How Do I Become a Veterinarian?
April 25 is World Veterinary Day! Have you or anyone you know thought about becoming a veterinarian?
It’s a labor of love, and if you think you might be up to the task, here’s what you need to do:
4 Years of Undergraduate Study
- Get good grades – admission to veterinary school is highly competitive.
- Get volunteer experience – joining the school’s pre-veterinary club or some other kind of student club, particularly in a leadership role – will give leadership experience that veterinary schools look for.
- Make strong connections with professors because you’ll need to ask for letters of recommendation.
- While it’s not always required, almost all students use this four years to complete a bachelor’s degree – whether you get your degree or not, your focus must be on biological or physical sciences.
Apply to Veterinary School
- Applying to veterinary school is highly competitive – in 2013 there were about 6,800 applications for approximately 2,700 spots at the 30 schools in the US.
- You’ll likely apply at the beginning of your fourth year of undergrad, and your application will include your transcript, letters of recommendation, and any additional materials required by the specific schools you apply to.
- Most applications go through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service.
- You’ll need to do an entrance exam – usually the GRE, but some schools will accept an MCAT score – just make sure you know for sure.
- There will almost always be an entrance interview.
Get Your DVM
- The degree takes 4 years of study.
- You’ll complete classes, labs, and plenty of clinical instruction.
Get Your License
- Once you have your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, you’ll need to get licensed in the state where you want to practice.
- All states require that you pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam, which is an 8-hour exam with 360 multiple choice question.
- Most states require a second exam that focuses on that state’s laws and regulations.
If you want to specialize
- The AVMA recognizes 40 different specialties within veterinary medicine.
- All of these require 3 or 4 years of training, and many of them require a residency program or some other kind of clinical experience.
Most veterinarians go into mall animal practice, but that’s not the only job you can do. Here are some other ideas:
- There is a high demand for veterinarians in large animal practice.
- Some vets work in zoos or wildlife conservation.
- Others work for the government in food safety, animal welfare, and public health.
- Veterinarians are needed in research to keep improving animal healthcare.
- Some veterinarians work in consulting and related fields.
- And someone has to teach the next generation of veterinarians!
Becoming a veterinarian is a long and difficult road. It’s highly competitive, requires good grades, and many years of school. But if it is something you want to do, it will be entirely worth it! Becoming a veterinarian opens up an amazing world of opportunities to make life better for animals and their human friends.