Latest insights into the world of Veterinary profession in Europe

Veterinary profession

The veterinary profession plays an essential role in public health, animal welfare and food safety. 

Currently, in Europe, the role of veterinarians goes beyond the clinical care of animals, covering a wide range of responsibilities that include public health, environmental protection and support for the agricultural economy.

According to FVE survey, since 2018 the number of veterinarians in Europe has increased by 6%, reaching 328,494 professionals. This demand is due to several factors such as the increase in pet ownership, greater awareness about animal welfare and the growing importance of animal health for public health.

Training and Qualifications

The training of a veterinarian in Europe begins with a university course lasting five to six years, depending on the country. The course includes a combination of theoretical studies of basic sciences such as biology, chemistry and anatomy and practical training in veterinary clinics and hospitals. After training, veterinarians typically undergo an internship period, where they gain supervised practical experience. Veterinarians in Europe need to be registered with the regulatory body in their respective country. Many veterinarians opt for specializations in specific areas such as surgery, dermatology, reproduction among others, which require additional certifications and ongoing training.

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Areas of expertise

Veterinary medicine offers several areas of activity, allowing professionals to follow their motivations and develop their skills. The most common areas of activity are:

  • Small animal clinic: This is the most visible area of this profession, where veterinarians care for dogs, cats and other pets. Professionals are responsible for diagnoses, treatments, surgeries and advice on the health and well-being of domestic animals.
  • Animal production: veterinarians play a fundamental role in the health and well-being of production animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry, ensuring that animal welfare standards are maintained, preventing outbreaks of diseases and ensure the safety of products of animal origin intended for human consumption.
  • Public health and food safety: veterinarians in Europe are deeply involved in public health, especially in food inspection and the control of zoonoses. Professionals work closely with public health authorities to ensure that meat, milk, eggs and other animal products are safe to eat.
  • Research and development: some European veterinarians work in research and pursue teaching at universities or other research entities, contributing to the development of new medicines, vaccines, treatments and advanced technologies. It should be noted that veterinary research is fundamental to the advancement of animal medicine and also has a significant impact on human medicine, as many diseases and treatments are common to both.

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Characteristics of the veterinary profession in Europe

The veterinary profession is dominated by women, as they represent 65% of active veterinarians. A curious fact is that close to retirement, the proportion of male professionals exceeds their counterparts of the opposite sex, given that in the age group of 65 years and over, 77% of these workers are men. It is important to note that according to the 2023 FVE survey, the gender profile is not fixed across Europe, with countries where the percentage of women is greater than 80%, such as Finland, Sweden and Norway. which contrast with countries such as Hungary and North Macedonia where less than 30% of veterinarians are female.

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The average age of a European veterinarian is around 44 years old, noting that only 42% of these professionals are under 40 years old. Most veterinarians are experienced professionals with over 15 years of experience, with the most experienced working in independent practices. Two thirds of workers work in practice, full time. Regarding employment sectors, it should be noted that almost 70% of veterinarians work in the private sector, 14% in the public sector and only 6% in research.  

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Among the working population, around 41% are specialized in ruminants and are distributed according to the following percentages: 23% work with cattle and 18% with sheep and goat. As for other production animals, 13% specialize in swine and 18% in poultry, while 21% work with horses. Finally, the geographical distribution of these professionals is heterogeneous, mainly distributed across countries such as Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Challenges and Opportunities

The veterinary profession in Europe faces challenges such as constant professional updating, market competitiveness and bureaucracy to practice the profession in different countries. Another challenge is the economic challenge, as competition between clinics and large chains of veterinary clinics, as well as competition between veterinarians among themselves, can and does create a challenging work environment. Furthermore, rising training costs and low profit margins in some areas of practice can make the profession financially demanding.

An emerging aspect is attention to the mental well-being of veterinarians themselves. This profession is known for its high level of stress, as 91% of the veterinarians in Europe describe themselves as stressed and 19% as very stressed. In this way, initiatives to support the mental health of these professionals are gaining more and more importance, recognizing that the quality of animal care is directly related to the well-being of professionals.

However, this profession also has opportunities such as the high demand for qualified professionals with diverse areas of specialization. There is yet another area where veterinarians have a significant impact, which is the issue of environmental sustainability. Professionals work to ensure that agricultural practices are sustainable, that natural ecosystems are preserved, and that biodiversity is protected. With an average vote of 7.5/10 to the need to engage politically in global challenges, such as sustainability and resource management. Furthermore, veterinarians are also involved in combating climate change, which directly affects animal health and food production. With high commitment to the One Health approach, the trajectory for future veterinary practice is greater and there is strong demand for training in communication and digital skills.


The veterinary profession in Europe is multifaceted and dynamic, playing a fundamental role in issues of animal health, public health and food safety. Despite the many challenges, veterinarians continue to adapt and innovate. The future of the profession looks promising, with trends pointing to greater integration between diverse areas of healthcare, an increasing focus on animal and human well-being, as well as the use of advanced technologies to improve veterinary care. Continuous training and specialization will be essential for European veterinarians to continue to lead in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.

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Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE). Third survey of the Veterinary profession in Europe 2023.

E. Gomes-Neves et al., “Official veterinarians in Europe: Questionnaire-based insights into demographics, work and training,” Food Control, vol. 153, p. 109947, 2023, doi:

R. Correia, “O retrato da veterinária na Europa – Número de profissionais aumenta 6% desde 2018,” Veterinária Atual, Jan. 10, 2024. Accessed: May 23, 2024. [Online]. Available:

“Exploring the Veterinary Industry In Europe,” EuroDev, Apr. 2024, Accessed: May 23, 2024. [Online]. Available:

Ana Vanessa Dias Sousa (Researcher FeedInov CoLAB)

About the author

With a degree in Veterinary Sciences from the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, she worked for five years as a field veterinarian and in a pig and cattle feed factory. She worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a sales manager and technical support for pigs, cattle, rabbits and poultry in mainland Portugal and the Azores. She is currently at Feedinov Colab as a Researcher in the One Health Department.

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