Becoming A Veterinarian

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.

Posted in Becoming a Veterinarian, Teacher Resources | Tagged | Permalink


  1. Deb Rom says:

    What undergraduate degree would be best for someone wanting be apply to vet school?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Deb, most people will go the biology, biochemistry or animal science route, but the degree itself is less important than the courses taken as preparation. There are required classes that must be taken (such as biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, biochemistry), but there is flexibility with the major. Here’s some more info that should help you:

  2. Jaimie Towers says:

    I’m currently going to college to be a Veterinary Technician,
    and after I want to go on and get my doctorate and become a Veterinarian.
    Would I need to take pre-veterinary courses to do so?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Jaimie, you’ll probably have to take some extra classes to satisfy the prerequisite requirements for veterinary school, but the best way to know would be to look at the prereqs for the schools you’re considering (they can differ a bit, but are often very similar) and compare them with your vet tech coursework. If in doubt, talk to the admissions office of the school(s). I think it would be unlikely that you’d have to ‘start over’ and go for another 3-4 years of college after vet tech school to meet the requirements for veterinary school (assuming you’re otherwise qualified for admission), but I don’t know enough about the coursework to say for sure.

  3. Cathie Dwyer says:

    I have been working with animals in various settings (milking cows, caring for horses, kennel work, veterinary assistant/technician for veterinary clinics) for over 15 years. I want to get my Veterinary Technician Certification/Degree. Can someone please tell me the best way to do this and where is the closest location to El Paso, Texas. I don’t want to take an online course then find out it’s not accepted or accredited. Do I need to take the Veterinary Assistant coursework first? Thanks for your time in reading and replying.

  4. manpreet khajuria says:

    I am pursuing my bachelor of veterinary science degree in India, after that I want to do my masters in veterinary specialist in America….please suggest how I can do that…and also please suggest various entrance exams I can appear for that?

  5. manpreet khajuria says:

    Thank you for your valuable advice. I am looking forward to it. Thanks alot…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

five − 4 =

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>