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How much pay could I make from specializing in the veterinary care of exotic wildlife?

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I am a Senior student at William J. Brennan High school looking for information on becoming a veterinarian. I specifically want to pursue becoming an Exotic Animal Vet and wouldn't mind traveling at the beginning of my career to do so but i would like to know my chances and what i must do to accomplish this.

#animals #animal-health #veterinary #veterinary-medicine #zoology #veterinarian #pay #salary #annual #monthly #exotic #wildlife #specialist

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Courtney’s Answer

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When I researched this subject I was told by the vet that I interned with that having a private vet practice that only specializes in exotic wildlife will not bring in a steady income. I was told that if you want to be an exotic vet it's best to look into becoming a vet at a zoo, and there aren't that many of those jobs. I was also told the income range on zoo vets depends on the size of the zoo but in general, you can expect $80,000-$120,000.

Courtney recommends the following next steps:

  • Search job openings online for zoo vets to see what they're looking for in the way of qualifications.
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Tania’s Answer

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Hi Jordan,

There are many students that want to pursue a career in veterinary medicine and many of them want to work with exotic/wildlife. One thing you need to know is that exotic, zoo and wildlife can encompass many different species and practice settings. Often exotic animals are non-domestic pet animals like pet birds (e.g. parrots and parakeets), small mammals (rabbits, ferrets, chinchillas etc.) or reptiles (lizards, snakes and monitors). Zoo animals are typically captive wildlife, so yes, those animals that live in the many zoological parks and safari parks around the world. But don't forget this can also mean the animals (mammals and fishes) at aquariums. And finally wildlife, which of coarse, are the animal that live in the wild.

As an exotic/zoo or wildlife vet, the situations in which you interact with and treat these different species also varies. As a exotic companion animal practitioner, you may own your owner business and you would primarily see these pet species as patients. If you work in a zoo or aquarium you would be responsible for the ongoing and emerging medical needs of a given zoo/aquarium's collection of animals. And if you work with wildlife you may find yourself working at a wildlife rehabilitation center (like these places https://cawildlife.org/ or www.marinemammalcenter.org) or you may get involved with research overseas in places life South America, Africa or Asia.

How much you make very much depends on how what kind of medicine you practice and where. As a private practitioner and business owner, you absolutely can make a living treating just exotic companion species. (http://www.aecvets.com/) Since you are the business owner what part of the country, how far from the city and what services you offer matter. If you work at a zoo or aquarium your salary is set often by the city where the zoo is located or a governing body that runs the zoo. Again you will make a living, but it depends on the zoo/aquarium's location. (Here are the salaries for the vets at the Los Angeles Zoo--http://salaries.scpr.org/list/los-angeles-zoo-- keep in mind it is very expensive to live in LA) You have a greater opportunity of making more money as a private practitioner, but with a zoo job you may have more stability and better benefits (healthcare, retirement funds etc). Rehab centers are often non-profit organizations, so your salary will depend on the budget the non-profit has set. You may end up needing to write grants and do some fundraising for your position at a non-profit. And as for research or working in the wild in some far off place (which I bet is really the exciting dream you have in mind) you will likely need to get a master's or phD in addition to your veterinary degree and you will likely work under an academic institution or government agency.

To be very honest with you your chances of becoming a wildlife vet are quite low, but by NO MEANS should you give up on the dream it this is truly what you want. It will take hard work and dedication to become a veterinarian. This mean good grades in high school and college and having experience volunteering/working with animals. After vet school you will need to decide to do a residency in zoo med or go on and get a master's or phD in epidemiology or ecology or other related sciences.

Tania recommends the following next steps:

  • Research what steps you need to get into vet school --https://www.avma.org/public/YourVet/Pages/training.aspx, https://www.avma.org/public/YourVet/Pages/veterinary-specialists.aspx
  • Find opportunities to volunteer at zoo's and wildlife rehabilitation centers
  • Find summer or extra curricular class/camps where you can learn about ecology and the environment.--https://www.wildlandsstudies.com/programs-summer, https://www.nczoo.com/experiences/day-overnight-camps/
  • Connect with organizations that are doing the work you eventually want to do.--https://aawv.net/resources/students/, https://theiwrc.org/about-us
  • Listen and learn from other people in the field.--https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/170715a.aspx, https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/research/student-research/star/wildlife-exotic
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