Veterinarians sometimes called, veterinarian surgeons, diagnose and treat sickness and injury in animals. They perform surgery on animals and the innoculations against infectious diseases. The type of work performed depends on the area in which they have specialised.

Veterinarians who are in private practice, mainly treat sick domestic animals. Some veterinarians test dairy herds for tuberculosis and brucellosis, and inoculate animals against diseases. They perform autopsies to determine causes of death, inspect animals intended for human consumption, both before and after slaughtering. They also give advice on the care and breeding of animals. Large animal practitioners are primarily concerned with the diagnosis and prevention of diseases in large and small stock, with the main aim of improving the production and quality of meat, milk, wool and other animal products. Veterinary surgeons in rural areas work with both farm animals and pets. Other areas of specialisation include poultry, dairy cattle, pigs, wildlife and exotic birds.

Veterinarians in general practice may treat various animal species or may specialise in pets in general or in a single species. Those employed by pharmaceutical companies are usually involved in the research and development of many products used in animal health care and with the registration of these products. With the increase in the number of game farms, the veterinary profession plays an important role in the capture and rehabilitation of wild animals. 

Veterinarians may be involved in research, consultation, teaching, technical writing, the prevention and control of animal diseases, agricultural education, community development, the sale or production of commercial products, or the rendering of technical services for commercial firms. In South Africa, research into diseases affecting livestock is carried out by veterinary surgeons at various institutes, including the Veterinary Research Institute at Onderstepoort.  Veterinary surgeons are employed by universities to lecture, but are also expected to conduct research in their chosen fields. State veterinarians are employed to prevent and control animal diseases that threaten the livestock herds of the country, for example, foot and mouth disease. They are also involved in agricultural education and community development. 

Personal Requirements

  • aptitude and interest in the biological sciences
  • good powers of observation
  • respect and love for animals and have an ability to work with them
  • adequate coordination to handle instruments
  • good vision, hearing, stamina and health.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

  • Pass matric with a Bachelor's pass
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university
  • All applications for admission to MBChB and Medical degrees are subject to selection.
  • Due to the limited number of spaces available, only a small percentage of applicants are admitted

What to Study

Degree: BVSc - at Onderstepoort, near Pretoria. This is a six-year degree course.
This degree of the University of Pretoria is recognised by the South African Veterinary Council and is also recognised by the registering authorities in the United Kingdom, Australasia and Malaysia. Students of veterinary science are required to register with the SA Veterinary Council before the 1st of June of the year in which they first enrol. 
Postgraduate: Research and postgraduate studies, MSc (Animal / Human / Ecosystem Health), or MSc (Veterinary Science) – research, followed by a PhD, can be undertaken at UP in the Veterinary Faculty


  • veterinary research institutes
  • large stock farms
  • zoos
  • agriculture
  • colleges and universities
  • pharmaceutical companies
  • CSIR and SA Medical Research Council
  • self-employment, in partnership or private practice

Further Information

Faculty of Veterinary Science
University of Pretoria
Onderstepoort, 0110
Tel:(012) 529-8000

SA Veterinary Council
P O Box 40510
Arcadia, 0007
Tel: (012) 342-1612

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work where you can gain experience working with animals
  • arrange to speak to veterinary surgeons about this type of career and ask permission to observe them at work

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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