Occupation Thesaurus: Veterinarian

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. (See this post for more information on this connection.) It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

veterinarian, character occupations, writing characters well, backstory

Occupation: Veterinarian

Overview: Veterinarians care for the furry, scaled, feathered, and otherwise non-human members of our families. They can work in a general practice or specialize in certain kinds of animals, such as exotics (birds, reptiles, rodents), equines, or other farm animals (cows, pigs, sheep). Vets can also work in the inspection field, visiting livestock and other food animals to test and treat them and make sure government standards are being met. Research veterinarians spend more time in a lab than in a practice, doing clinical research on various health issues.

Necessary Training: A doctorate is required for someone to become a vet, meaning eight years of post-graduate schooling (in the U.S.). Slots in a vet program are highly sought after and extremely competitive, meaning many qualified students may not be accepted.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: a way with animals, empathy, gaining the trust of others, dexterity, physical strength, a good memory

Helpful Character Traits: affectionate, bold, calm, cooperative, efficient, gentle, intelligent, merciful, nurturing, observant, organized, passionate, patient, perceptive, playful, professional, studious

Sources of Friction: volatile or nervous pets, difficult owners, conflicts between staff members, having to put a pet down, seeing neglect cases and not being able to do anything about them, having to confront an abusive owner, a rude or insensitive staff member driving away customers, a contagious disease spreading through the animals being boarded, dogs or cats fighting in the waiting room, a bigger and more successful practice opening up nearby, endorsing a pet product that ends up being being recalled, being unable to gain a pet’s trust, an animal escaping the boarding facility and running away, self-doubt arising from a misdiagnosis that ended in death, financial difficulties that create other problems (having to let staff go, not being able to pay the bills, etc.)

People They Might Interact With: pet owners, other vets in the practice, administrative staff members, vet techs, a landlord, vendors (selling medical equipment, medicines, pet supplies, etc.)

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Physiological Needs: Care has to be taken around sick or injured animals—particularly the large or unpredictable ones—who can inflict injuries that could result in death
  • Safety and Security: Safety should always be a concern around volatile animals. Not only will some bite, kick, charge, or trample out of the desire to protect themselves from perceived harm, many of them can cause serious injury unintentionally. And whenever blood is drawn, the risk of infection is real.
  • Esteem and Recognition: Business owners tend to be take-charge people types who are involved in every aspect of the business. So when something isn’t going well, they can take all the blame on themselves and become mired in self-doubt. The same can be true when they make a mistake that results in an animal’s suffering or death.

Common Work-Related Settings: vet clinic, waiting room, animal shelter, barn, farm, race track (horses), ranch

Twisting the Stereotype: 

  • Vets are almost always represented in a friendly office setting. But what about a less idyllic situation, such as a vet who works in slaughterhouses maintaining the health of the animals, or one whose passion lies with test tubes and microscopes rather than the animals themselves?
  • Gentleness and a nurturing nature are commonplace traits in this field. Consider, instead, a different kind of veterinarian—one who is cold and brusque, apathetic, or is only in the business for the money.


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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6 Responses to Occupation Thesaurus: Veterinarian

  1. Lynne says:

    OMG! Yay! Are you going to put these in a book too? Please, pretty please! 😀

  2. A great occupation to learn more on.

  3. Ali says:

    There are vets who work in shelters, too. They have to deal with people who love their animals very much but have to surrender them because they cannot afford vet care. Shelter vets often have a day of appointments scheduled only to have everything upended when an emergency surrender comes in.
    I liked the twist on the stereotype and I’m looking forward to this thesaurus.

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