Jason Buttigieg, 39
Centenary Park Veterinary Clinic
Jason Buttigieg dreamed of being a veterinarian as a child, but when it came time to apply for a university course he managed to get sidetracked, instead following the crowd.
“I was at the point in high school where I was deciding what courses to apply for, I somehow got sidetracked and applied for Engineering/Science at Melbourne,” Jason, 39, said, “Everybody seemed to be going for double degrees, so I accepted this and started.”
It wasn’t long before Jason realised he hated the engineering component of his double degree but stuck it through to finish the year before deciding to drop it and chase his dream of being a vet by completing the physics prerequisite for veterinary science.
“I was always into science and maths, and was always fascinated by animals, so choosing the veterinary pathway was always on the cards.”
Jason graduated from Melbourne University in 2000 (which he claims to be a long time ago now!) with a Bachelor of Veterinary Science and landed his first veterinarian job at the beginning of 2001.
“I started my first job as a vet at the start of 2001 at the St Albans and West Footscray veterinary clinics…After about 8 years I became a partner in the business.”
“In 2012, my partner and I got itchy feet and decided to chase our dream of living in the tropics. So I sold my share of the business and got a job in Cairns at the Centenary Park Vet clinic.”
Jason is currently an Associate Veterinarian at the Centenary Park Vet clinic in Cairns where he spends his days shifting between consultations with patients (and their human parents) and conducting surgeries, most of which are routine procedures such as desexing, lump removals and dental.
“I’ll usually see cats and dogs, with the occasional bird or guinea pig…Mostly the surgery is routine things, but we also do a range of other surgeries and procedures too.”
Jason’s days begin at eight o’clock in the morning, with his last consultations being around six at night.
“I am on call for emergencies a couple of nights per week, so occasionally I will need to come back to the clinic after work to see a patient for an emergency.”
And although it may look like days filled with puppy kisses and kitten cuddles, Jason does emphasize that this industry takes dedication and a love of animals to succeed.
“The hardest part of the journey was the Bachelor of Veterinary Science degree itself…Very demanding, long contact hours, lots of holiday placements, huge amounts of information to try to remember.”
“It was a very stressful, but also a really fun, time of my life.”
But just because you love animals, doesn’t mean you get to steer clear of their owners, Jason said you will need strong communication and people skills too.
“Unfortunately pets don’t take themselves to the clinic, so you have to be able to communicate with people very well.”
If it is your passion, Jason suggests getting some experience by volunteering at shelters, vet clinics and farms in order to help you decide what field of veterinary you want to get into, and of course to complete your degree.
“The only way to get into the industry is to do the veterinary degree, so study hard!”
When you were 10, what did you want to be?
I’m pretty sure when I was 10 I was tossing up between a vet and a human surgeon. Yeah, I was a nerdy kid!
If you have one day to try any job in the world, what would you do?
If I could try any job in the world for a day, it would be a rock star…I really need to brush up on my guitar skills though!
How does someone get into the industry? You’ll need to commit to 5+ years of study, as well as take part in placement/work experience at a clinic. Contact your local vet or shelter and ask if they offer work experience so you can get a feel for the industry to see if it’s a fit for you.
Do you need any formal qualifications? The Australian Veterinary Association lists seven universities which offer undergraduate veterinary science courses which range between 5-6 years. Upon completion, you’ll need to register with the Veterinary Registration Board in your state to obtain your license to practice.
Can this be my full-time job? The Australian Veterinary Association lists a veterinary graduates salary of around $45,000 per year, with experienced vets earning around the $76,000 mark.
Does Jason have any advice? “I would advise them to make sure they are doing it because they love the industry. Get some experience, go volunteer at clinics and shelters, farms, whatever field of vet you are looking at in the future. It isn’t all puppies and kittens, and surprisingly to some people, the hardest part of the job is…dealing with people! Unfortunately pets don’t take themselves to the clinic, so you have to be able to communicate with people very well. The only way to get into the industry is to do the vet degree, so study hard!”