What Does an Internal Medicine Veterinarian Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Internal medicine veterinarians are specialists that are qualified to perform advanced diagnostic services and create treatment plans for illnesses related to the internal body systems of animals.
Internal Medicine Veterinarian Duties & Responsibilities
Routine duties for an internal medicine specialist in private practice include:
- Performing diagnostic tests and exams
- Evaluating scans and tests
- Using a variety of specialized medical equipment
- Performing surgical procedures
- Updating patient files
- Supervising internal medicine vet techs or surgical vet techs
- Provide professional consultations at the request of a general veterinary practitioner
Internal medicine veterinarians are specialists with advanced training on the function, diagnosis, pathology, and treatment of internal body systems. Areas of training for internal medicine vets can include many fields of study including oncology, endocrinology, hematology, infectious diseases, cardiology, gastroenterology, immunology, neurology, nephrology, and respiratory disease management.
Specialists in internal medicine may also find employment with organizations such as veterinary colleges, research labs, and commercial pharmaceutical companies. Those working for veterinary colleges may have additional duties such as giving lectures, supervising lab work, advising students, and overseeing research projects. Those working in corporate environments tend to focus on creating diagnostic testing and treatment options.
Internal Medicine Veterinarian Salary
An internal medicine veterinarian's salary can vary depending on location and experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides salary information for veterinarians in general:
- Median Annual Salary: $93,830
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $162,450
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $56,540
Source: BLS, 2019
Board-certified specialists, such as vets certified in internal medicine, tend to earn salaries even higher than the top end of this compensation scale, but the BLS does not offer salary data for each of the veterinary specialties.
Education, Training, & Certification
- Education: All veterinarians must begin their careers by gaining admission to a veterinary school and successfully completing their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Once they achieve the basic veterinary degree and license, a candidate interested in pursuing the internal medicine specialty must make a serious educational commitment.
- Internship and residency: First, they must complete a one-year rotating internship in medicine and surgery (or demonstrate equivalent clinical experience). They must then complete an additional three to five-year residency in internal medicine (with the exact length depending on their area of focus and the requirements of their individual program). Options for residency include subspecialties such as cardiology, large animal internal medicine, small animal internal medicine, neurology, and oncology.
- Certification exam: At the conclusion of the residency, a candidate must pass the general board certification exam, demonstrate that they have the appropriate credentials, and complete a specialty exam. After passing the exams the candidate is granted diplomate status in the veterinary specialty of internal medicine.
Internal Medicine Veterinarian Skills & Competencies
To be successful in this role, you’ll generally need the following skills and qualities:
- Compassion: Veterinarians must treat animals and their owners with kindness and respect.
- Communication skills: Vets need to effectively communicate with animals, animal owners, and staff in relation to the care of animals.
- Problem-solving and analytical skills: Veterinarians need these skills to figure out what's going on with animals.
- Physical stamina: Vets may be on their feet for long periods of time while treating animals.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in this field will grow 19 percent through 2026, which faster than the overall employment growth of 7 percent for all occupations in the country.
The lengthy and rigorous nature of specialty training programs and the challenging nature of board certification exams ensure that only a limited number of professionals are able to attain certification each year. Those who are able to achieve board certification in internal medicine are therefore in high demand and should have many quality options for employment.
Internal medicine specialists in private practice may work at small animal veterinary clinics, large animal veterinary clinics, or emergency clinics.
Most internal medicine veterinarians work full time, according to BLS, and they often work more than 40 hours per week. They may also work nights or weekends and be on call during certain periods of time to respond to emergencies.
How to Get the Job
Go to Vet School
Getting into vet school isn't easy, but you may increase your chances by following some best practices. (Read "Learn How to Get Into Vet School.")
Get Licensed and Certified
All hopeful veterinarians must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam issued by the International Council for Veterinary Assessment. Those specializing in internal medicine must also pass The Academy for Internal Medicine for Veterinarian Technician certification exam.
Organizations such as the American Veterinary Medical Association offer online job boards for people pursuing veterinary medicine.
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Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019