Becoming a veterinarian involves multiple challenges. First, you'll need to prepare for the rigorous academic work. This profession demands an intense dedication and the ability to focus on your mission as a learner, and later as a professional animal doctor.

Second, veterinary work involves mastering complex medical conditions, developing precise surgical skills and treating animals—and their human owners—with care, compassion and an excellent bedside manner. Veterinarians must also stay on the leading edge of their field, as new treatments and technologies are constantly being introduced.

All of this demands a specific type of personality, one that is patient, empathetic, resilient and willing to face the tough realities of animal care, key traits that we will delve into in the following sections.

What Big Five personality traits do veterinarians have?

The Big Five is a research-backed system of measuring an individual's personality, including their traits, values and the type of work environment they might prefer. It assesses five core areas: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. Your scores in these five areas give key insights into what motivates you at work and how you respond in workplace situations. If you're not sure how you score on the Big Five, you can assess your traits with our free career test.

When it comes to veterinarians, surveys consistently show that they tend to have high levels of Conscientiousness and Agreeableness.

Conscientiousness is associated with discipline, determination and control. Conscientious individuals are capable of maintaining focus in stressful situations and are highly responsible and dependable. They do what they say they will do and deliver on their promises. These skills are directly applicable in the veterinary field, where attention to detail and an eye for precision can be the difference between a successful procedure and a poor outcome.

Agreeableness is associated with empathy, cooperation and the ability to form strong relationships with others. Agreeable individuals get pleasure from helping others and often display high emotional intelligence. Again, these traits play an important role in veterinary medicine, where making sure that both animals and humans feel comfortable and understood is key to providing excellent veterinary care.

What Holland Code style do veterinarians have?

The Holland Code is a theory of careers and vocational choice based on personality types, formulated by psychologist John L. Holland. It's essentially a classification system that organizes occupations into six categories (Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional), with the idea that people are drawn to certain career paths that align with their personality.

Truity has updated the names for these categories to make them more self-explanatory for a modern audience. The names we use are: Building, Thinking, Creating, Helping, Persuading and Organizing.

In the Holland Code system of career preferences, veterinarians are often found to have a Social-Investigative style, also known as a Thinking-Helping style. This means that they tend to be motivated by understanding and helping others, as well as being able to analyze complex problems and develop solutions for them. In other words: vets need to combine their scientific skills with an understanding of animal behavior and client needs to be able to make the best decisions for their patients.

Another area where vets tend to score highly is Realistic or Building. Builders enjoy working with their hands and creating tangible results, which is an important aspect of animal care.

What are the Myers and Briggs types of veterinarians?

The Myers and Briggs typology is an inventory of personality traits that help to explain how people think, feel and interact. In this system, there are sixteen possible combinations of the four different dimensions (Introversion/Extraversion, Sensing/iNtuition, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Perceiving).

Generally speaking, veterinarians have a preference for Sensing and Judging. Research from Louisiana State University shows that, traditionally, the majority of veterinary students tested as ISTJ or ESTJ.

Both of these types are known for their analytical problem solving skills combined with decisiveness, thoroughness and dependability. They make decisions in a matter of fact way, which makes them well suited to the practice of veterinary medicine where hard decisions must be made quickly and in the best interests of the animal patient, which often conflicts with the wishes of the human client.

ESFJs and ISFJs are also well-represented in the ranks of veterinarians. Warmhearted, conscientious and cooperative, these types are highly aware of the needs of their patients and take their doctor-patient relationships seriously. They may be more likely to empathize with owners struggling through difficult medical decisions, a quality that can be invaluable when it comes to helping animals and their families in times of stress.

What other skills should I have?

To excel as a veterinarian, you should develop a wide range of other skills too. These include:

  • Communication Skills: A veterinarian must possess excellent communication skills, as they need to explain complex medical conditions and treatments to pet owners, and also communicate effectively with their team.
  • Manual Dexterity: Performing surgeries and treatments requires veterinarians to have good hand-eye coordination and control.
  • Critical Thinking: Veterinarians should be able to make quick, effective decisions in emergency situations and determine the correct diagnosis by analyzing the symptoms.
  • Compassion: A good veterinarian should possess a genuine love for animals, and show compassion towards both the animals and their owners in distressing situations.
  • Problem-solving Skills: Veterinarians often have to find solutions to complex medical issues and should be equipped with innovative problem-solving skills.
  • Business Management: If you are planning to open your own practice, you should understand the basics of business, including finance, human resources and marketing.

Career planning and your next steps

For anyone considering a career in veterinary medicine or any other profession, a career aptitude test is your first logical step. Your tests results will provide valuable insights into your strengths, interests and personality traits, helping you understand if you are well-suited for a specific career path.

There are several tests available to help you gauge your compatibility with the profession of a veterinarian. Truity's Career Personality Profiler is a great place to start, and it's free! It will give you an assessment of your personality type based on the Holland Code and Big Five systems, as well as insight into which occupations might best fit your personality profile.

The Typefinder for Career Planning can also help you identify occupations that you may be well-suited for based on your Myers and Briggs type. It includes a comprehensive list of career suggestions, as well as tips on furthering your education and finding job opportunities in the field.

Once you have completed these assessments, don't forget to research the profession further by speaking with veterinarians, attending veterinary conferences or symposiums, volunteering at animal shelters or veterinary clinics, and shadowing veterinarians to get a better understanding of the day-to-day duties as part of your career planning. Doing so will help you make an informed decision about whether this is the right career path for you. Good luck!

Truity was founded in 2012 to bring you helpful information and assessments to help you understand yourself and use your strengths. We are based in San Francisco, CA.