science:

  • In general, there are more women graduating with bachelor’s degrees in all fields and pursuing secondary degrees
  • Historically men were favored for seats in a veterinary school class, which is no longer the case
  • More women in the veterinary workforce has begun to change the way veterinary medicine is practiced, allowing both men and women veterinarians to better balance family life
  • Newer and better technology makes it possible for all genders to practice medicine, particularly on larger species, safely without relying on brute strength
  • The veterinary sciences are growing, and there are more opportunities in the industry in varying roles than ever before

There are probably many factors involved in swaying more and more women to enter the veterinary workforce. Likewise, the more females that become veterinarians, the more changes we are seeing the field as a result, many for the better.

Opportunities for Women in Veterinary Science

We know that veterinary medicine is constantly evolving and changing from that one-man, jack of all trades of James Herriot history. But what opportunities are out there for those who choose to seek a career in the veterinary sciences? The limits are almost endless. A professional who graduates with a veterinary degree may choose to:

  • Go into private general practice, focusing on small animals, large animals, exotic species, or a mixture
  • Gain further qualifications to specialize in areas such as surgery, anesthesia, internal medicine, reproduction, emergency medicine, dermatology, or ophthalmology (as well as others)
  • Work in laboratory animal medicine
  • Join the government workforce in areas such as food safety and inspection or other supervisory roles
  • Focus on research and/or epidemiology to further understanding of both animal and human biology
  • Help to monitor and maintain the health of wildlife populations
  • Use his or her skills in the military
  • Aid in human medicine efforts by focusing education on public health or similar disciplines
  • Work as a certified veterinary technician

As our understanding of veterinary science grows, so do the possibilities.

Women in veterinary science have now, more than ever, an abundance of opportunities to funnel their passion for animals and science into directions never before thought possible.

Those who are interested in pursuing a veterinary career are encouraged to concentrate on a good, solid foundation education in the sciences. It is also important to gain exposure to various areas of the field through volunteer work, undergraduate programs, and even organizations such as 4-H. Start exploring your opportunities right away to be sure to gain exposure to all the options.

Girls are inherently good veterinarians. Their hard-working, compassionate nature makes them the ideal candidate to succeed in the field. The numbers of women in the veterinary science are booming, and for good reason. We can’t wait to see where the profession is going next.