10 Best Places to Work as a Veterinarian

My Granny used to say to me,

“Lawrence, the World is your Oyster”.

I didn’t get it at the time, but I certainly do now.

I love travelling; it’s in my DNA. I recently found out my late Grandfather spent nine years on walkabout in the Australian outback living with an indigenous community. A tough act to follow.

I wasn’t allowed a gap year if I wanted a place in Vet School. Since then I take every chance I can to hop on a plane. I’ve also had the pleasure of working overseas. I talk about my time in Australia a lot; I have to remind myself not to drone on. I can’t help it, I’m passionate about new cultures and meeting great people. It moulds you as a person, challenges you to be open-minded and an opportunity to develop your patience and communication skills.

Oz Roadtripping

A veterinary qualification is your golden ticket to the World. As a niche profession, there is often a shortage of vets in many countries making it easier to acquire a visa (in some instances). Not enough vets take advantage of this.

When I was in Oz, I worked for the RSPCA (separate to the UK) who are massive. Their hospital in Sydney is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. Because I was willing to travel, they sent me all over New South Wales. I had long spells working in Sydney, Newcastle, Hunter Valley and the Outback (see the previous post for more information). I remember my time there fondly; I met some unbelievable people, many of which I still speak to today. Some are even making the journey to the British Isles next year for my wedding.

This post is to encourage all vets and other animal health professionals to get overseas. It doesn’t have to be permanent (it might turn out that way), but it’s an opportunity grow as a vet and as an individual. You don’t necessarily have to quit your job; you can now temporarily ‘swap’ lives with a vet overseas. VetSwap facilitates the temporary exchange of vets, check it out.

These are my top 10 countries to work & travel as a vet, be sure to comment below with your suggestions. Chris Queen (the Nerdy Vet), a vet who works in Dubai, has his list which is worth checking out.

Disclaimer: this information was correct to the best of my knowledge when posted and is intended as a rough guide. You will need to do your research before embarking on any expedition.

1. Australia

Obviously, I’m a bit bias. But to be fair, it is justifiable.

Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney all made the cut for the top 10 ‘Most Liveable Cities of 2015’. For one country, that’s an outstanding achievement.

Australia is enormous. To put it into perspective it, road-tripping through the Northern Territories we drove through a single farm that was the size of Belguim… Belgium! The UK fits more than 31x into Australia, yet has a third of the population, 70% of which live on the East Coast. Do your research on location if your planning to stay in one place for a long time. Exploring exotic locations is part of the adventure but try not to isolate yourself, that’s no fun.

There are some great benefits to working as a vet down under. I found the pay to be universally a lot better, and pet owners were more knowledgeable and accepting of vet costs. You got paid to do out-of-hours which was a new concept to me. It was common place to get a fee for being called out plus 50% of your professional charges. That financial incentive made those 3 am caesareans a lot less painful.

I saw some very weird and wonderful cases during my time overseas. I’d recommend familiarising yourself with specific emergency situations (such as snake-bite toxicity and tick paralysis) before they land on your hospital doorstep. If you are planning on equine work, do your research on Hendra Virus (an emerging zoonotic disease) and the necessary precautions.

Uluru at Dusk

Unless you have an Australian or NZ passport, you will need a visa to live and work here. Veterinarians are sought after so many options exist, click here to find out more. I used a working-holiday visa which is available to those under 30, it took 15 minutes to apply and granted the same day. Sponsorship and other visas will likely take more time.

Registration as a vet is a bit backwards still. Despite being one country, each state has it’s own veterinary board you need to register with if you intend to work there. It will inevitably change, will just take time. There is now recognition of registration in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, and South Australia. Meaning primary registration in one of these states allows you to work in any of the others listed.

Aussies know how to enjoy life, they get the balance bang-on. Nothing can beat finishing the day with a team bbq on the beach. If you’re thinking about working in Australia and want more information, I’m happy to help feel free to get in touch.

Roadtripping with australia’s hardest working vet— Tim Gole

2. New Zealand

Arguably, the best country in the World. The varied landscape is exceptional. Fjords, lakes, mountains, beaches, glaciers, rainforests… you name it they’ve got it. I was speaking to a Kiwi friend who was telling me back home, if you turn left out the drive you could go surfing, and right would take him skiing.

The country’s native Maori culture is fascinating for its legends, traditional ceremonies and music. Rugby is a religion in NZ, home to the most famous international side the ‘All-Blacks’. If you’re not aware of a man named Richie McCaw, you’ll need to sort that before arriving.

To practise as, or represent yourself as a veterinarian in New Zealand you must be registered with the Veterinary Council of New Zealand (VCNZ) and hold a current practising certificate. The other pathway to general registration is under the Trans Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement (TTMRA) provisions for vets registered in Australia. Click here to find out more.

Again, plenty of visa options are available depending on your plans, age, nationality, etc. Veterinarians are on the long term skill shortage list which assists with immigration applications.

3. North America

Undoubtedly leading the way in veterinary medicine, North America is culturally and environmentally diverse making it appealing to overseas vets.

Visitors to the US are exposed to one of the world’s largest economic and military powers, supporting more than 300 million people in 50 separate states and across six time zones. Canadians have a high quality of life, consistently being voted amongst the best places to live in the world. This wealthy nation has one of the highest per-capita immigration rates in the world. It’s no surprise really with starting salaries for vets being between $60–80k and cost of living being a lot lower than many other Western civilisations.

Rachel in Hawaii

I know I said a vet degree is your VIP pass to overseas travel, that doesn’t necessarily apply to Canada and the US. You have to jump through multiple hoops in to pass the dreaded North America Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). I’m not going to bore you with the details, click here for more details.

America is also notoriously difficult to get a VISA approved, without marrying a US citizen, gaining permission to stay long-term can be down to pot-luck.

4. Hong Kong

The lure of Hong Kong Island can be just too strong for many with its tight-knit and friendly expat community. HK doesn’t have its own Vet School, relying solely on professionals who have qualified overseas. Though this is set to change shortly with the City University investing on developing its vet medicine course.

Hong Kong is a vibrant, exciting city; a stark contrast between Asian and Western cultures, yet both cultures also combine to make the city the dynamic place it is. The city is described as a place where “East meets West”, reflecting the local culture’s mix of Chinese roots with influences from its time managed by the British. Hong Kong manages to balance traditional Chinese practices with a fast paced, modern lifestyle. If you get the chance to go to HK 7s, drop everything and go! Without a doubt one of the best sporting events on the planet.

Rachel and I at HK Sevens

It is worth noting when managing your budget, that Hong Kong ranks as the 3rd most expensive city in Asia. The costs of accommodation, food and schooling (if you have children) being the three primary items of expenditure.

It would appear a right of passage, that all vets in HK must at some point have worked for the SPCA. One of Asia’s leading animal welfare organisations with seven private veterinary clinics and two mobile vehicles. There are regularly on the lookout for motivated vets to join their team, a good place to start if you are considering working in the ex-British colony.

Veterinary Surgeons Board (VSB): The VSB is the regulatory body for veterinary surgeons seeking to practice in Hong Kong. A guide to applicants is available here. The process of registration can take several weeks to months.

Non-Hong Kong citizens need an employment visa to work in the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. This visa is linked to an employer and needs to be arranged before entry into Hong Kong. Processing of a visa application takes a minimum of 6–8 weeks. Information on employment visa requirements is found here.

5. Vietnam

Vietnam has become an increasingly popular destination for expats, due to beautiful weather, low cost of living, active culture and the steady improvements in Vietnam’s infrastructure. Many vets have taken advantage of the country’s rapid development, caring for the welfare of pets belonging to both locals and the expat community.

Da Nang, Vietnam

There’s not much in the way of information online about how to register, but click here to be taken to contact details that could help point you in the right direction.

6. Dubai

This adult playground is popular amongst vets. A tax-free haven that offers luxury living and the sunshine all year round; what’s not to love? The wealth surrounding this dessert city has attracted wealthy expats and their pampered pets. Not to mention the lucrative racing market and mega-farms which have increased the demand for specialised vets to the middle east.

It would appear to work as a vet in Dubai you require over five years clinical experience (for non-UAE nationals) and to sit an official exam set out by the Ministry. For more information, click here to read the Chris Queen’s (the Nerdy Vet) blog about working in Dubai.

Information is taken from Expat Arrivals

“All non-UAE citizens working in Dubai require a residency visa, which allows them to obtain a work permit (labour card) issued by the Ministry of Labour. Most expats arrive in Dubai after already securing employment, and don’t have to deal directly with the complicated process. Employers usually take responsibility for the visa application process, and thus the work permit, while also acting as the sponsor for the visa. Employers also normally incur the costs of the application.”

7. UK

It took a trip to the other side of the globe to realise what the UK had to offer. For those of you put off by a 30-hour journey to the Southern Hemisphere, why not consider a locum stint around the UK? It certainly takes exotic diseases, and new bank accounts out the equation!

The locum opportunities in this country are fantastic. Decent locum rates can facilitate part-time work to provide time to pursue other projects or travel. Day rates can vary from £225–300 before you include specialist qualifications. If you are willing to work for out-of-hours hospitals, I’ve seen shifts advertised at £650!

Ennerdale Valley, Cumbria

I was offered a job in London last week, to work on film-set of a Hollywood Blockbuster! 2 days of work, looking after… wait for it… a dog and a pigeon. If I didn’t have prior commitments, I would’ve been on that first train down to London to get involved.

You never know what opportunities might present themselves by joining the locum lottery. “Travel” doesn’t always mean sitting on the back of a sweaty bus for 20 hours, it could mean working in the neighbouring county! Be sure to read your previous employment contract, as there are sometimes limitations on how close you can work to the practice.

8. Singapore

Expats moving to Singapore will find themselves in a city that offers one of the finest lifestyles in the world. Situated at the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula this city-state is a buzzing metropolis with a fascinating mix of nationalities and cultures. There are a large number of Western expats, who live alongside a local population of Chinese, Malay and Indian descent, making this one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. Be warned, expect a culture shock. “Vice” taxes make alcohol expensive, the weather is ferocious, accommodation is stingy at best and chewing gum is banned!

For more information about working as a vet in Singapore, visit the Singapore Veterinary Association website.

9. India

If you’re looking for volunteer work, look no further. Living in India offers a vibrant and eclectic experience. India is an enormous country whose population currently represents a sixth of the world’s total population.

Whether you’re a student seeking practical experience, or a hardened professional looking to give back, there is an abundance of animal’s in India looking for medical care. Quick google search you will find a list of opportunities.

It would seem that many visa options are available and qualifications gained in the UK are recognised. For more information click here.

10. Mission Rabies

Ok, this isn’t a place. However, it is an incredible campaign offering the chance to perform great work in Malawi, Tanzania, India and Uganda. Not only promoting animal well-being, Mission Rabies also combat the horrible impact this disease is having on the human population.

What’s Your List?

What I’m hoping to achieve with this post, is to illustrate the breadth of potential that travel offers to any individual. Travel doesn’t always mean nine years living with an aboriginal tribe; it could be a week on the Isle of Wight! Don’t take for granted the profound opportunities a vet degree offers; embrace new cultures and ways of thinking.

In the words of Mark Twain, “Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all of one’s lifetime.”

This is my list — what is yours?

If you read this far, hopefully, you found this post useful. Lonely Planet books are an essential bit of kit for any adventurer.

Go forth and explore.