I used to think that getting into veterinary school was the end goal in the whole “growing up” thing. I spent the better part of my youth loving and caring for animals and always thought that after a little hard work, I would graduate from veterinary school and be able to take care of the animals that, for years, took care of me.
Now, three years in, I realize that getting into veterinary school has only opened up a thousand new doors. Yes, I could graduate in a year and a half, and I could immediately start practicing veterinary medicine. I could start making a salary for the first time (ever) and begin paying back my loans.
As I have come to realize, however, it is almost rare for an equine student to graduate from school and not pursue some type of internship. It has been explained to me that an internship means taking a salary cut for a year (or sometimes two or three) after graduating and learning the ropes of “true” veterinary medicine. Internships are offered at both private and academic practices, and the idea is that after completing an internship, you are more qualified and comfortable in your skills so you can work without the safety net of a senior clinician to take the fall if you somehow “mess up” or don’t know something.
Others use their internship as a springboard for a residency. There are residencies in just about every specialty you can think of from radiology to reproduction to surgery to sports medicine and rehabilitation. These residencies are generally around two to three years in length, and they offer meager salary. However, once you sit your boards and pass, you become a board-certified specialist in that field.
The idea of specializing sounds fantastic, but so does the idea of immediately starting to make money. It seems as though the deeper I delve into veterinary medicine, the more confused I get as to what path I want to pursue.