16 Ways of Preparing for a Career as a Veterinarian

Veterinarians near me: Do you want to become a veterinarian? Being a vet isn’t about playing with animals all day, but instead is a challenging but fulfilling career path that gives you the experience and ability to help all sorts of animals!

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1. Gain experience in the veterinary field. Preparing for a career as a veterinarian begins long before even graduating from high school. You will want to gain as much experience with animals and in the veterinary field as possible during high school and your undergraduate career. This experience will expose you to what veterinarians actually do, and will give you veterinary experience to put on your resume for veterinary school.

  • In the United States there are 30 colleges of veterinary medicine which graduate about 3,000 veterinarians a year.
  • You could volunteer at your local animal shelter, or you could shadow your pet’s veterinarian. Working at a livestock farm can also help you gain valuable animal experience.
  • Most colleges of veterinary medicine require a minimum of 400 hours of animal related experience

2. Graduate from high school. While in high school, you should pay attention to your performance in science courses, such as Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. Also pay attention to math courses, such as Trigonometry, Geometry, and Algebra. If you can excel in these areas, it may be a good indicator that medicine is the right field for you.

  • If possible, take AP classes. Also, excelling in English class will help, as veterinarians need to be good at communicating to other people.
  • If you do not have a high school diploma, you can try to pass the GED exam, and earn a GED instead. Passing the GED exam might seem like a good idea, but many veterinary colleges prefer that you have completed high school. However, if you excel in undergraduate school, you will at least be a competitive applicant.

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3. Get a bachelors degree. You will need to attend an undergraduate college or university which offers the pre-requisite courses for admittance into veterinary college. Make sure to complete all prerequisite courses for veterinary school. If one school’s prerequisites vary from some of the others, make sure to take the prerequisite courses for all of these schools.

  • These courses consist of many advanced science courses, such as biochemistry, organic and inorganic chemistry, and physics. They are necessary to prepare the student for the vigorous coursework in veterinary college.
  • Keep in mind, there is no degree required to get into veterinary schools, nor is there any “preferred” degrees so no need to take a STEM degree. However, if you still want to go with Biology, Physics, Chemistry, at least you will be a fierce applicant which is good because colleges like to see students try to push themselves to the limit.

4. Consider an accelerated path to veterinary school. This may save considerable time and money. According to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), more than 10% of recent incoming vet school students did not earn a bachelor’s degree. These students may have earned an associate’s degree in a field like animal science, or earned no degree in college while completing the prerequisite courses for veterinary school.

5. Take the GRE (graduate record examination). You will most likely need to take the GRE towards the end of your college studies. These tests are standardized tests which graduate and professional schools use in deciding admission to their colleges.

  • Odds are that the veterinary school of your choice wants your GRE scores. However, some schools accept the MCAT as well.
  • The GRE is mainly a test to see if you’re ready to study at a higher level (and to weed out those that aren’t serious).
  • The scores you need will vary by school.

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6. Work hard on your application to veterinary school. Getting into veterinary school is very hard. There are far fewer veterinary schools than medical schools. So, you need to make your application stand out! Making your application stand out is not hard! First, you will need to get lots of veterinary experience and animal experience.

  • Veterinary experience only qualifies as work done under a veterinarian.
  • As for recommendation letters, you’ll probably need three: one from your academic adviser, one from a veterinarian, and one from an individual choice. If you can choose to waive the right to see your letters before they are submitted, do so. It shows that you trust your superiors’ opinions of you, and the admissions panel will know that the person writing about you was honest.

7. Prepare for the financial strain of veterinary school. Just like with most colleges, veterinary college is expensive. In the US the average tuition each year for in-state students is $22,500. For out of state students it is $46,000. The average veterinary student graduates with $135,000 of debt.

  • Salaries starting out in the veterinary field are much lower than those of other equivalent professions, such as dentists or physicians. In the US the average starting salary is around $67,000 a year but this varies widely.
  • There are only a few options to help with loan repayment. These include two government sponsored loan forgiveness programs. These programs are competitive and mainly for people serving as veterinarians in the livestock or food and public health fields.
  • States without veterinary colleges often have agreements with a neighbouring state to have their residents be granted in-state tuition.

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8. Complete veterinary school. The professional veterinary college program typically lasts for four years before the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree is earned. Two accredited schools in the US, Ross University and St. Matthew’s University, have a trimester schedule, which allows students to graduate in just over three years. The coursework involved in veterinary school includes anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, along with specific veterinary courses in surgery and medicine.

  • During the first two years, you will focus on a breadth of subjects in science in order to build the basic framework for your education. During your third and fourth years, you will focus on clinical studies, working directly with animals, and participating in externships and/or research projects. You may also consider doing an internship or residency program while working toward your degree. This will teach you practical skills from professionals in the field, and improve your employment prospects in the future.
  • There are only 30 accredited veterinary schools in the US, making the program quite competitive.  Tuition will vary dramatically depending on the institution you choose.
  • Consider doing an internship or residency program while working toward your degree. This will teach you practical skills from professionals in the field, and improve your employment prospects in the future.

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9. Pass your licensing exam. At the end of the fourth year of study veterinary students in North America will take the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. This test is required in order for you to obtain a license to practice veterinary medicine.

  • In addition, each state board of veterinary medicine may impose additional testing requirements to obtaining a license to practice in the state. You will need to pass these examination with a minimum score in order to be licensed to practice.
  • In order to be eligible for enrollment, you must have completed a four year veterinary program that is accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

10. Consider interning for one year prior to finding a permanent position. This will offer you the chance to have a specialization, like internal medicine or surgery. That way you’ll really be a pro in your chosen area of expertise.

  • Your vet school should be able to point you in the right direction. This one-year period could be just a temporary gig or it could turn into something more substantial. Whatever it is, find someone who can serve as your mentor that’s doing what you want to do in the future.

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11. Start your job search. Most veterinary students begin their job search during their final half of the fourth year of college. Most veterinarians work in private veterinary clinics that provide medical care for small, companion pets. Other veterinarians specialize in working with large animals, like horses, cows, and sheep, traveling to ranches and farms to provide care.

  • Still other veterinarians specialize in treating exotic animals in zoos or aquariums.
  • Veterinarians can also find employment in the military (a good option to pay for college expenses), the government, or in research.

Veterinarians near me

12. Take the veterinarian’s oath. Before you start working and caring for animals, you need to take the veterinarian’s oath. You’re basically promising that you’ll use your powers for good and not evil.

13. Be able to communicate with both animals and people. In order to succeed in this job, you must be compassionate, confident, and able to communicate and make decisions. Despite the opportunity to work with kittens and puppies (along with all other animals) there will always be a person attached to that animal that you will need to communicate with to give the pets and animals the best care possible.

14. Our Expert Agrees: In the veterinary field, people often say that the top requirement is that you have to like animals. However, it’s very important that you have to be able to communicate with people, as well. If you can’t convey to a pet owner why the animal needs treatment, they’re not going to follow your recommendations.

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Veterinarians near me

15. Consider getting further education. Some vets even go so far as to get their PhDs. If you’d like to lead the field in research, this is a great idea. Having a PhD will have the added benefit of potentially giving you a massive bump in your salary!

  • The Bureau of Labour Statistics says that the need for vets is going to increase in the near future. Since there are so few schools, the output to trained veterinarians generated isn’t much, which means you stand a good chance of steady employment once you finish school.

16. More tips

  • In addition to their breadth of knowledge, veterinarians must also have strong communication skills, as the job entails working with both animals and their owners or trainers.

  • There are many great sources of additional information for helping you become a veterinarian. For further reading, consider visiting websites for the American Veterinarian Medical Association (AVMA), American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), or your state’s veterinary medical association.

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  • Clinical practice, especially with livestock, can be dangerous and physically demanding. In rural areas, jobs will also include emergency on-call duties on weekends, evenings, holiday, and overnight in addition to a full day’s work.

  • The coursework required for veterinary college will be very heavy. It will be hard to manage a job in addition to your schooling, especially during the first year. So plan your finances accordingly.

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