Careers and Employability Service
Services for current students

Exotic pets

Green iguana close up

Keen on combining your veterinary skills with your love for exotic pets?

Read on to explore the career opportunities, requirements and responsibilities within exotics veterinary practices.



What are the main responsibilities and opportunities working as an exotics vet?

Any small animal vet is going to see non-traditional pets; there are increasing numbers of these species in the UK and their owners are becoming more aware of the need for veterinary care for them. Some vets will work in zoological collections or in teaching; there are a few specialist centres in the UK, but large animal vets may also deal with some of these species (for example, alpacas).

What do I need to consider if I want to work as an exotics vet?

Be prepared to realise how little you know. Exotics is the widest discipline in veterinary medicine with the largest number and most diverse species; it's impossible to know everything about everything, but knowing what you don't know, how to apply basic principles, and where to find out information are key.

This is a role where you need to be prepared to go out of your comfort zone and potentially work with species and conditions where little is known or has been tested; the prescribing cascade is particularly important, and being able to work with clients to find ways to manage their pets.


What should I consider when choosing EMS?

Try to find a vet who enjoys having students with them; it makes a big difference to how much you'll learn. If you have a particular interest in zoo animals, get in touch with specific zoo vets, but you'll find that basic principles of veterinary medicine go a long way in all species, and even in general small animal work you'll see rabbits and guinea pigs as a minimum.

Do I need to do an internship or residency? Are there any additional qualifications required?

Exotics work can be done at any level; there are lots of vets who do a good level of exotics work without further qualifications, and experience is very important. However, there are a few different qualifications available for advancement. Certificate courses such as the Improve International Exotic Animal Practice Postgraduate Certificate and the RCVS CertAVP in Zoological Medicine allow formalisation of knowledge; these can be completed in general practice.

The Improve course includes teaching which is very good for providing a broad knowledge base and also helping to identify what you need to know in this very wide subject area; the RCVS Certificate is self-taught but holders of this qualification may be eligible to apply for RCVS Advanced Practitioner status. Master's degrees are also available, for example the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) MSc in Wild Animal Health.

Internships are very competitive and are useful for gaining a good knowledge base directly from an experienced team, and in many cases will be required for entry into a residency programme to obtain specialist status.

Find out more about internships and residencies


What is the level of support I could expect as a new graduate?

New graduates very commonly get more exposure to exotics than more experienced vets, unless there is a vet at the practice with a particular interest in exotics; so it's an area where new graduates can often gain lots of experience.

Having contact with an experienced exotics vet who can help point you in the right direction if you get stuck can be very helpful. Generally, the exotics world is small and very friendly, and lots of exotics vets are happy to receive emails from other vets asking for help. These contacts can be made during EMS and at conferences, as well as online. Look at our page for advice on networking.


Where can I find out about events, societies, networking opportunities and support?

The main organisation in the UK is the British Veterinary Zoological Society (BVZS), which is a part of the British Veterinary Association (BVA); it's a friendly society and conferences are informal but informative. You can join the University of Nottingham Veterinary Zoological Society. There are usually exotics lecture sessions at London Vet Show and British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Congress, which are typically aimed at general practice vets. Other organisations such as LagoLearn and Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) focus more on rabbits. There are also lots of useful discussion forums including ExoticDVM and various Facebook groups for exotics vets.

You can also talk to the relevant employability tutor within the vet school.




Careers and Employability Service

University of Nottingham
Portland Building, Level D
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3679