Today’s veterinarians are the only doctors educated to protect the health of both animals and people. They work hard to address the health needs of every species of animal and they also play a critical role in environmental protection, food safety, animal welfare and public health.
Before applying to veterinary college/school, aspiring veterinarians must successfully complete university level pre-veterinary undergraduate course work that usually takes three to four years. Each college or school of veterinary medicine establishes its own pre-veterinary requirements, but typically these include demonstrating basic language and communication skills and completion of courses in the social sciences, humanities, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics.
Admission to veterinary school is highly competitive, with the number of qualified applicants admitted to veterinary schools varying from year to year. There are more applicants than there are spaces to fill in veterinary classes.
There are presently 29 AVMA Council on Education (COE) accredited colleges/schools of veterinary medicine in the United States, four in Canada, and eleven in other countries. Visit the AVMA’s website for the list of COE-accredited schools.
After completing the required veterinary medical curriculum (usually over a period of four years), some graduates choose to pursue additional education in one of 21 AVMA-recognized veterinary specialties (including surgery, internal medicine, behavior, dentistry, ophthalmology, pathology, laboratory animal medicine, preventive medicine, etc.). They may also pursue other advanced degrees such as Ph.D.s or Master’s degrees in Public Health.
Veterinarians who wish to specialize often start with a one-year internship after graduation from veterinary school. Internships can be at veterinary school teaching hospitals or in veterinary practices, and provide additional training that can prepare the veterinarian for a residency or can provide additional education and training for clinical practice.
A residency is a 2-3 year program of intensive training in a certain specialty. Many residents are also enrolled in graduate school, and will get a Master’s degree or Ph.D. at the same time. as their residency. Once the residency is successfully completed, the graduates must pass intensive examinations to be considered a specialist.