Veterinary medicine as a profession

The work of veterinarians is varied and challenging. It is often busy, marked by responsibility and quick but sound decisions. In addition to a sharp mind and skilful hands, veterinarians need social skills and empathy when dealing with customers, which occurs frequently. 

The working environment is diverse. Veterinarians can specialise in many different duties in areas such as 

  • the health, diseases and welfare of living animals
  • food production
  • environmental health care
  • research, management, control and operational planning.

In Finland, there are altogether some 2,630 licensed veterinarians, pensioners included (January 2017).

Most veterinarians conduct clinical patient work as production animal veterinarians or small animal and equine veterinarians. Every third veterinarian works with food hygiene. Controlling food safety, contagious veterinary diseases and animal welfare is an important sector for veterinarians. Many veterinarians find employment as a result of companion and hobby animals.

In their work, veterinarians deal with the entire life-cycle of animals – in addition to positive matters, the work entails treating serious diseases and coming face-to-face with death.

Production animal veterinarians and municipal veterinarians, both of whom conduct farm calls, are responsible for the cows, pigs and other production animals in their region. They are often also responsible for the small animals and horses in the region. Production animal veterinarians frequently complete all stages of their work entirely independently, from examinations to taking samples, as well as treatment and surgery procedures. In addition to patient work, the emphasis is on preventive health care, animal protection and environmental health care.

Small animal veterinarians primarily treat pets. The wide-ranging work at small animal clinics includes surgery and other medical treatments, vaccinations and animal euthanasia. Small animal veterinarians can specialise in, for example, diseases of the eye or skin, dental care, heart disease or exotic animals. Serving and advising animal owners is another important part of the job.

Equine veterinarians work at clinics and make stable calls. Common equine diseases include lameness and respiratory tract diseases, in addition to which horses often require urgent care due to colic and accidents. Equine vaccination and dental care are also part of the daily routine. Demanding surgeries and other procedures are conducted at clinics.

Veterinarians prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases and ensure the hygienic quality of food. Many work as inspection veterinarians in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants. They are responsible for meat inspection, as well as animal protection and slaughterhouse hygiene.
Specialists in food hygiene monitor dairies, as well as food commerce and distribution. Veterinarians safeguard the food chain from the field to the dining table.

Veterinarians work as experts in various governmental positions of law drafting, planning and control. In government ministries, veterinarians work with drafting and supervising legislation concerning animals and food. The EU has made their work increasingly international. Regional veterinarians are responsible for animal medical services and food control operations in their regions. Inspection veterinarians are government officials as well.

As researchers, veterinarians specialise in their personal objects of interest, such as food and environmental hygiene, microbiology, pathology, domestic animal welfare and various clinical areas. Research often results in a doctoral dissertation. Researchers working at the University also provide teaching in their specialisation on a regular basis. Many veterinarians also work as researchers in various governmental agencies and in the pharmaceutical industry.

Read more about the profession of veterinarians and their work on the Finnish Veterinary Association website.

You can also read an interview (Veterinarian of the year 2015, in Finnish only) conducted with DVM Mirja Ruohoniemi, the vice dean in charge of teaching at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.