Scotland’s chief veterinary officer, Sheila Voas, talks about the challenges and satisfaction of being a rural vet.

I have loved my career as a vet and cannot think of any other job that would have given me the opportunities or satisfaction that this one has. Firstly, let’s dispel some of the myths about the profession that might put prospective students off.

Only straight A students can apply

Wrong. A good academic ability is obviously beneficial as vet medicine is a science degree. But it’s also a practical job. Communication and physical skills are just as important.

The Scottish Farmer: Scotland's chief vet Sheila Voas Scotland's chief vet Sheila Voas

Vet medicine is the hardest course to get into

False. There is currently a shortage of vets across the UK. Entry requirements differ between UK vet schools, but there is flexibility.

For example, the new SRUC vet school in Aberdeen is looking at a model where the vet degree can be accessed from other post-school qualifications. Just make sure you highlight all the things that would make you the perfect candidate and don’t underestimate the power of a good personal statement.

You have to be a farmer to work with farm animals

Absolutely false. Whether you were born in a town or in the country doesn’t matter as long as you have a passion for animals, a good work ethic, and can problem-solve. Working in this environment may be intimidating to those who are not used to it at first.

But as long as you have an open mind and are willing to learn then there’s no reason why you can’t succeed.

Vet medicine in rural areas is dull

Anything but! The sheer variety of tasks is incredible and vet practice is one of many options. Vets also play a key role in food security and food safety. They are also involved in research, pharmaceutical development teaching, or in my case policy development.

It’s all about animals

Sort of. Animals usually come attached to people and it is essential that you can talk to the owner, and tailor your advice to suit the circumstances. Farmers are running a business so their focus will be different to a pet owner. It’s important to explain the options and work through them together with your client to jointly reach a decision about the best treatment option in the circumstances.

Sometimes that will unfortunately include euthanasia of the animal, either because of welfare concerns or financial constraints. Neither is wrong as long as the animal doesn’t suffer.

Being a vet also offers a degree of autonomy, especially to vets working in farm practice as you travel to different jobs on your own but with support from colleagues at the end of the phone.

It’s very different to small animal work where appointments are every 10 or 15 minutes and it can feel a bit like a conveyor belt.

So if you want a challenging but rewarding career that will allow you to use your brain while you develop practical skills in a rural community– why not think about a degree in vet medicine?