How to become a Veterinarian in South Africa

A veterinarian (also known as an “animal doctor”) is a person who protects the health and well-being of animals. They diagnose and control animal diseases, and treat sick and injured animals. They also educate people on caring properly for their pets and livestock. Veterinary doctors are able to work in many different areas of specialisation. These include opening a private practice, teaching, public health, research, government service, private industry, military service etc.

It goes without saying that a good veterinarian must have a great love for animals, because you will work with them every day. You will also need to be dedicated to your job as you will most likely be getting call outs in the early hours of the morning and weekends. Those who specialize in farm or large animals, for example, must often endure working outdoors and in bad weather. Veterinary medicine is not for everyone, yet skilled, qualified and caring veterinary professionals are in great demand in the world today. As long as people have pets, they will need trained and experienced doctors to take care of them.

There are a few cons to becoming a vet, but these jobs are generally very fulfilling. You have the satisfaction of knowing that you are improving the health of and saving the lives of people’s best friends.

Veterinary science is very vast and you can branch off into many specialities. As a result, there are many veterinary jobs available. If you want to make a proper income in this industry, then you will need to specialise and open your own practice. Below we will highlight the different kinds of practices that a qualified veterinarian with the appropriate training can open and specialise in.

Veterinary Specialities:

  • Avian

This is a veterinarian that specialises in birds. Due to the fact that birds have such a different anatomy to mammals, veterinarians cannot study this at a standard veterinary school. They have to attend special avian classes. This specialization can take between 1 to 4 years.


  • Equine

Equine (Equestrian) veterinary involves horses. These vets examine, test and occasionally operate on or euthanize the animals. Equine veterinarians often have to travel to farms, and work outdoors in various types of weather conditions. Horses are also incredibly expensive, so the level of care that is expected by the horse’s owner is often very high.

  • Bovine/cattle

A Bovine Veterinarian specialises in large animals. They provide health management services, diagnose and treat cattle. This often takes place on site as cattle are very difficult and expensive to move. As a result, cattle veterinarians are often on the road and need a mobile practice that can travel with them. With the cattle industry continuing to expand worldwide, the demand for cattle veterinary services should continue to increase for the foreseeable future.


  • Canine/Feline (domestic)

When you think of your traditional vet, you are thinking of a canine/feline veterinarian. These are the people you take your normal household pets to for treatment or care. These individuals specialise in dogs and cats and are the most common kinds of veterinarians.

  • Exotic Companion Mammal

Cats and dogs are not the only animals that people keep as pets. These veterinary specialists will see to all the other mammals that excludes cats and dogs. This can include ferrets, rabbits, mice, rats, monkeys and other small mammals that are kept as pets.


  • Food Supply Veterinary Medicine (FSVM)

A food supply veterinarian helps to protect the health and welfare of animals that produce animal products such as eggs, milk, meat, wool, and other protein and fibre products. Normal veterinarians monitor the health and well-being of individual animals, whereas food supply vets are more concerned with the health and well-being of an animal population as a whole. They are tasked with controlling disease and monitoring the health of groups of animals to ensure quality and safe-to-consume produce.

  • Dairy

People practising Dairy veterinary, provide health advice, medical services and communication programs to the whole dairy supply chain. This includes farms, as well as suppliers to the industry such as national dairy organisations, processors and the stores that sell the final products. The focus is on the success factors: the cows’ health, and the profits derived from and the sustainability of the dairy supply chain.

  • Swine Health Management (porcine management)

These veterinarians are similar to dairy vets, but they exclusively deal with swine populations. They manage and regulate swine populations as a whole. From their feeding, right up to the meat output. This includes the diagnosis and treatment of the animals, as well as the management, eradication and prevention of swine specific diseases.


  • Reptile and Amphibians (herpetological)

These veterinarians specialize in all reptiles and amphibians. They care for and promote conservation and humane treatment of these animals. If you have a snake or lizard that need help, then these are the people to go to.

All of the above specializations require the individual to receive their doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) and then treat animals in their field of specialization for at least 6 years before they can open a specialised practice.

As you can see, there are many avenues to go down if you want to become a vet. If you are an animal welfare advocate, then you could join a charity organisation like the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). It is a non-profit organisation that helps treat and find homes for abandoned animals.

There are a number of training institutions and associations in the veterinary field in South Africa:

Training Institutions and Associations

The University of Pretoria Faculty of Veterinary Science provides solid training if you want to become a veterinarian in South Africa. The institution is proud to have the second oldest veterinary faculty in Africa. It is the only one of its kind in South Africa and is one of 46 veterinary faculties on the African continent. The university offers an undergraduate veterinary science degree programme and a veterinary nursing diploma programme, as well as a variety of postgraduate degrees. If you want to be a vet in South Africa, then UP is a good choice. Animal health can also be studied through various courses with the University of South Africa (UNISA).


The South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) is a professional association of veterinarians in South Africa. The Association promotes the interests and activities of the professionals in the field and helps veterinarians to fulfil their role in their communities.

There are various benefits to belonging to SAVA, including keeping up-to-date with anything veterinary related. The Association helps with career related queries or complaints and provides a platform for vets to express their issues to other professionals in the industry.

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We hope that this article will help you figure out if becoming a veterinarian is right for you. A veterinary science career path can be incredibly rewarding. Looking for veterinary jobs in your area? Register your CV on Job Mail, browse through the jobs available and start applying for amazing career opportunities today!

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33 Responses

  1. Ilse Pretorius says:

    How does it goes to work if you want to study just birds and where do you study this.

  2. How long do I have to study?. And I’m in high school so what marks do I need to apply for bursaries?.am I gonna need maths too?after how many years of studying will I be qualified to start working as a veterinarian? .please reply asap cause I really need to know.

    • Britney says:

      It’s a 6 year course. You’all need maths and science (life science is recommended but not compulsory) and a minimum average of 85. Also you’ll need to job shadow a vet and gain hours in different field, small animals, exotic, food producing.

      • tanushri says:

        Hi do they have vet schools in South Africa.I thought Life science is important.

        • Jani Grey says:

          Hi Tanushri,

          We’d like to suggest that you get in touch with the universities you are considering to find out what they have to offer with regard to this.

          Kind regards,
          The Job Mail Team

  3. Carmen says:

    I want to become a vet. I didn’t have maths or biology in high school. What courses can I do and where do I complete these courses to qualify to study for a Vet? I really have a great passion for working with animals

  4. Vijay says:

    Re: Hello sir my self vijay Parashar and I am from India .I want to ask you what are the requirements if I would like to take admission in veterinary course , and you can contact me through my whatapp no 9911831090 or email. Thanks

  5. l need a collage to study a course of Nursing veterans at Johannesburg for next year

    • Henno Kruger says:

      Do an online search for colleges offering the course you’re looking for

      • JP Botha says:

        Good day Henno, I am 33, were can I find out were I can study for a Avian Vet, or to phone ? I realy want to do this, please help.

        • Henno Kruger says:

          Hi JP – Do an online search for “Avian Vet Course” or “Veterinary Course” to see who is offering courses

  6. Veronica says:

    Hi sir,i am Veronica Mofokeng from freestate am currently doing animal production NQF level 4,so I would like to be veterinary what are the requirements?

  7. Wihan says:

    Hi Henno

    Im hoping you could help me.

    My main question would be. What is the difference between UNISA’s Animal health studies and Veterinary Science? And how do I get from studying through UNISA to being a Vet?

    Is Unisa the only way to do the studies part time/ correspondence as I am already otherwise employed?

    Kind regards

    • Henno Kruger says:

      Hi Wihan – You’ll have to ask UNISA what the difference is and if you can study to become a Vet via them. You can probably check if Damelin / Lyceum are offering courses in this field if you want to follow the correspondence route.

  8. Paulina says:

    I am in high school and I was wondering if life science is required at university of Pretoria if I want to do a course in veterinary science.

  9. Thato says:

    my name is Thato Tjabadi am currently doing grade 9. I want to be a Veterinanian but i dont know which subjects to choose next year. can anyone help please.

  10. Nicky says:

    What subjects are needed for becoming a veterinarian?

  11. Nicky says:

    As I am in grade 8 and would like to decide if this is my final choice.
    Thank you so much.

  12. Dominic says:

    Which takes longer? Vet medicine or human medicine?

  13. Nozwelo says:

    Hi Nozwelo here I’d like to know the requirements of veterinary science

  14. Michael says:

    I’m searching for vet assitant in south africa . I already work as vet assistant for Dr Jha . Help me please.

  15. Hi Mr Henno Kruger
    My name is Charmaine and I discovered a great love for animals, mostly domestic and concern for their well being especially health, seeing that most middle to poor people can not afford medical care for their animals. I need to know more about animal health and am thinking to study as a veterinarian. I am 47 years old. What would you advice me to do?

    • Jani Grey says:

      Hi Charmaine,

      We would like to suggest that you contact the colleges or universities you are interested in studying at, and ask them what their requirements are for veterinary studies. You can also Google the necessary info. We wish you the best of luck in pursuing this career option.

      Thank you for visiting Job Mail.

  16. ashurah says:

    Hi I’m in matric and I have the subjects math and life sciences. Do I need physics to study to become a vet?

    • Jani Grey says:

      Hi Ashurah,

      Different institution have different requirement for the courses/diplomas/degrees that they offer. Our best suggestion would be to decide on a few institutions you would like to study at, then find out what their requirements are for studying to become a vet.

      Good luck with your studies,
      The Job Mail Team

  17. Ntsikelelo Vava says:

    Hi I’m Ntsikelelo Vava I want to become a vat I’m in ELSENBURG COLLEGE I’m doing animal small stock and large stock I want to know what must I do when I’m done here?

    • Jani Grey says:

      Hi Ntsikelelo,

      Please see the section entitled,There are a number of training institutions and associations in the veterinary field in South Africa. We suggest getting in touch with the institute of you choice and discussing the next steps with them.

      Kind regards,
      The Job Mail Team

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