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Before graduating from veterinary school, students are filled with excitement. They know the destination of their professional life without necessarily knowing all the obstacles on the course. They know they love animals and treating them. They hope that will be enough.

Fortunately, a love of animals is a wonderful trait for any budding veterinarian. Still, there are a few things that we think all students should know before graduating, starting with …

1. If you’re “not a people person,” you will be

Let’s face it – a lot of veterinary students are medical students that would rather deal with dogs than humans (who wouldn’t?). It seems like the best of both worlds to practice medicine on such lovable patients.

However, veterinary students should realize that they will spend a lot of time talking with pet owners, about as much as if they were patients. Medical history, questions, complaints, follow-ups, emergencies – all things that require human contact to figure out.

2. Your job is unpredictable

While animal behavior is technically a science, animals can be just as unpredictable as people. Trying to gauge the situation will be crucial in your new job as a vet, but you’ll never know when an exam scares a certain cat, or the presence of another animal riles up a dog.

Being a vet presents amazing, unique, and sometimes frustrating challenges when it comes to behavior.

3. Your career will change

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Not only is being a vet unpredictable every day but it’s also adaptable in the long term. You may think your specialty is in equine medicine or large animals and then something happens to change your focus.

Students should be prepared to embrace the changes that will make them feel accomplished in their career. Don’t plan on doing the same thing for the next 50 years.

4. You’ll become business savvy

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Even if it’s not in your plan when you graduate, most veterinarians eventually switch over to running a private practice. This means that business will become part of your curriculum.

If you have time before graduating, try to take a few business courses. They won’t go to waste.

5. You’re in for the job of a lifetime

Yes, not all of this is advice on how to avoid pitfalls and expect the unexpected. We also think that soon-to-be graduates should know that as veterinarians, they will have one of the most rewarding jobs out there.

You’ll be surrounded by people who need your skills. You’ll get to work with amazing critters and even save their lives. That satisfaction is the reason a career in veterinary medicine is the job of a lifetime.

The Takeaway

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Before graduating, take these five tips to heart. After college, you’ll be faced with a few harsh realities – the ever-changing nature of your work, the necessity of your business acumen, the unpredictability of your future. Yet at the same time, you’ll be doing what you love – protecting animals and always learning more. Never lose sight of how amazing it all is.

If you have any questions or concerns about opening up your practice, please reach out! We want all veterinarians pursuing their profession to experience success stories like the veterinarians of the Independent Veterinary Practitioners Association (IVPA).