How to become a vet working in teaching and academia
Almost all veterinary surgeons teach, either in academia and higher education or informally in the practice. Many qualified vets make the move from clinical work to university lecturing, yet according to the vet Elizabeth Armitage-Chan, “There are two questions that I commonly get asked about my current role: ‘What is it that you do?’ and ‘You could still go back to being a real vet, right?.”
For most vets the obvious first career step is towards life in practice, dealing with clients and animals and working in a fast paced and demanding environment. However, for many, this is simply not a good fit – the changeable hours, stress and often commercialised working environment does not suit all graduates.
Those considering moving towards teaching and academia will find they require a deeper passion for veterinary science and medicine, dedication to research and a move away from direct animal care.
What qualifications do I need?
The most common misconception about becoming a lecturer is that you must already have a teaching qualification, however, each academic job will have a different set of requirements, whether that be a PhD, additional qualification or specialism. Most universities and colleges will pursue vets who have genuine experience in the specialist field they will be lecturing.
"Those considering moving towards teaching and academia will find they require a deeper passion for veterinary science and medicine"
There are also opportunities at all levels, from teaching foundation animal management at local colleges to professorships.
Isobel Richards, a lecturer at Moulton College, started her career as a small animal veterinary surgeon before moving into teaching and discovered her current employer was willing to pay for her to attend a two-year teaching training programme alongside her role as a lecturer.
It’s important to note that lecturers do not just work during term time. Lesson planning, research and student support are ongoing and often leak outside of the 9-5.
Isobel says: “The total working hours are definitely longer: outside of lessons there is a huge volume of preparation and marking, some of which has to be done in the evenings and at weekends.”
What skills do I need to demonstrate?
Aside from your relevant clinical and any previous informal teaching, you may have, it’s important to show soft skills – you will likely already have these on your clinical CV, use these to highlight your abilities in a formal educational context.
"Many of the core skills acquired throughout life in practice are transferable to academia and higher education"
Some key soft skills include:
- Multitasking – research, teaching, preparing your course all require efficient time management.
- Personability – you must have the ability to get along with and support your future students.
- Enthusiasm – Both for your specialist area, as well as knowledge and determination.
Core skills include:
- Any public speaking experience, how can you tailor this to an educational context?
- Managerial experience, have you overseen any new graduates or mentored any vet nurses?
- Research – can you expand on your own research you’ve undertaken in the past to fit an academic research context?
Isobel says: “Many of the skills and values of veterinary practice, such as confidentiality, record keeping, care with signatures and respect for colleagues, are transferable to education. Dealing with upset and angry clients in practice has helped me with pastoral care for students and in dealing with the odd unhappy parent on the phone.”
Many of the core skills acquired throughout life in practice are transferable to academia and higher education.