New resources focus on helping veterinarians fill gaps in public service

Did you know that there are more than 3,000 veterinarians employed in over 29 areas throughout the federal government—protecting public health, safeguarding America’s food supply, conducting biomedical research, responding to national emergencies, and more?

We all know that veterinary medicine is a complex field requiring its practitioners to be trained in a variety of technical disciplines. However, what some may not realize is that even though veterinarians are highly qualified for a variety of careers in the U.S. government, federal position announcements sometimes restrict applicants to those with medical or Ph.D. degrees. Recognizing the additional skills veterinarians can bring to public service and corporate practice, the AVMA earlier this year teamed up with the National Association of Federal Veterinarians (NAFV) and the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for Public and Corporate Veterinary Medicine (VMRCVM) in a joint effort to inform Congress and human resources managers within the federal government of the many positions that veterinarians are qualified to fill.

The organizations reached a couple of milestones on the project this month with the release of its new workforce brochure and a white paper.

The colorful, trifold brochure, “Federal Veterinarians: The World Is Our Clinic,” gives a brief overview of where veterinarians are currently serving across the federal government and how they can help fill the country’s increasing demand for professionals with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) backgrounds in the future.

The white paper, “Addressing Federal Hiring Needs with Veterinary Medical Professionals,” provides a more in-depth look at how the federal government classifies some of its job series. Specifically, some federal positions not classified as veterinary positions seek professionals with backgrounds in the basic sciences, health, agriculture or the environment, in which veterinarians are often uniquely qualified. The white paper calls on the Office of Personnel Management to: expand the veterinary medical officer job series  description to include the additional skill sets that veterinarians possess; allow professionals with D.V.M. or V.M.D. degrees the ability to qualify for a more diverse range of science and technology-based federal positions and/or be given preference to those science-based positions; and consider professionals with doctorates in veterinary medicine for any science-based position that requires a Ph.D. or advanced science or research degree.

The AVMA, NAFV and VMRCVM will be providing the resources to HR managers in the months to come as part of its continued outreach.

For more information on this partnership or to view any of the resources, visit

13 thoughts on “New resources focus on helping veterinarians fill gaps in public service

  1. I would like to look into the possibility of one of these jobs. I am 60 (soon to be 61) year old veterinarian with 34 years experience in mixed practice (canine, feline, bovine, swine, ovine, caprine, and occasional exotic with extensive surgical expertise as well as some alternative practice). Surely, I could fit in somewhere. Illinois vet.

  2. I appreciate the point Dr. Nix is making re: health physics. But let us not throw the “baby out with the bath water”! The point made in the white paper the DVM/VMD brings a much needed population-based perspective to medical intervention is spot on. This has been my experience in many parts of the world during my career as a military public health officer. Early on in that career, during a two week course titled “Global Medicine” made up of over 400 physicians, nurses and 12 DVMs, topics ranging from infectious disease epidemiology, parasitology, and sanitation interventions were all too familiar to those few of us coming from a veterinary perspective. Those topics were simply not emphasized to the same extent in western human medical training. During exams in the course, it was the DVMs that consistently scored at the head of the class. That perspective translated into practical solutions improving human and animal health problems in Central America, Asia, Africa and even during the difficult conflicts of Afganistan and Iraq. The lack of recognition to what the DVM brings to the table, and the lack of AVMA advocacy to raise that awareness, caused me to leave the organization several decades ago.
    Well, things have defianately turned around with the introduction of “One Health”….and I’m on board with it! The attitude that the degree limits one to a clinical practice is fairly unique to our experience here in the U.S. It simply has not been evident in my experience with European colleagues or those from other parts of the world. Folks, let’s not keep ” hiding our light under a bushel” here. No, I’m not going to propose that radiation physics would be a great fit. But let me tell you, I’ve done more to improve the life of some third world peoples with a bottle of chlorox bleach and an understanding of basic nitration and sanitation. I applaude the white paper authors in this effort!

    • There is a serious flaw in your argument because the DVM should be a professional degree and not a doctorate of general biological studies. In the clinical world we now over over 30 specialties which all require additional an additional period of training to be considered clinically competent in that area, yet we push our education on others who are often more highly educated and trained in the subject we say our education makes us better qualified in. THe American Fisheries Society who certifies fisheries biologists has been in existence since 1870 and certifying fisheries biologists for several decades. Similar standards have been in effect for the Wildlife Society and wildlife biologists for several decades. Food scientists have their own certification programs for food scientists/technologists developed by the Institute for Food Technology which has been around since the 1940s. Ecology as a modern scientific field really started in the 1940s with the pioneering work of Eugene P Odum with his brother Howard in establishing the systematic science for analyzing ecosystems on a holistic basis. Basic ecology is not even our veterinary curriculum! In the clinic, specialization is becoming the norm as what can be reasonably be taught in 4 years has exploded in the decades since the 1960s and 1970s when the first wave of specialization occurred. Just as specialization increased the depth of knowledge and skill in veterinary medicine, the same occurred in these other fields we are arrogantly assuming superiority in. The current past two to three generations of veterinarians are being educated as dillettantes and then having to pursue post DVM training programs or have a good practice mentorship to develop the depth of knowledge and skill characteristic of being regarded a “professional” . We know more because we specialize and we can do more because specialization makes us more efficient and able to satisfy human needs including health in its multiple aspects of food, shelter, safer transportation, cleaner electricity (go nuclear). Integration of knowledge occurs through the marketplace as not one person knows how to make a pencil..( One health is even more complex concept that involves many, many more decisions and actions than involved in producing a pencil.

      It is just ridiculous to try to centralize the concept of health under one umbrella idea due to the inherent complexity of what constitutes health in its many multiple dimensions(ie what about mental health?) to many human beings from different countries and cultures. Ever think just how complex the world’s energy system is in supplying the world’s needs for homes, production of goods and services, and transporting people and products. There is an inherent complexity to the idea of one health that even dwarfs trying to understand the world’s economy.

      One Health is a cult mainly started by veterinary schools who are bringing the idea of treating all creatures great and small (which I doubt no academic veterinarian can do anymore) in order to direct all of the health related activities of the world from A to Z. No academic vet can treat all the basic species we are trained on but they can tell everyone else what they need to do in order to make the world a healthier place. The concept even lacks actionable objectives or if there are any, how do you get them accomplished? Are we going to have a world health code and enforcement officers? What if people consider it too much of an intrusion into their lives? The soda ban in NYC passed by the city public health department was overruled thankfully. I just see too much of a collectivist, progressivist idea of the “educated” central health lords making the decisions for everyone without their input. It clashes with the idea of liberty where people are allowed to make their own informed decisions. Prohibition didn’t work very well for us in the United States.

      • Well, OK Dr. Nix. Clearly, our experience bases differ and, since I wasn’t offering an “argument” to begin with I certainly wouldn’t care to be drawn into one now. Allow me the courtesy of re-stating that my 35 years of experience out in the real world have provided ample opportunity to participate and witness to the points I’ve suggested in my initial post. Those professionals never have sought to be the solution to all problems. But I thank goodness that there are folks who do not shrink from doing what they can just because a problem set is inherently complex!
        I wouldn’t at all denigrate the various certifications from all the professional/scientific organizations. And point fact, there seldom are contingency operations that are not approached through a team effort. I do hold an advanced graduate training degree, and that of course provides me some depth in that relevant science. However, the point I believe you are missing is the difference in perspective that the root veterinary training brings to these complex problems (or at least it USED to’ and in some schools still does). It is that perspective offered in my analogy of the gallon of chlorox and basic sanitation….I can introduce you to some villagers in Central America that thank the heavens a team of professionsonals populated and led by DVMs introduced those basic principals and so improved their quality of life. Never met ANY cases where such contribution was resented or perceived by other professionals or foreign ministeries of health as being intrusive. In fact, we get awards of appreciation for that engagement.
        Your point about specialization is quite relevant. We can be drawn into a trap where one is uncomfortable unless all the latest technologies are quickly to hand. I hold a specialty and board certification diplomate status. However, I have constantly sought to avoid the urge to see every problem as a nail just because I know a lot about a hammer, eh?:)
        As for the rather gratuitous comment re: One Health’s cult status….well, guess the WHO, OIE, AMA, and etc must be mesmerized by the Svengali-like vet schools. Sorry, just doesn’t pass the scratch and sniff test from what I’ve seen….I’ve “been there and done that”, and know many DVMs that continue to “be there and do that” making huge differences in the lives of humans and their supporting animal populations.
        I appreciate your obvious interest and it is clear you have thought about such things. My hope it that you may direct those energies toward engaging in the many efforts underway, through the AVMA and other health organizations mentioned previously. We all can analyse situations to the minute detail and make all the plans we’d like….but as we say in the military, no plan survives first contact with the enemy! Someone has to roll up their sleeves and wade out of their comfort zone to make a difference….and I heartily support those with that spirit of service. I’m sure you do as well. Good dialogue!

  3. How relevant is any of this when you will NEVER hear back from an actual human being when applying to any job you are qualified for on Clinical job, research job, FDA job, it doesn’t matter. Better odds with Powerball.

    • Hello,
      I am responding to Dr. Flores comment. If you can email me, I would be willing to help you with my experience with USAJobs.

      Kindest regards,

      Dr. Donahue

      • When I click your name it is trying to follow some link to usajobs or something so no way to email you.

      • Mary Donahue, I can’t email you w/o an address or company link or something.

    • The problem is that the brochure is false as is the white paper! Many of the jobs described are already filled by more qualified applicants with more specific degrees and required industry certifications to be accepted as having the required knowledge basis or the DVM is really overqualified for such a lower level position. And if the DVM is to be considered equal by the federal government to a PhD, should not the veterinary schools accept the DVM by itself as being adequate for all veterinary teaching and research positions. The white paper in appendix E lists numerous jobs where a DVM program does not even cover very basic content. In appendix E, health physicist is listed as being suitable for a DVM. I doebt they even know what they do( I do because I know one). I could easily have been a health physicist just by getting a four year degree in physics or nuclear engineering and maybe getting a masters in health physics and now be making in the mid 100 to 200 thousand dollar range with over twenty years experience. Health physicist design protection and prevention programs when working with all forms of radiation and thus require knowledge of nuclear physics, chemistry, design of shielding to just name a few. They have been certified since the 1950s by the American Board of Health Physics and require exams and recertifications. Oh! How do I know this? My father was in the nuclear power industry for over 25 years, with 11 years as a general manager of a two unit power plant after Three Mile Island. A family friend was head of the health physics and chemistry section, he had two PhDs in both chemical and nuclear engineering. Only arrogant and intellectually sloppy organizations like AVMA, VMRCVM, and the NAFV could put out such inaccurate BS.
      As Dr Richard Feynman (Nobel physicist and Challenger Accident Investigation board member) said about scientific integrity, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” Both my dad and I liked reading Feynman’s pithy and direct books on physics and science. Arrogance will the death of this profession.