Work experience can seem like one of the most daunting aspects in your Vet Med application. However, it is by far the most rewarding and helpful insight into a life of working with animals, may that be in a vet practice or on a farm. The number of weeks and types of work experience required to apply varies between the UK vet schools so it’s worth checking each university’s website before you begin booking placements. Work experience is generally counted in weeks, but the number of days that make up a ‘week’ could differ from university to university, so check for this too!
Due to the October application deadline for veterinary medicine, you will need to have your work experience in the bag quite early – organising it earlier will help avoid panic and confusion. The different environments you could gain experience in are small animal (vet practices, kennels, catteries, rescue shelters), large animal (dairy/beef farms, with pigs, sheep, goats), equine (riding schools, liveries) and maybe even exotic (wildlife parks, zoos). Try to gain experience in a wide variety of environments, to see what might interest you and to develop skills in all areas.
Organising work experience
When booking your work experience, it is best to reach out to as many different organisations as possible, so you have the best chance of getting experience from a wide range of environments. Competition for placements in animal environments means it can be difficult to get one if you only contact one or two practices/farms, for example many vet practices won’t be able to take on too many students at a time. To give yourself the best chance of securing a place, contact the organisation well in advance. Not only does this show the placement that you are enthusiastic, it means you are more likely to be able to do work experience where you really want to go.
When you contact the placement provider remember to mention who you are and to be specific with why you are contacting them (i.e. type of experience, dates, number of weeks). You should tell them a bit about yourself and ask if they require any further information. Some organisations require a cover letter, which tells them more about you, what your (veterinary-related) interests are, what skills you already possess and how this could help you in your placement. The organisations may be busy, whether they are farmers running a business or vets/vet nurses/receptionists so don’t be disheartened if they don’t get back to you straight away. Persevere with emails and try phoning if they provide those contact details, this will put you across as determined and speaking directly with someone gives you another chance to give a great impression of yourself! After completing your placement make sure to ask them for a reference – make sure to state how long you worked there for (including dates).
Getting the most out of work experience
To make the most of your work experience, it is best to keep a diary – this can be a physical copy or on your phone. A diary is perfect for jotting down answers to your questions during the day or any tips you want to remember for later. The people you will work with will be passionate about their career and happy to work with someone who is interested and enthusiastic, and keeping a diary shows this. Your diary will be incredibly useful when writing your personal statement – you can refer back to interesting cases, skills you developed and people that inspired you and explain how these reinforced your decision to apply for the course. At the interview stage of the application, it is helpful to look back through the diary for ideas of potential interview questions. Rereading your diary is also a great boost of morale, especially as the application process can be overwhelming; you can see everything you have already learnt and achieved!
Work experience is a brilliant way to know if a career with animals is something that you want to pursue. Although it is during your holidays and many of your friends and peers won’t have to do the same, try your best to make the most of it. It teaches you a whole host of new skills and develops pre-existing ones. You will make contacts that could prove useful once you are in vet school, work with some incredibly inspiring people and best of all, work with animals! Enjoy it and good luck!
Written by: Jahnavi Lele
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