There are many different careers a veterinarian can pursue, and therefore there are also many different work schedules that a veterinarian can have. But let’s start by taking a look at the most common type of veterinarian – the one who works in a general clinical practice seeing patients.
General Practice Veterinarians
Most general practice veterinarians work 4-5 days per week for 8-10 hours per day. This will total up to 40-50 hours per week. Some veterinarians will also have on-call duties after hours. The amount of on-call time and how often a veterinarian is called in varies significantly from practice to practice.
For me personally, both of my jobs working as a small animal (dogs and cats) veterinarian had a base schedule of four 10-hour days plus every other Saturday morning. I worked Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8 am to 6 pm. On roughly two Saturdays per month, I would work from 8-noon.
My first job also had on-call responsibilities. I was on-call 33-50% of my evenings, weekends, and holidays. During these days, I was responsible for any patients we had hospitalized in the clinic and also needed to respond to emergency calls/treatments. Some on-call periods were quiet, while others brought multiple emergencies.
After a few years of working on-call emergency hours, I transitioned to a job in a larger metro area where my practice could refer emergency calls to the local emergency centers. So now I only work the standardly scheduled hours. I get an hour lunch break and am able to use the full hour to drive home and let my dogs out for a potty break most days.
Additionally, I’m lucky to typically have my work wrapped up enough that I am able to leave the clinic within an hour of our closing time (by 7pm). Some veterinarians work more hours than scheduled simply due to heavy appointment schedules and the need to finish records after hours.
For general practice veterinarians seeing more animal species (such as horses, cows, pigs, etc), hours are often similar to what a small animal veterinarian works. Although compared to small animal veterinarians, mixed and large animal veterinarians often have more on-call hours. There are fewer emergency clinics available for larger animals, so general practice veterinarians cover emergency care for many of these animals.
What About Other Types of Veterinarians?
There are many other types of veterinarians who work a wide variety of schedules. Let’s look at some examples.
Emergency Veterinarians work odd hours as emergency clinics are often staffed 24/7. Many of these veterinarians work 12-hour shifts (that can be longer by the time records are completed). As a result, they typically work fewer days per week, often working around 3 shifts per week.
Specialty Veterinarians are a diverse group. Depending on what type of veterinary medicine a veterinarian specializes in, a wide variety of schedules can be found. Specializing in emergency means continued long hours and overnights. But specializing in dermatology or behavior can correlate to a fairly standard 9-5, 40-hour or less per week work schedule.
Industry Veterinarians work for larger companies in the fields such as pharmaceutical, biotechnology, diagnostics, contract research services, animal feeds, and agrochemical industries. And again, hours can vary. Many industry veterinarians work a standard 8/9-5, 40-hour work week. But others work in sales and may host evening/weekend talks or other gatherings that require working outside of traditional work hours.
Relief/Freelance Veterinarians can set their own hours and work a schedule that is entirely unique to them.
The daily work schedule of a veterinarian can vary significantly between different jobs. And can even change a bit from day to day for an individual veterinarian. Veterinarians never know what their appointment schedule will truly contain until the appointment arrives. There are some great work schedules out there, but every veterinarian needs to be a little flexible when it comes to scheduling.