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Veterinary vs Medicine watch

    • Thread Starter

    I just finished my GCSE's and just turned 16 a few days ago. From a very early age I wanted to be a doctor, however when i found out that there is and animal doctor I changed my mind, and since then I wanted to be a vet. It's been almost 10 years however now that I ony have roughly a year before I need to apply to a vet/medical school, I'm unsure about which one to do. If I'm a vet i think i want to specialise in cardiology and if i'm a doctor either a pediatrician or cardiology. When i finish uni i'd like to move to canada and also have children in the future. I love animals but i'm not sure if veterinary would be suitable for me as you also need to euthanise animals and the hours are irregular. Could anyne please tell me whether they'd do one or the other, or whether you regret doing whichever course you're doing right now and you'd rather pick vet/med.
    can you tell me which one is better/more rewarding in the long run for a female that wants a good life, with family and living in Canada.

    This is really a decision for you to make. It's your future.
    Try to get some work experience in both environments and see which you prefer.

    I ended up applying for dentistry, but I did consider careers in both medicine and vet med. Work experience is the best way to decide in my opinion. I spent 10 days on a farm and absolutely hated it which ruled out vet med for me. By doing work experience I found out what aspects of the careers I liked and I found that it helps you to work out if you could see yourself in that career. I'd recommend doing a variety of placements in both fields to give you a better picture of both options. Also try talking to both doctors and vets (as well as any students you know who are studying med/vet med) about their experiences of the career. Ask them lots of questions on work experience and gain as much as you can from it, this way you are not only making a more informed decision, but if/when you apply it will help you stand out at interview because you've gained so much from work experience opportunities. Good luck, both are fantastic careers.
    • TSR Support Team
    • PS Reviewer

    TSR Support Team
    PS Reviewer
    I'll start this by mentioning that I'm a current vet student at the Royal Veterinary College, so I'm giving a more vet-based response.

    I would echo the advice given above; you need to do some work experience looking at both careers to get an idea of what you would rather do. In fact, a certain number of weeks work experience is a requirement at UK vet schools, and you will struggle to get in if you cannot prove that you have gain an understanding of both clinical work (small animal in addition to farm/equine) and husbandry (kennels, stables, dairy farms, lambing, zoos, labs...)

    With regard to specialising in cardiology, for vet med that would require postgraduate training. We don't have foundation years at the end of our course, and there isn't a huge amount of wriggle room in terms of picking placements during the course as many are compulsory. I imagine that there is a cardiology block, however. Postgraduate training could take the form of an internship or a residency, and/or applying for advanced practitioner status from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

    Some of the UK vet schools, namely the Royal Veterinary College, Edinburgh and Glasgow off the top of my head, offer accreditation that will enable you to study in North America. Otherwise you will need to sit the NAVLE, a multiple choice exam that will qualify you to study there. I can't comment on how different the knowledge required for the NAVLE differs from that taught in the UK. I don't imagine that much, but I recently studied a unit on parasites and our course notes had sections that were applicable only to those wanting to study in North America, if that gives you any idea of where the differences may lie. You could, of course, do the degree over in Canada, but over there it is a four-year postgraduate degree, so you will have to study something else first.

    I'm a little concerned that you're worried about euthanasia, as that's unfortunately a regular occurrence simply due to the fact that most animals do not live as long as humans. You may watch some of your patients (with the exception maybe of some well looked-after tortoises and parrots) live out their entire lives. Modern medicine can do some amazing things, but there sometimes comes a point when the kindest thing to do is to stop an animal suffering any more. Indeed, I think this is one of the best tools that veterinary surgeons have that human doctors do not. If this sort of thing upsets you, then bear in mind that you may witness worse, i.e. animal abuse, neglect, dog fighting.... euthanasia is not the most disturbing thing you will have to face as a vet, in my opinion. Again I think this is where some work experience will be very beneficial. See how it affects you when you see it done, and see if this is something you can overcome.

    You're correct that vets tend to have irregular (and long!) hours. 9-8 shifts aren't uncommon (even rarer is actually finishing on time regardless of your hours), and expect to do a couple of nights per week of on call during the night. Small animal vets can probably wriggle out of this easier than large animal vets, if the on call gets directed to a bigger hospital or a dedicated on call service. That said, a vet degree is a valuable thing, and there are 9-5 jobs that will gladly take you once you graduate. Things like pathology, research and academia are all valid avenues. Even if you didn't want to start doing these sorts of jobs you could start in practice, get a more regular job while you start a family, and go back to practising when your children are a bit older.

    Personally, I love my degree and the beginnings of my career. It's not easy and it's not glamourous, but I wouldn't be doing anything else. The debate of 'shall I do human med or vet med' never really entered my mind since it was the animal aspect that drew me to it, but admittedly they are similar (human med is just a very specific branch of veterinary medicine, after all ) it's good that you're considering your options carefully. I'd add that I'm female if that helps, however I don't want a family so that never came under my consideration when applying. Feel free to ask me any other specific questions you may have. I've tried to address all of the points you made but give me a shout if you need anything else.

    With regards to A-levels; subjects that will make you eligable to apply for vet med will also allow you to apply for human medicine. You're looking at biology, chemistry, and one other academic subject (i.e. not general studies or critical thinking). Specific requirements for all UK vet schools can be found here, and for human med schools here

    Hope this helped Good luck with whatever you choose.
    • Community Assistant

    Community Assistant
    (Original post by M12S)
    If I'm a vet i think i want to specialise in cardiology
    Correct me if I'm wrong but... surely a very niche speciality? Are those jobs easy to get?

    When i finish uni i'd like to move to canada and also have children in the future.
    The moving to Canada situation is a little complicated and subject to change. In general though, if you don't mind working in the rural north then getting a job should not be too difficult.

    I love animals but i'm not sure if veterinary would be suitable for me as you also need to euthanise animals
    As above - you'll see a lot worse than that! As a paediatrician as well... try seeing a 7 year old with vaginal and anal tears from being abused, or a 5 year old with terminal leukemia. Or a paediatric burns patient. Or any time a child dies and you have to tell the parents.

    That's not most of what you do clearly. Child deaths in particular are rare in the West. A lot of what you will do is to take bloods/do lumbar punctures on screaming kids though. Do not expect them to forgive you!

    and if i'm a doctor either a pediatrician or cardiology... and the hours are irregular.
    Hang on... you think a vet's hour are irregular, but a paediatrician's or a cardiologist's aren't?! They're both specialities where you will be expected to do regular 13 hour shifts day, night, weekend... all the time. Often at short notice to cover gaps where they couldn't employ someone. For those two specialities in particular, this will continue until at least consultancy (age 35+), and potentially after depending on what job you're in by then.

    But lets be fair - paediatrics is a very rewarding job. The majority of your patients will have eminently treatable respiratory illnesses, or be yellow babies who just need some time under the lights. Your patients get better quickly and go on to live full and healthy lives. You have more resources than the rest of the hospital, and your employment prospects as a community paediatrician in rural Canada would be very good.

    I echo the calls to get experience, particularly in paediatrics. Its needed to apply to either of these subjects anyway.
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