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Are you considering a career outside of clinical practice?


What to know if interested in pursuing non-clinical veterinary career opportunities

This article was updated July 19, 2023.

The phrase “veterinary professionalmight 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

polkadot / stock.adobe.com

polkadot / stock.adobe.com

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

Where to find non-clinical roles

  • AVMA Veterinary Career Center
  • Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine
  • Facebook and LinkedIn groups
  • Indeed.com
  • Instagram accounts, such as @veterinarycareers
  • Networking
  • Relief Rover
  • Recruiters

Why do veterinarians leave private practice?

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.

Exploring non-clinical work

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?

Expand your knowledge and skills

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:

  • Board certifications: Several board (specialty) certifications are available to veterinarians and may be preferred by employers for some non-clinical positions, or will make you stand out from the competition.
  • Non-degree opportunities: Because of the way academia and veterinary technician education are transforming, professionals with experience in clinical settings have so much to offer students—even without teaching degrees. If academia interests you, consider expanding your skill set with continuing education classes. Tran suggested pursuing courses in creating syllabi, how to best evaluate students, or public speaking. “Having the ability to talk about what it is like to be on the clinic floor is very helpful to students,” she said.
  • Speaking skills: Take a moment to consider how many times you have spoken at a Girl Scouts meeting, in a classroom, or even at a professional conference. As formal or informal as these instances may have been, they all show a propensity for strong speaking skills. “Many speaking and presentation skills come into play in the non-clinical roles that are available,” explained Tran.
  • Volunteering: Whether it is within the scope of veterinary medicine or in another capacity, the skills used in a volunteer role are likely opening doors for you, expanding your network, or honing new, applicable skills, Tran said.
  • Freelance writing: Some associations and publications contract veterinary professionals for paid writing opportunities. You can also publish your work on LinkedIn for others to read, Tran pointed out. “If those thoughts get reshared in enough circles, people will become more familiar with your name and associate you with the topics you are writing about.” This is another example of honing a skill while simultaneously broadening your network, she added.

Sought-after skills

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?

  • Project management: Pritt recounted a small, informal survey she conducted of 66 colleagues, all of whom were primarily non-clinical veterinary professionals. She inquired about which non-clinical skills they find most valuable, and project management was the top response. “Project management is the bulk of many people's jobs now. Traditional project management is scope, schedule, and budget, but really it is making something happen within a defined timeframe,” said Pritt.
  • People management: In clinical practice and non-clinical roles, people management is a critical skill. “I manage a group of over 20 people, and they are all at different levels. I hire outstanding people and that means they are always learning and looking for career advancements. That means I have to be on my toes to give my employees what they need to stay and be successful,” said Pritt.
  • Conflict resolution: People management goes hand-in-hand with conflict resolution and navigating conflict within the workplace does not disappear once you leave private practice. However, conflict resolution can look different in non-clinical roles, Pritt pointed out. An employee in a non-clinical position within a large organization likely has mandated policies and a human resource department to provide support. “There are metrics around when companies decide to bring on full-time HR people, and it is usually when a company hits around 100 to 150 employees,” explained Pritt. Regardless of the size of the company you work for, this remains a crucial skill.
  • Business communication: It is important to be able to format information and communicate it succinctly. “This is vastly different from client communication, in my opinion. When I say ‘business communication’ I am talking about writing an email,” explained Pritt. “You have no idea how important that is in non-clinical positions.” Equally as important are the abilities to create policies, reports, and marketing materials, and correspond with regulatory entities. Beyond written communication, it is essential to develop strong verbal communication skills related to business. “This is running staff meetings, providing weekly updates to your boss, running meetings, and delivering presentations,” said Pritt.
  • Leadership: As you begin to advance and take on managerial positions, you should assess your leadership skills. It becomes probable that you are helping others accomplish required tasks rather than fulfilling them yourself. “You have to do some introspection and understand what kind of leader you are. Understand what your strengths and weaknesses are, what you want to improve upon,” said Pritt.

Transferable skills

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.


  1. AVMA membership. American Veterinary Medical Association. December 31, 2022. Accessed July 15, 2023. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/reports-statistics/market-research-statistics-avma-membership
  2. S Pritt, C Tran. More than meets the eye: Preparing for a non-clinical career. Presented at: AVMA Convention; Denver, Colorado. July 15, 2023.
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