One of our favourite vets, Dr. Katrina Warren shares her advice on the profession and the industry- both the vet AND media world.
The highlight reel of Katrina’s career:
Graduating from Vet Science at the University of Sydney, Katrina sent her resume around to several places in the media, finally getting a job as a researcher on the children’s television show Totally Wild. Her job involved researching almost any animal story she wanted- from a tiger cub born in a zoo, to a wildlife park to guide dog puppies. Eventually, they gave her a job one day a week as a reporter; researching, writing and producing her own stories. She would try to learn from anyone she could in the building!
Having learnt skills in presenting and production on the job, it was four years later that Channel 7 approached Katrina for her role on Harry’s Practice– working on a prime-time show, with higher production budgets and with her role model, Dr. Harry Cooper.
Thinking of following in her footsteps? Here are her three lessons for you:
- Do you know what you’re getting into?
You obviously need to love and respect animals and have interest in science based subjects. Vets often have to deliver difficult news so you need to be very comfortable talking to people and understanding their situation. Pets are usually considered precious members of the family and how a vet handles the loss of a pet can have a huge impact on the owners.
Many people are not suited to the very long hours and the relatively low pay that vets receive compared to other professions (such as medicine).
[On media], “The industry can be so fickle. I’m very fortunate to have a degree because it’s something to fall back on and base my credibility on. That’s really important because the industry does chew people up and spit them out. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – focus on what you want to achieve, but be sensible about it and have a backup.”1
Vet Science is one of the most expensive courses In Australia but a new graduate only earns about $45,000/year. The average salary of a vet is around $75,000 – about half of doctors and lawyers.
- Have you considered the different options?
A lot of veterinarians choose to work in private practice offering health care for companion animals but vets also work with farm animals, marine animals, exotic animals etc. Many vets do extra training to become a specialist in fields such as ophthalmology, cardiology, internal medicine and dermatology. Vets also work in pathology and scientific research Vets often branch into education and teaching.
I enjoyed the training and behaviour side of pet care a lot more than the medical side and felt that I was more suited to educating people than working in a clinic. I could reach many more people working in the media and could use my role to raise awareness about pet related issues as well as promote the veterinary profession. I am currently Brand Ambassador for PAW by Blackmores and really enjoy working with this brand to promote the strength of the human/pet bond, which is so close to my heart.
- Try before you buy!
Volunteer at an animal shelter or rescue group to get as much hands-on experience as possible! Many people love animals, but may not cope well when faced with surgeries and euthanasia.
Every day is different and working in the media has provided me with incredible opportunities to travel and work with animals around the world. I thoroughly enjoy helping people enhance the relationship they share with their pets.
The cons? Working in the media often involves often long hours and the work can be unpredictable. I have also witnessed the horrible side of animal welfare and the way some people treat animals such as puppy farms and intensive piggeries. This can be heartbreaking.
The aura of “celebrity” can surround any industry and profession, even the atypical ones that don’t involve silver screens and runways. Whether you grew up watching Totally Wild, Harry’s Practice or Bondi Vet– these ‘celebrity vets’ have shed light on one of the most enriching careers out there; veterinary science.
While having built an incredible and of course, enviable career; as a warning, Katrina does acknowledge that there are lesser opportunities out there from when she began, “for a while there were a lot of lifestyle and information shows, whereas now it’s very reality driven. Things go in cycles and you can’t tell when the next cycle will be.”1