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Working in government with a veterinary degree


Approximately 5% of qualified vets work for the Government in some capacity in a wide range of specialist and technical areas.

These can involve disease surveillance, prevention and control, promotion of animal welfare, assurance of food quality, regulation of veterinary medicine and providing support for human security and public health.

Find out more about science careers beyond the lab


Linda Smith, Veterinary Head of Careers at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)

Linda talks about the four groups of vets they employ: field vets, veterinary advisers, vets in surveillance and pathology, and research work. 

Heike Luhmann, Field Vet at the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)

Heike talks about her role and the One Health concept within government work - what it means and the approach taken by field vets.


Roles in Government

Departments and agencies that employ vets include:

  • Animal and Plant Health Agency
  • Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
  • Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
  • Department for International Development (DfID)
  • Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera)
  • Food Standards Agency
  • Health Protection Agency
  • Home Office
  • Ministry of Defence

As a general rule, jobs fall into two categories: operational or policy-based. Key areas include epidemiology, disease control and global or national population medicine.

As a Government vet you are automatically a member of the Government Veterinary Surgeons (GVS) network. Through the GVS there is scope to get involved in education.

Defra and APHA are two of the largest Government employers of vets and roles would include safeguarding animal health and welfare, protecting and enhancing food security through research, surveillance and inspection, disease monitoring and epidemiological studies.


Routes into the roles

Your veterinary training is a major benefit in terms of working in many governmental roles. Additionally, beyond your formal qualifications, there are further perceived benefits to having come from a veterinary background:

  • Specialist knowledge
  • Ability to conduct research, both in terms of policy and in the laboratory
  • Experience in animal welfare
  • Communication and interpersonal skills

There is no formal training required to make this career transition, but you may wish to consider ways to gain useful work experience to support your application.

If you are interested in moving into the policy side, this may include an internship in a team within parliament, Government, think tanks, charities or higher education.

If you are still studying, you may want to take advantage of EMS opportunities available through the GVS network.

Short-term research and project opportunities may also be available within particular parts of Government throughout the year. 


Finding employment including the Civil Service Fast Stream and salaries

All vacancies within the Government are advertised on the Civil Service Jobs website 

Civil Service Jobs

The recruitment criteria for Government positions is very transparent and based on your ability to evidence the required competencies by means of examples.

Some core competencies that you are expected to be able to evidence will be:

  • Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons registered (or eligible for registration)
  • Professional experience/skills relevant to the job
  • Basic knowledge of the regulatory framework
  • An appreciation of the contribution that state veterinary medicine makes to the economy and society
  • An appreciation of the importance of public health and/or animal welfare

Further information on competencies can be found on the  GVS network framework.

Civil Service Fast Stream

In addition to applying directly to advertised vacancies, you can also enter the civil service through the website:

Civil Service Fast Stream

As a graduate there is a huge variety of career paths available to you.

You will usually enter the organisation at an executive level where the roles are predominantly office-based and you will be involved in research, analysis and the formulation of policy.

Find out more about the Fast Stream in the links below.

Potential salaries

Your starting salary will depend on how the job you are applying for has been graded. 

If you go via the civil service fast stream, your starting salary will be between £25,000 and £27,000, however individually advertised jobs requiring specialist skills are likely to pay more.


Further resources



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