Where to find non-clinical roles
- AVMA Veterinary Career Center
- Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine
- Facebook and LinkedIn groups
- Instagram accounts, such as @veterinarycareers
- Relief Rover
What to know if interested in pursuing non-clinical veterinary career opportunities
This article was updated July 19, 2023.
The phrase “veterinary professional” might instinctively conjure up images of veterinarians and technicians in a private practice setting; a typical hospital with four-legged patients and their concerned pet-parents. If this is what you attribute the profession to, then technically, you would not be wrong. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that more than 87% of its members are employed in clinical practice.1
But that does not tell the whole story. There are many careers held by veterinarians and veterinary technicians that possess exceptional non-clinical skill sets.
These opportunities were the chief focus of a recent lecture at the 2023 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Convention in Denver, Colorado. Led by Stacy Pritt, DVM, CPIA, CHRC, DACAW, and Christina Tran, DVM, attendees explored how veterinary professionals can expand their knowledge base, industry connections, and skill sets to land a coveted non-clinical role.2
There are myriad reasons why veterinary professionals in the private sector find themselves looking for new roles. It may be demanding clients, challenges with staff, the frustration of being unable to pinpoint patients' medical needs, burnout, and compassion fatigue.
Tran and Pritt were once practicing veterinarians whose paths took them to non-clinical roles.
Tran found that the obligations of being a practicing veterinarian and a new mom did not align. She struggled to manage her career, on-set burnout, and the schedule of a young family.
“It became very stressful for me,” she admitted. “And quite honestly, in a moment of sleep deprivation, I saw an ad for a full-time faculty position at a community college teaching vet tech.”
Although she had no formal education in teaching, Tran applied, was hired, and used the opportunity as a jumping-off point for her wide-ranging career outside a hospital. From that initial teaching role, she went on to become a faculty member at Purdue and currently works as the associate professor and clinical relations lead veterinarian at Arizona College of Veterinary Medicine.
According to Pritt, she applied to veterinary school with no intention of ever joining a private practice. Instead, she focused on research and lab animals. Following graduation, Pritt briefly worked in the lab animal sector before accepting a role in a private veterinary hospital. Neither career sparked the passion she had been pursuing.
Although she has not performed full-time, hands-on clinical work in more than a decade, Pritt is still a valuable member of the veterinary industry and has held a variety of positions in industry and academia. She currently serves as associate vice president of research support & regulatory management at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Both these women are confident in their decisions to pursue roles outside of traditional veterinary medicine. How can you prepare yourself for a similar career shift?
There are a few key questions that can help quantify the types of roles you are best suited for, Tran explained. Consider why you might pursue a non-clinical role. What do you love about veterinary medicine? What do you love about your current job? What do you want to keep on doing? What are your strengths, passions, and interests? What aspects of your current role could you happily leave behind? What types of non-clinical careers are you interested in?
Boosting your resume and broadening your qualifications does not necessarily mean returning to the role of a full-time student to obtain a collegiate or doctorate degree. “For many of us that is not feasible at this stage in life, and I understand," Tran said.
Instead, focus on developing and enhancing key areas that will market you as a well-rounded candidate to prospective companies:
If you have worked in a clinic for any extended period, it is easy to pinpoint the qualifications and attributes that an ideal candidate for medical or support staff would possess. But what skill sets will help you get hired in a non-clinical setting?
There are many skills developed in a hospital setting that make veterinary professionals ideal candidates in non-clinical roles, assured Pritt. These include, but are not limited to, multitasking, critical thinking, and adaptability. “I think this is one of the reasons I have been successful in the roles that I have had. I can think on my feet because I have been in clinical practice,” she said.
Veterinarians are lifelong learners with a growth mindset. Being a practicing veterinarian is an admirable and necessary career, but it is not the only opportunity available to animal health professionals. Do not be afraid to forge your career path forward in a different direction.