Pursuing a career in veterinary academia

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Not every experienced veterinary surgeon wants to spend their career working in practice. Many vets decide, instead, to pursue a career in academia – working on research and producing scholarly papers and writings – which will benefit and educate other vets in specialist areas.

Here are some helpful pointers to set you on the road to success as a veterinary academic.

External evaluations matter

During the formative years of your academic career, it’s important to seek multiple external evaluations of your work.

These reviews can come via assessments of your articles, through grant proposals, from vet colleagues in your field of expertise, and vet students who attend your lectures and talks. Don’t wait until tenure time – that’s too late.

Don’t be a perfectionist

All academics want to write that perfect article or book, but the longer you dither before publication, the more likely it is someone will beat you to it with the same idea.

Many kinds of research have a shelf life. If you wait too long, you could find your hard work has been a waste of time. On the other hand, if you rush to print, you risk rejections and revision requests.

Do your best on your book or paper and get it out promptly. Remember, although quantity matters, quality, impact and visibility matter more.

Get your face known

It’s important to get yourself known to others in your specialist field outside of your institution – these are the people who will be asked to write about you when it comes to promotion or tenure time. An internal reputation is important, of course, but it looks better if you have a list of external letter writers to recommend.

Avoid retrospective collaboration

While it’s acceptable to collaborate with former graduate or postdoctoral colleagues, you will be expected, as a new faculty member, to show independence. If you don’t, you risk sending out the message you never really cut the cords and embarked on your own individual career; a small amount of collaboration is fine, but keep it limited.

Research programmes

A coherent research programme is important. You do need a quantity of published research, but an organised and rational research programme is essential, too. There must be a theme, or professors will begin to wonder if you have a realistic future as a scientific investigator or whether you’re merely a butterfly who flits from one project to another, with no clear end goal.

In conclusion

Working as a successful veterinary academic is challenging and rewarding. Bear in mind these tips for success, work hard and watch your career blossom.

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