How To Become A Veterinarian


Veterinary medicine offers great employment opportunities for individuals who love animals and would like to become a veterinarian. Job opportunities for veterinarians are expected to increase and remain excellent due to highly competitive educational programs. As there are only twenty eight accredited schools of veterinary medicine within the United States, only a limited number of graduates qualify for acceptance into veterinarian training programs. Training to become a veterinarian is extensive with admission into Doctor of Veterinary Medicine programs quite difficult; yet the rewards are great for people with an inherent love of animals.

Veterinarians work within a variety of settings to diagnose, treat, or prevent disease, disorders, or dysfunctions in animals. Veterinarians generally work within private animal practices treating animals, caring for pets, and interacting with pet owners. The animals veterinarians administer medical and veterinary care for depends largely upon the setting of employment and the animals they treat. Veterinarians generally treat pets, livestock, zoo animals, racetrack animals, aquarium animals, food animals, and laboratory animals. Nearly eighty percent of veterinarians work within private animal practices diagnosing animal health illnesses or problems, vaccinating animals to prevent disease, dressing and treating wounds, setting fractures, performing surgery, and administering medications to animals with infections or disorders. Veterinarians within private animal practices also assist and educate owners regarding feeding, breeding, or behavioral problems of their animals. Most private practice veterinarians treat cats, dogs, birds, reptiles, rabbits, ferrets, and other small animals. Nearly sixteen percent of private practice veterinarians work only with wild or farm animals, traveling to farms or ranches to treat entire herds or individual live stock including horses, pigs, goats, cattle, and sheep. Several veterinarians work within colleges or universities teaching prospective veterinarians. Other veterinarians work within research facilities and laboratories to prevent or treat a variety of human and animal health problems. Veterinarians were key researchers who assisted medical experts in battling malaria, and yellow fever. Presently, veterinarians work closely with human health researchers to devise drug therapies, antibiotics, and surgical techniques tested first on animals before they are administered to humans. Several veterinarians work as animal and plant health inspectors for the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Division or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Veterinary Medicine. These veterinarians examine imports and exports of animal products and act as livestock inspectors to determine the presence of transmissible disease (like E. coli) within food animals to determine safety before harvesting. These veterinarians also act as meat, poultry, or egg product inspectors within slaughtering and/or processing plants testing live animals or carcasses and enforcing government sanitation and food purity regulations. Regardless of the setting in which veterinarians work, all veterinarians euthanize animals when necessary.

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Veterinarians generally work long hours regardless of their workplace setting. Veterinarians who work in private or clinical settings often must work extended hours to respond to emergencies and unscheduled appointments. Veterinarians in such settings must manage emotional or demanding pet owners and also frightened, wounded, or sick animals. Veterinarians within private settings often risk getting bitten, scratched, or kicked by the animals they treat. Veterinarians who work with stock, food, or farm animals quite often spend a considerable amount of time traveling between their office and farms or ranches. These veterinarians generally work outside regardless of inclement weather, treating animals or performing surgery in less than sterile and often unsanitary environments. Veterinarians who work within a public health or research laboratory setting work within a clean, well lighted office or lab. All veterinarians working in nonclinical settings spend the majority of their time working with people rather than animals.

Future veterinarians must have a love for and eagerness to work with animals and their owners. Prospective veterinarians must also be manually dexterous. Individuals who wish to become veterinarians must possess excellent interpersonal relational skills to communicate with animal owners. Additionally, veterinarians must have solid managerial skills in order to promote, market, and sell their services. Preparation for a career as a veterinarian may begin as early as high school. High school students may participate in courses like: business, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physical education, and English. In order to increase the chances of acceptance into an accredited veterinarian training program, it is advised to gain employment at a farm, ranch, stable, or animal shelter to improve animal care skills while gaining experience and demonstrating ambition. High school student may then advance to a two year associate’s degree program in veterinary service offered by most community colleges and several online universities. Undergraduate studies provide an educational pre-veterinary basis while fulfilling semester requirements necessary to advance to doctoral programs.

As veterinarians must possess a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, students must acquire 45 to 90 semester hours of undergraduate course before applying to a college accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Many pre-veterinary programs include courses in organic and inorganic chemistry, physics, biochemistry, general biology, animal biology, animal nutrition, genetics, vertebrate embryology, cellular biology, microbiology, zoology, systemic physiology, pre-calculus, calculus, statistics, algebra, trigonometry, genetics, vertebrate embryology, cellular biology, and microbiology. Additionally, veterinary medical colleges require courses in the humanities, like literature or English, as well as social sciences, general business management courses, and career development training. As only one in three applicants are accepted into a veterinary college during 2007, many candidates gain formal experience to increase their chances of acceptance. Applicants often work within a veterinarian’s office or clinic, as an employee at an agribusiness research, scientific research facilities, or within a health science field to gain hands on experience and bolster their chances of acceptance into a veterinary college.

Candidates which meet preveterinary course requirements must then successfully complete and submit test results from the Graduate Record Examination, the Veterinary College Admission Test, or the Medical College Admission Test depending upon the veterinary college’s preferences. Upon completion of a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, graduates go on to a one year internship, practice veterinary medicine after completing licensing, or advance to a three to four year residency program for certification. Certification programs offer candidates specialized training via one of thirty nine AVMA recognized programs. Courses include: internal medicine, oncology, pathology, dentistry, nutrition, radiology, surgery, dermatology, anesthesiology, neurology, cardiology, ophthalmology, preventative medicine, and/or exotic-small animal medicine. Within the U.S., licensure is determined by state regulations which vary from state to state. Licensing programs require successful completion of the DVM degree and passing an eight hour North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. The Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates qualifies individuals who meet clinical, educational, and English language requirements who were trained outside of the United States. Additional exams are required often required for individuals to demonstrate their knowledge of state laws and regulations, as well as their clinical competency, dependent upon state jurisprudence.

Veterinarians who meet educational and licensing requirements must also continue education as determined by state laws. As continuing education requirements vary by each individual state, veterinarians often must demonstrate their knowledge of medical and veterinary advances and take courses to maintain licensure and/or certification. Veterinarians who work within an established group animal practice generally advance to a private practice. Advancing from a group practice to a private practice involves a considerable financial investment in the form of equipment, facility space, and employing staff.

The field of veterinary medicine is fast growing and offers excellent career opportunities for prospective veterinarians. Employment opportunities for veterinarians are expected to increase and job prospects are predicted to remain excellent for those who seek rewarding careers providing care for animals.