Studying animal health can offer students a varied and fascinating career path, from working on the ground on farms and zoos to working for a veterinary pharmaceutical company like Laura Little. By studying BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare from 2015 to 2019, Laura uses her degree knowledge to market the latest products and advice for Elanco.
But how did Laura decide upon what she wanted to study? She said: “I attended a Harper open day during my A levels - just before applying to university - which was the reason Harper became a consideration in my choices. I had never heard of Harper before but after leaving the open day I knew it was the place I wanted to study!
“This also informed my choice of subject to study; before visiting Harper I had been looking into traditional subjects but decided to follow what I was truly interested in.”
That interest was in animal health and, with four years of classroom study and one year working in industry, Laura gained a wide variety of skills in a surrounding that encourages growth. She commented: “Harper is a really nurturing environment academically and the social aspect is unbeatable; it’s so small so you really feel part of it.
“When it comes to studying there’s always someone around who is working on the same assignment as you and it's easy to get in contact with lecturers, so you are supported to put out the best work possible.
“?The fact that Harper runs industry-relevant courses and teaches practical skills alongside degrees is a huge benefit. I completed my SQP qualification during final year and it has been a massive help to my work since graduation.
“I feel that the set up at Harper was really well managed and meant that most challenges within their control were avoided and support is easily accessible.”
It was during Laura’s placement year that she came across her future employer, Elanco: “I completed my placement with Elanco Animal Health as a marketing associate, working within the Pet Health team on a range of parasiticide and therapeutic products.
“This placement was invaluable to my final year of study and future career; the opportunity to work in a multinational pharmaceutical company helped my personal and professional development and I gained experience you can't get from the classroom.
“During my placement I worked on product and campaign launches and was able to attend industry events such as the London Vet Show. All of these experiences helped me gain industry contacts that have been vital for my career.”
Upon returning to campus to complete her degree, Laura undertook an Honours Research Project (HRP) that linked heavily to the work of her placement year. She said: “My HRP topic was a study of the opinions and experiences of small animal veterinary surgeons on the use of wearable technology in companion animals.
“I decided on this topic during my placement year and studying something that I had an interest and experience in really helped me develop ideas for the project. It is really important to select an industry relevant topic as your knowledge becomes a differentiator when job searching, as well as providing something to talk about in interviews!”
With all of her developmental skills secured upon graduation, Laura was already set to jump into the working world. She explained: “I was offered my current role during my final year of study and I have been lucky to go back into a team I am familiar with and work within such an exciting industry. My role is still within marketing but with the Ruminant team, so I provide marketing support across brands sold through the trade and vet channels for livestock. Gaining more experience working across a new portfolio has been great, and I am developing skills such as website management that are very different to my degree!"
Looking to the future, Laura said: “My future ambitions for my career are very open; I want to stay within animal health long-term, but my mid-term plans are able to be fluid thanks to my academic background at Harper.
“I would encourage anyone wanting to work in animal health to pick a placement with a relevant company or do something practical with a relevant species. The placements offered at Elanco are generally advertised through Harper so definitely consider these, even if your degree doesn't include marketing or a strong animal health focus.
“Likewise, don't underestimate the value of developing your soft skills and practical experience. Add as much to your CV - and LinkedIn profile - as early on as possible, as you never know when it might become relevant. Once you leave university, time seems to be shorter when you need to get things done!
“Most importantly, stay interested in the industry you want to work in, and you'll soon find opportunities.”
To explore Harper Adams placement opportunities, please click here.