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Lecturing veterinary science: is it right for you?

Written by: Vet Times Jobs
Published on: 26 Mar 2015

Teaching animal physiology

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Teaching may be right for you if you’ve been in the veterinary profession for years or you’re coming up to finishing your PhD. Even if you’re currently completing a Bachelors or Masters degree you may be starting to think about where your career can take you – and teaching may be an option.

Before you make the leap into teaching veterinary science and medicine (and its many branches and disciplines) have a read of this post to decide whether it’s right for you.

Will you be happy to step away from a veterinary practice?

For the majority of vets the first and most obvious career step is into a veterinary practice. Within a practice you’ll be dealing directly with animals and clients, problem-solving real life cases, and working in a busy and demanding environment.

However, for many vets, practice life isn’t right for them. The changeable and demanding hours, the difficulties in having to deal with high-pressure situations and the often commercial environment don’t suit some vets career ambitions or professional outlook. 

Teaching the veterinary profession, on the other hand, will demand an even more in-depth passion for veterinary science and medicine. This may seem like an exaggeration, when veterinary surgeons clearly need to be passionate about veterinary medicine. However, as a veterinary lecturer you’ll need to be dedicated to research and communicating findings – direct animal care will take a back seat. 

Write out a list of pros and cons for both veterinary academia and veterinary surgeon roles. From there, choose your priorities and decide whether an academic veterinary job will suit you. 

Decide on what balance between teaching and research you’ll be happy with.
When you’re looking at veterinary lecturer jobs or other roles in academia, analyse the balance between teaching and research. 

Each academic institution will place a different weight on teaching vs. research depending on their priorities and the job in question. However, it’s for you to decide where you see your skills and qualities sitting most comfortably. 

Teaching demands:

  • An ability to communicate complex ideas, theories and procedures in a coherent, concise and accurate way
  • Patience and great inter-personal skills
  • Confidence speaking to small and large groups
  • Creativity in planning for lectures, seminars etc. whilst following a curriculum
  • Confidence in providing one on one support and answering often challenging questions

Research on the other hand requires:

  • Dedication to see a project through from start to finish
  • An analytical frame of mind
  • The ability to evaluate and challenge theories
  • An investigative nature
  • A passion to always ask the next question and discover the next result

Be honest with yourself and ask if you have the above qualities and analyse where your skills lay. You should start to see an affiliation with either teaching or research. 

Expand your veterinary teaching and research experience

A great way of deciding how to weight teaching and research is to get some experience in both areas.

If you’re completing or have completed a PhD you will, most probably, have had the opportunity to do some teaching within the veterinary department. Whether this is in seminars or lectures, this is a valuable opportunity for you to get a taste of teaching.

Make the most of the experience by listing what you did and didn’t enjoy about lecturing. Did you get the opportunity to mark work? Did you help to plan any seminars? Did you have the chance to lead any lab sessions? Decide if any of these elements really appealed to you, and if any left you feeling a little despondent.

At the same time, your PhD is primarily research based by nature. For most veterinary PhD students, they will take three to four years to complete their PhD research project. Hence, you’ll have had the opportunity to test your interest in conducting independent research.

Not only that but, working with researchers and senior members of academic staff, you will have needed to communicate your ideas with peers and colleagues. This is also an important part of veterinary science and medicine research, which will play a role in any future academic veterinary career.

Don’t forget there are other academic vet jobs beyond teaching

If you’re keen to step into the world of veterinary medicine and science from an academic point of view, but don’t think that teaching is quite right for you, there are other opportunities within universities and colleges.

For example, technicians are required in university research departments, as are veterinary nurses. Veterinary research assistant jobs are available for those who suit research positions and veterinary, clinical and resident jobs are great options for those recently graduated perhaps with a couple of years practice experience.

In fact, the list goes on and there are a variety of different academic opportunities. Look at the job description for each position in detail and, if required, ask for more information on what responsibilities you would have and what sort of team you would be working in.

Check what qualifications you need for an academic veterinary job

Each academic job will have a different set of required qualifications and experience. However, to become a veterinary lecturer you will, most likely, be required to have a PhD, and perhaps an additional qualification in line with the discipline of the role. For example, if you were to go into a veterinary pathology lecturer job, you may be required to have a qualification from the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.  

In addition, in your first year of a veterinary medicine or science lecturer job you may be required to complete an additional teaching qualification – although this is rarely an absolute requirement when making an application. 

Some universities may also require you to be a MRVCS (Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) or have the ability to become one.

Hopefully this post will give you a little background to what is involved in an academic veterinary career. If you want to go on to the next step and find out more about specific academic veterinary jobs, start your job search with Vet Times Jobs – the go-to resource for veterinary recruitment in all fields and sectors.