Becoming a Veterinarian FAQs

To pursue a veterinary career, what should be done in high school?
Take as many courses in biology, math, and other sciences (including chemistry, physics, and anatomy and physiology) as you can manage while in high school – this will help you prepare for your college courses, and also help you decide if this is the right path for you.

Ask a veterinarian if they would be able to mentor you as you choose which veterinary path you want to follow.  Most veterinarians are interested in helping future veterinarians learn about the profession.

Volunteer or work for a veterinarian.  You can work for a veterinarian who does what you hope to do, or with one who does something different so you can get exposed to something new.

Volunteer your services to an animal shelter organization, farm, wildlife center, aquarium, or zoo in order to gain hands-on experience with animals. Gain experiences that will give you a wide variety of exposure to different animals – it’s also a very positive addition to your college application form.

Get involved in groups that provide animal experience, such as Future Farmers of America (FFA) or 4-H.  These groups provide valuable experience and education, and also award scholarships for college.

Be active in your school and your class and get involved in student government associations and other organizations that help you develop your communication skills and teach you to be a leader.

Once I’m in college, what makes someone a good candidate for veterinary school?
Each veterinary school has its own requirements for admission, including the minimum courses that must be completed before you are considered for admission.  However, many of the requirements overlap.  Basic required classes include biology, chemistry, physics, organic chemistry, and biochemistry.  To find out more about the requirements for a specific veterinary school, call the school’s admissions office or visit their website.  The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) has a website with more information and links to each US veterinary school.

A common rule is that it’s better to be over-prepared rather than just fulfilling the minimum requirements. Veterinary school classes are made up of a wide range of people with widely varied backgrounds, and having as good an education as possible coming into veterinary school can help prepare you for the tough, but rewarding, road ahead.

As recommended for students in high school who are interested in veterinary medicine, college undergraduates are also encouraged to take as many science courses possible so that you can enter veterinary school fully prepared. Along with the suggested undergraduate courses in biology, chemistry, math and physics, courses in communications, language skills, humanities and social sciences can also benefit you.  Other courses such as microbiology, histology, anatomy and physiology, and zoology can also be of great help and give you a “leg up” on your education.

Isn’t it impossible to gain admittance to veterinary school?

Myth: “A student must have a cumulative GPA close to 4.0 on a 4.0 grading scale in order to be seriously considered for admission to the study of veterinary medicine.”

There’s no doubt that a high GPA can help you, because it indicates that you are smart and you work hard, study, and learn well.  But it’s not the only thing that matters.  Veterinary schools evaluate the credentials of an applicant as a “whole person” rather than only considering their level of academic achievement; this is where experience, communication and leadership skills are very helpful.

Myth: “It is harder to get into veterinary medical school than it is to get into human medical school.”

Actually this is not a myth. There are only 29 schools of veterinary medicine in North America while there are more than 160 schools for the study of human medicine. Each year there are approximately 21,000 applications for 2,500 – 2,600 slots for entering DVM students. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible; it just means that the schools are admitting the best applicants they get.  By having a solid academic record, animal and veterinary experience, and leadership skills, you ARE that “best applicant.”

What should a veterinary student expect?
A student in veterinary school will have a strong medical- and science-based curriculum with all of its associated challenges. During the first two years of study students take anywhere from 17 – 22 semester hours of science course work per semester. You can expect to attend class from 8:00 a.m. in the morning to about 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. during the week, and then expect an average of 35 more hours of homework.  It’s important to remember that every student who wants to become a veterinarian has to work extremely hard to reach this goal.

What about AFTER veterinary school?
After finishing the required veterinary degree, you can be a practicing veterinarian once you have passed the national exam and the exam for the state in which you’re going to practice veterinary medicine.  Many students choose this path.

Other students choose to get more education and training to get more experience or specialize in a certain field.  Internships are one-year programs that offer clinical experience with supervision and additional training by an experienced veterinarian or specialist.  Residency programs are usually 2- or 3-year programs that provide in-depth exposure and experience in a specific field, and often include Master’s or Ph.D. coursework as well.  Specialty areas include surgery, animal behavior, dentistry, cardiology, radiology, internal medicine, anesthesiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, laboratory animal medicine, toxicology, pharmacology, pathology and many others.

For those who want to work with animals, but don’t want to go through all the training required to be become a veterinarian, what are other options?
You have many options that still allow you to be a valuable member of the veterinary health care team.  Other careers in the veterinary field include:

  • Veterinary technicians/technologists: The veterinary technician/technologist has been educated in the care and handling of animals, the basic principles of normal and abnormal life processes, and in routine laboratory and clinical procedures. All veterinary technicians/technologists work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. While a veterinary technician/technologist can assist in performing a wide variety of tasks, they cannot diagnose, prescribe, or perform surgery. The majority of entry-level technicians hold a 2-year associate degree from an approved junior college veterinary technology program in which they took classes and gained hands-on clinical experience with live animals.There are 4-year bachelor degree programs for veterinary technologists at some universities and colleges.
  • Veterinary assistants also provide animal care and support the veterinarian and veterinary technician/technologist.
  • Some colleges and universities offer 2-year laboratory animal science programs for students who are interested in pursuing a laboratory research field in either biomedical or veterinary sciences.

Where can I get further information?

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

130 Comments

  1. Laura Lebron says:

    I need to know if FITZ is a accredited by AVMA. They said th class will be at the zoo, and the tuition is $3,5000. I want to take the course but i need to know if this is accredite . some body can give me information?

    Thanks

  2. Eden Myers says:

    Kim,
    Timely information. I think everything you said was on the money. Except for the fact that you didn’t mention money. Any discussion of ‘what it takes to get into and succeed at being a veterinarian’ needs to include the financial requirements of vet school and a veterinary career right alongside the requirements for getting in.
    We want students to be successful, right? So we need to tell them to take math and science- and personal finance and business management.
    Prospective students need experience managing money as much as they need experience managing people and animals. That applies whether they plan to go into private practice where they may become owners, or research where they may be writing and administering grants, or government where they need to understand budgeting processes and economic policy. It starts even before graduation, with the need to understand what and how they are going to pay for their education.
    So I think you did a great job, you just left that part out. Thanks, as always, for your efforts. I’m glad you’re part of my AVMA!

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Dr. Myers,
      Thanks for the feedback. It’s certainly worthwhile for every student, regardless of their career interest, to be knowledgeable about personal finance and business management.

  3. Andetria Taylor says:

    Hello. I am a 17 year old female who’s had a dream to work with animals my whole life. I’m going into my senior year this august, and upon graduation in June 2013, I intend to pursue a career as a veterinarian. However, I am not well informed about the process nor requirements, and I have nobody to guide me. As an adoptee, I understand that my tuition will be payed for in the state of California, where I plan to attend a state-owned college. I would greatly appreciate some information, and perhaps even a few words of encouragement ! Thank you. (o:

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Andretia, thanks for asking. We’ve got more information on our website at http://www.avma.org/careers/default.asp. I highly recommend you talk to a few veterinarians in your area to get their guidance as well, and try to do some volunteer work or get a summer job at a veterinary clinic so you can get exposure (and perhaps some good recommendation letters). I do suggest you double-check the tuition thing, though, because I don’t think the state pays for veterinary school. There might be a program that covers your undergraduate tuition, but I’m not aware of any state programs that cover veterinary school. Also look into the American Pre-Veterinary Medical Association at http://www.apvma.org – that’s the group for pre-vet college students, and they provide a good support network. Good luck!

  4. Gail DeGray says:

    My son has dreamed of being a vet, but is considering entering the new Veterinarian Technologist program at Texas A&M Kingville. It seems like a more “reachable” goal than four years of under grad and then vet school – IF he qualifies. Is the Vet Technologist truly a viable opening field of medical practice? Will the work of a Technologist be challenging and interesting? Is it a reasonable career path for a young man who desires to provide for a family? Johnny is distinctly interested in large animal practice in a rural setting.

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Gail, vet techs are the backbone of many vet clinics. A well-trained, capable vet tech is incredibly valuable because they work as an efficient team with the veterinarian. He definitely should become licensed (also called certified or registered, depending on the state). The value of qualified vet techs is increasing, as is the demand. It can certainly be challenging and interesting. I recommend that he talks to vet techs working at practices, especially in the areas that personally interest him, to get a good feel for it. And perhaps he could spend some time shadowing a tech. The National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) is a great source of info, too. Their site is http://www.navta.net.
      I will say, however, that large animal practice in rural settings can provide a larger challenge when it comes to job opportunities. Veterinarians are facing challenges right now because although many rural areas are in great need of veterinary service, the area can’t economically support a veterinary practice. I’m sure there are opportunities, but they are more limited and he’ll probably need to be very flexible about where he’s willing to go.
      Best of luck to him!

  5. Dr. Scott Trasti says:

    Dear Gail and Dr. May,

    I would add to Dr. May’s comment that certified veterinary technicians can find good stable jobs with salary and benefits within the biomedical research community. These jobs can be very similar to private practice jobs and in some cases be very interesting and rewarding knowing that you are a core participant in cutting edge research that may benefit the lives of both animals and humans.

    As with any education endeavor nowadays, it pays to put some time into researching the program one goes into in order to be fiscally responsible and pragmatic as well as ensure your degree will allow you to become licensed or registered as mentioned above. One does not want to end up owing more in student loans than can reasonably be repaid given the expected salaries in a give field.

    Best of luck,

    Dr. Scott Trasti

  6. Yoojin Jang says:

    I’m a student who is trying to go a college in the states and be a vet in there.
    Now I’m wondering if I would have to go through the process of ECFVG, or could be a vet in the same way as other students in the U.S would.

  7. Ashley says:

    Hi!

    I’m a ninth grade student up in canada and I’m having some troubles deciding. I want to become an exotics vet, as i have hedgehogs and not many vets in my area have much of a clue about them, and I think that it would be a good career for me, but I saw all the comments and dont know which is better, an actual vet or a tech. any ideas?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Hi, Ashley! I think the best thing for you to do would be to spend some time in a veterinary clinic, observing what the vets and vet techs do. That way, you can decide for yourself what best fits your wants and needs. There are also people who become vet techs and then become vets later, so becoming a vet tech doesn’t exclude you from becoming a vet. Doing both would result in a larger total of years spent on education, and possibly a higher educational debt load, but it is an option.

      Best of luck!

  8. Shannon says:

    Hello,
    I’m a high school senior and I’ve dreamed of vet school for as long as I can remember. I’m trying to get as many animal experience hours as possible, but none of the vets in my area will allow me to do any kind of volunteering or shadowing. Recently, I started volunteering at the local humane society. What else can I do now that would help prepare me for vet school? Thanks!

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Wow, Shannon, that’s unfortunate that you can’t find a shadowing/volunteering opportunity near you. Those experiences are really valuable. Sometimes it’s due to local/state regulations, sometimes it’s due to liability issues. The shelter volunteering is helpful. Are you in a suburban or rural area where you could get some experience with larger animals – either by working or volunteering on a farm or with a farm animal vet? Also, check with veterinary schools near you to see if they offer anything in the summer. Quite a few schools offer one-week, two-week, or longer-term immersive experiences that get you good exposure to a variety of veterinary experience.
      The good news is that you still have time to get experience in college, and you might have a better chance of being allowed to volunteer at a local vet clinic then. Vets get a lot of high school students who want to be vets, so they’re sometimes inundated with requests, but a pre-vet college student is often taken more seriously.
      Try to get as much varied experience as you can. Good luck!

  9. Jocelyn says:

    Hello,
    I am currently a Junior in high school. Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of being a vet. Now that I’m getting closer to college, I’ve become unsure of a few things. My dream college is University of Penn. I don’t know if it would be better to apply to the school so I can go there and then later apply for the vet program there, or go to a different college with a great science program, complete all the pre-requisites and then apply for the vet program. University of Penn wouldn’t be the only college I’d apply to (duh) just using it as an example. I have been involved in 4-H since I was 8 years old and I’ve taken a vet science class through 4-H. Should I only be looking at colleges that offer pre-veterinary programs?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Jocelyn, don’t restrict yourself to only schools with pre-vet programs. Choose a school that offers you the things you want and provides the prerequisite classes you need to have.

  10. Armaan Ahmed says:

    Hi I’m a senior in high school graduating this year. I didnt do so well in high school and will be attending a community college first. I want to be a vet so bad. But I fear that going to community college might slow me down and make the process of getting a degree even longer. I’m clueless in what ti do could anyone help.

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Armaan, don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of vets out there who did a few years at community college for their undergraduate studies. You will need to buckle down and get good grades, because the vet schools will not look at your high school grades but will look at the college grades. You can certainly get a good foundation at community college, then consider transferring to a college that offers more of prerequisite classes and classes that will best prepare you for vet school.
      Remember, it’s not just grades and classes. Get exposure to the career and to animals, too. Here’s some advice from current vet students and recent graduates on how to make yourself the best candidate for vet school: https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx

      Good luck!

  11. Charli M says:

    Hello, I’m a 14 year old girl who has wanted to be a vet her whole life. I understand what I need to do, and have got the grades and some of the practical experience I should have. However I recently heard that you apparently have to buy your way into a veterinary practise… Is this true, or just a rumour? Because I’m not sure if I will have the money to pay to get into the career while I’m still paying off my student loans…

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Charli, it’s common for vets to buy their way into practice OWNERSHIP after they’ve been in the practice for some time, but you don’t have to buy your way into a job at a vet practice. There’s no rule that says you have to become a practice owner, so that statement is not true.

  12. Rachael says:

    Sorry in advance if this is too long.
    I have always known that I wanted a career with animals, and I have always said that a Veterinarian was the job for me. Now that I am in high school (Freshman), I am starting to realize how hard it is going to be. I am currently in Algebra 2, Physical Science, and Biology. I am a part of the schools honor program,and I have all As and Bs, but I did have one C last semester in Algebra 2. I have a few problems though. There are no Colleges approved by the A.V.M.A in my state, so the tuition is going to be outrageous. I am so terrified of euthanizing, and/or messing up on a surgery. I tried looking at other jobs with animals but I could not find anything that suited me. I used to volunteer at the shelter, until I had to stop to focus on my school-work. My mom is an Animal Control Officer too. So I do know just how stressful it will be too. I have fostered puppies from 4 days old, delivered puppies, and I even socialize a feral dog by myself. I have been bit before. In other words, I know it will be stressful, I will have to work really hard, I am terrified, it will cost a fortune… I am just feeling really discouraged right now. I love animals so much, but I do not know if I can handle it.

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Racheal, sorry for the delay in my response. I’m glad you’re thinking about the financial issues, because they are important considerations. There’s not much I can do to help you with that, though. As far as fear of messing up, that’s a natural human thing and it can be a good thing (as long as it’s not a paralyzing fear) because it keeps you attentive and focused. We are humans, and we make errors, but it’s critical that we prevent them as much as possible and acknowledge and mitigate the problems that do occur. Nobody really “wants” to do euthanasia, but it is a necessary thing for our profession and it can be the most humane thing to do in many cases. Being compassionate and empathetic is good. I can’t tell you if you should pursue this career or not. I suggest you spend some time volunteering or working at a vet clinic to get a feel for it and then go from there.

  13. Shelby says:

    Hi, I am a sophomore pre-vet student. I am worried my alternate career path if I am not accepted into vet school when I apply. What types of jobs could I look into with my Biology/pre-vet Bachelor’s degree?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      I could probably come up with a few things, but I think your best bet is to talk to a career counselor at your school. Or perhaps your school’s pre-vet club has some resources. Of course, biologists can do a number of things, but some of those likely require additional training (grad school). Here’s a resource that may help: http://www.aibs.org/careers/

  14. Shaylah says:

    Hi Dr. May,
    I am currently a freshman at my community college, and would like to eventually transfer to a four year and then go into veterinary school. Though I am stuck deciding which academic path I should take to make my application more eligible. Of course volunteering and having experience with animals will help but academically I am a little confused. Originally I was going to take a two year veterinary technician program but it did not meet some of the basic requirements for veterinary school which means more schooling to meet those prerequisites. I was also stuck between majoring pre-veterinary and biology. But I did move into biology because it is a broad major and eventually am making my way to veterinary school. I know I will be in school for a decent amount of time to become a veterinarian, but of course money and time are something I value greatly. So I do not want to make a basic mistake that can hurt me in the long run. What would be some of the best options to take before veterinary school? Should I continue with biology major, or major in pre-veterinary? How would you go about school before trying to get into veterinary school? Your advisement would help a lot! Thanks!

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      All good questions, Shaylah. A vet tech program is a good option for some people because it can provide a good “fallback” career (and vet tech is a great career by itself), but you are correct that you would need to add some more classes to it for vet school prep. I do recommend to everyone that you choose an undergrad major that you enjoy and that you’d enjoy for a career, because you might change your mind and you don’t want to be stuck on a path that’s no longer right for you. Your major doesn’t matter as much as the classes you take, so take classes that will meet the prerequisites as well as classes that appeal to you and will broaden your experience and education. I think this document provides a lot of good information for you: https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx If you have other questions, let us know.

  15. Jeff says:

    Very Informative post and thank you Dr. Trasti for your helpful points.

  16. Normesha Kelly says:

    Hi I am a High school junior and i’m still trying to figure out what type of undergrauate degree I should get if for my major im getting a DVM.

  17. Tina says:

    Unlike most, I am 39, entered college with a GED, and attempted to obtain two different degrees while my children were still young. I started college mainly because I wanted to set a good example for my children and chose computer programming sort of at random. I got my EMT-B certification while studying computer programming and found I enjoyed working in the medical field more than I did with computers but after putting in the time to complete all of my prerequisites, I moved out of the county and was no longer eligible for the program I was in. It has been about ten years since I took my last class but I managed to maintain a 4.0 up until the very last class I took so I have a pretty stellar academic record. I am currently working for a private rescue group and have ran a small scale rescue from home for many years. I am excellent with animals although my patience with people is somewhat questionable at times. I do have a vet who has agreed to allow me to do my shadowing hours at his facility when I expressed an interest in the vet tech program.

    I am interested in pursuing a DVM but I have many concerns about how my age and background will affect my ability to compete in this field. Also, along with the time and expense, we will have to probably sell our house and move to an entirely different city. I am concerned about the return on such an investment and if it would be more practical to stick with training to become a Vet Tech so at least I am in the field that I want to be in.

    I am not so much worried about being able to complete the goal as I am about the practicality of it all. Given my age, the fact that I did not graduate traditionally, do not have any recent college credits, and I am pretty much starting from scratch, does it this seem like an unreasonable goal?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      So sorry for the delay in my reply, Tina. Your message fell through the cracks. Kudos to you for your courage and your dedication to setting a good example. You’re certainly doing your due diligence and considering all of your options, and weighing what’s best for you and your family. That’s very admirable.

      Only you can really make the decision, but I offer some food for thought: 1) if you pursue a DVM, you’ll likely need to get some more undergraduate courses under your belt to make sure you have the prerequisites for vet school; 2) there have been students who started vet school in their 40s or later, so there’s no real limit there. The bigger issue is whether or not you’re ready or able to put in the time and effort for vet school, especially when it comes to balancing family life. It’s certainly possible, but it’s up to you individually to determine if it’s right for you; 3) the finances certainly need to be considered, as they would for anyone. You might have to finance less of your education in loans than the average student, which helps. Or, if you have to finance most of it with loans, consider the time it will take to pay them off and the impact that those loans could have on your family (for example, will your child be able to go to college, or will your loans prevent that or make it more difficult?).

      I don’t think it’s an unreasonable goal at all, but you have to be realistic and know that you have to face additional challenges. Only you can determine if the DVM goal is the right thing for you. A career as a vet tech is certainly not a bad (or lesser) alternative. Regardless of the career you pursue, though, you will need to work on your ‘people skills’ and patience – after all, although the animals are the ones being treated, it’s the owners that bring them through the door and play an integral role on the team when it comes to keeping the animals healthy. You have to be able to interact well with the animal owners in order to provide the best care for your animal patients. Alternatively, consider the fact that vet techs and vets don’t ALL work in private practice – there are jobs in research settings and other areas that require less interaction with clients/animal owners.

      Good luck!

  18. Felicity S. says:

    I am a 14 year old that loves animals, I’ve been trying to figure out stuff on my own about different kinds of animals before I graduate so I will be ready for college. For example I bought a stethoscope & I use it to experiment on my pets at home to listen to their heart-beat in different places of their bodies’. I also look up different species of wild animals to see what they are called,what they eat, & where they live. Every time I get a new pet I always look up new stuff about it, for instance recently I’ve adopted a guinea pig for the first time & I’ve been looking up all the sicknesses they can get/have, how the females get pregnant, how they mate, what foods they can eat, etc. I have wanted to volunteer at the nearest Humane Society but i am not able to. I’m also always buying cat/dog food, toys,cleaning supplies, cat/dog treats, etc. to donate to pounds & shelters.

    Any advice on how to get started in the veterinarian career?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Wow, Felicity, that’s impressive! You’re certainly on the right track. You might have to wait until you’re older to volunteer at a shelter or vet clinic, but they are definitely good experiences to get. Here are some helpful materials for you:
      Veterinary career info: https://www.avma.org/public/careers/pages/careers.aspx
      Vet school admission 1010: https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx

      Also keep in mind that veterinary medicine is much more than preventing and treating medical conditions in pets. There are veterinarians involved in ground-breaking research that helps animals and people; in public health, keeping all of us healthy and tracking down and stopping disease outbreaks; and more. Check out our materials, and keep an open mind about the different opportunities in veterinary medicine. And if you have other questions, let us know.

  19. Katie says:

    Hi I am Katie and I’m 19 years old and I want to be a Veterinarian. I am working my way to getting prerequisites in order to transfer to Cal Poly Pomona. But, I have found that I have an obstacle in my way. The problem is Algebra I can handle, basic Algebra but intermediate to college algebra I am worried I will not succeed. I have a disability which is called an Auditory Processing Disorder. I have been tested and I have been found that my disability directly interferes with my ability to do math. I know that I have what it takes and I just wonder do I really need College Algebra to be a successful Veterinarian? I want to be one of the first mentally handicapped, multiracial,woman animal doctors to show that despite hardship that being bad at one thing should not define who you are.

    I have been successful in other types of math like Business math, consumer math (with A’s in both)and I did pass Algebra 1 in high school. I made good grades overcoming my disability with a 4.00 gpa at the end of my senior year and good grades before. I also am making good grades in my current college classes including Biology which I had to cram in 2.5 months and still passed with an A. I love Biology and I have been told by my counselor I have a good aptitude for stats which was also shown in testing. I know I could still pass Chemistry,Physics, Microbiology, and Statistics. I am appealing to the school I want to go to,to see what there disability center has to offer for someone like me. I have the heart and the courage to take a stand when I have been told that I’m better off doing something else..

    I have had ten years experience riding horses and taking care of them and that passion has not died out but gotten stronger. I want to save and bring new life into the world. I saved maybe 5-6 dogs when others didn’t care. I saved a dog from being hit by a car and walked him along with my bike to school so he could find his owner. I recently had to put my 12 year old dog I have had since I was 8 put to sleep because he was so sick and we couldn’t afford anything more than antibiotics..He was in so much pain it was the only kind thing to do. I know if I had to with a lot of mental preparation I could give the animal the rest it needs if I had too.

    I’ve tried so hard to overcome my disability, that it has brought me to tears over and over again knowing that I am going to have to fight it my whole life.
    It’s just been so hard to watch what I want to do with my life get further away. This is the only career I could see myself doing and being happy about. It fits who I am and I feel like I could contribute so much if I had the chance. I plan on asking if I could shadow my local Vet.

    I hope to specialize as an equine vet as I am the most knowledgeable in how horses work, diseases, breeding, and more. I am going to read every book I can get my hands on from my local library about being a Vet. I am currently reading one on horses and how to treat them.
    I love animals in general but I feel that I would be best with horses, birds, dogs, cats and maybe farm animals if needed.

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Katie, what you’ve accomplished so far is admirable, and I have a hard time believing that you wouldn’t be able to conquer the algebra you need. Yes, you’ll likely have to work harder, but I have no doubt you can do anything you really set your mind to do. Math is important in veterinary medicine, and used daily – most commonly for calculating drug doses, IV fluid rates, etc. But the good news is that you usually have access to a calculator – but you need to know how to plug in the numbers and in the right places to solve the problem.

      From your comment, it seems clear that you have the passion and drive to become a veterinarian. If that’s what you truly want to do, don’t let algebra get in your way. :)

  20. Sarah says:

    Hi,

    I’m a recent college graduate with a degree in Psychobiology with a concentration in animal behavior. I just recently have been considering becoming a veterinarian, but haven’t taken many of the math pre-requisites. What steps can I take when I have made this decision so late in my academic learning? My major was strongly science based, but did not require many chemistry or physics classes. I’m feeling very lost.

    Thanks,
    Sarah

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Honestly, it sounds to me like the only steps you could take are to go back to school to finish the prerequisite courses. That’s a non-negotiable thing for veterinary schools. Don’t feel as though it’s too late, though – there are people who START veterinary school in their 30s, 40s and older. If it’s what you really want to do, talk to a counselor about the best route to pursue to get the prerequisite courses.

  21. Natasha K says:

    Hi, I’m 17 and in a couple of months I’ll have to apply to university. I’m not quite sure exactly where I want to go but eventually I want to be a veterinarian. Even though I have a 95% average now, I know how unlikely it is for me to be accepted to veterinary school after four years of undergraduate science. I was wondering if becoming a vet. tech. first, and then going to university for undergrad will increase my chances of being accepted to vet school?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Hi, Natasha! What an exciting time! Choose the university that fits your needs, whatever those needs may be. Your 95% average tells me that you’re smart, probably have good study habits, and work hard – all desirable qualities. Don’t be down on yourself about your chances of admission – the reality is that there are just under 3 applicants per seat nationally. Those chances aren’t bad, and you can improve your chances by following the advice in our “Vet School Admissions 101″ sheet. (https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx).
      There are people who go the vet tech route first, but keep in mind that vet tech school doesn’t meet all of the prerequisites for veterinary school, so you’d still have to take some undergrad classes. Veterinary technology is a great career, no doubt, and the educational debt and duration of schooling are lower than for veterinarians. But if you definitely know that you want to be a vet, I recommend you go to a university with the goal of preparing for veterinary school. Completing a vet tech program isn’t likely to give you a significant leg-up on the other applicants.
      Good luck!

  22. Courtney Sanchez says:

    Hello,
    I am a current college student transferring to a university this fall from a community college. My current major is BS in Anthropology with Human Biology emphasis. Originally I thought I would pursue graduate school in this field but it is becoming more and more apparent that this will be difficult considering all the time I would have to spend on short term assignments around the world gaining “field school experience.” (I am 27,married, and have two young children.) I am considering maybe switching my major or adding a minor in vet science and possibly applying to veterinary school after that. I feel that a tech program would probably suit my family obligations better, but after already putting so much into my bachelors, I feel it might be a waste to go back to community college for the vet tech program. Honestly, I am just lost. Do you know if an individual with a degree in vet sci can get a job as a tech? Or do you have to go through an actual program for this?
    Also, do you think going for my DVM is a reasonable goal considering my family and educational background in anthropology?
    Thanks,
    Courtney

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Courtney, your undergraduate major and training don’t have to be something specific (like animal science, etc.), but you do have to take (and do well in) the prerequisite courses. Given your major, you probably already have some. Veterinary technology is a good career, and certainly wouldn’t be a waste – it’s a very “portable” career. Whether or not it’s a better fit for your life and family is really your decision to make, and I suggest you spend some volunteer time at a vet clinic to see if it appeals to you. Talk to the vets and vet techs about what they do, and see which appeals to you. In general, you need to complete an accredited veterinary technology program (https://www.avma.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/Education/Accreditation/Programs/Pages/vettech-programs-all-programs-list.aspx) to be a certified/registered/licensed veterinary technician. Veterinary assistant jobs may not require specific education, but they are not allowed to do as much as veterinary technicians and generally make lower salaries.

  23. Annie says:

    Hi,
    I have always wanted to become a vet. My family doesn’t make much money so I know I will have trouble paying for collage and all of that, so I need to make sure that becoming a vet is profitable. I have searched the internet for a while about pay, but it all varies. I would like to know what type of vet makes the most money. Some seem to say the small animal vets make more money than large, but what type of vet makes the most, a surgeon? I love animals, but if I heal them for a living, I certainly need the money, especially if I am going to raise a family.

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      It does vary widely, and there’s not a clear answer to that question. Some of the factors that impact the salary include the number of years out of school; whether or not they own the veterinary clinic (owners tend to make more); extra training or specialization; location; and type of practice. In general, veterinarians in industry and research make more money, but that does vary. Some specialists also make high salaries, but they also get additional training (often at additional expense) after veterinary school.

      College and graduate education is expensive these days, and it’s not getting any cheaper. And veterinary education is very expensive. Veterinarians can certainly make a living, but there are also many vets who are struggling to pay off their high student debt and also be able to provide for their families and set some aside for retirement. According to a survey of the graduating class of 2012, the average starting salary was $65,404 and the average student debt was $135,359.

      If a high salary is extremely important and a requirement, it might not be the right career choice for you. I’m not trying to discourage you if this is truly what you want to do, but you need to make an informed choice.

  24. Nathan says:

    Hi Dr. May, I’m still in high school, but I really want to become a veterinarian. I know how hard it is to become accepted to vet school later, and I know that vet schools prefer well-rounded people. I was just wondering how a person can show that they are well rounded? What qualities in a person do the vet schools seek? Can you please give me some examples of what a person should do to show that they are truly a well rounded person? Thanks!

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      There’s some additional advice in here: https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx

      Basically, by “well-rounded,” we mean that you’re not so focused that you only do science classes or only get one or two types of experience. Team sports, debate teams, class leadership (class president or other officer), 4-H, FFA, etc. all help you open your mind, get a wide range of experiences, and make you “well-rounded.” Do things that you like, and try new things.

  25. camila says:

    Hello Kim ,
    my name is camila am ten years old and am in 5th grade am so curious to know what you require after college and university its been my lifetime dreams to do the helping animals who are sick or hurt,thank you very much
    plz write back when you get the comment

  26. Breanna R. says:

    Dr. May,
    I’m currently going to college, and eventually want to become a veterinarian, trying to obtain my Associate degree in biological Sciences and hoping to transfer to another college to obtain my Bachelors but I am unsure of what to do after I finish with my Associates. I want to make sure I am on the path I need to be in order to get into a pre-vet program and then into a DVM program. I have three different schools in mind, one is kind of out of my league but I can always hope. What I’m really questioning is if I should go into a pre-vet program after I obtain my Associates or if I should gain my Bachelors then apply for a pre-vet program? I have always talked with a few veterinarian’s about working with them to gain the hours I know I need to get into the program, but should I start with those hours now or later? I honestly have no one to talk with because the college I’m currently enrolled in is a community college and my counselor is just as lost as I am. Also if I were to just go for my bachelor’s after my associates if gaining a bachelors in animal sciences would be something I can do or if there is just something else I should do. I am so lost but I need to know what to do so can you please help?

    -Breanna

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Breanna, you’ve obviously put a lot of thought into it – that’s great. For your undergrad schooling, I recommend getting the prerequisite courses in the shortest time, unless money/debt isn’t a concern. Your undergrad major is less important than the prereqs, and I recommend that you take a major that interests you and offers a good future, in case you change your mind about veterinary medicine.
      Regarding the work with vets, you can never get too much. Get varied experience so you have exposure to as many different species as you can. It also helps you decide if it’s what you really want to do.
      Check out our “Veterinary School Admissions 101″ for more info: https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx

      Good luck!

  27. AnimalLover says:

    I just finished grade eight and have been thinking about my future. vet or vet tech? what university/college is there for me to go to in Canada?

  28. Dr. Kimberly May says:

    Sorry for the delayed response to some of the comments. It now appears that I’ve approved and responded to all of the comments that were in the queue, and I’ll do my best to respond more quickly to future comments.

  29. Julie says:

    Hi. I will starting my junior year of high school. I have always wanted to become a veterinarian, but I am leaning more towards a Veterinary Techologist. I was wondering if there are specific things I should begin to study (outside of school) to prepare for Pre-Vet school. Also, information on Majors/ Degrees would be appreciated. Thanks so much!

  30. Kentrea' George says:

    Hi, my name is Kentrea’ I am currently a junior at Redemptorist High School. I hold a GPA of 4.3 and take mostly honors classes. My love and intrest for animals started at birth noting my father had our family dogg wayyyy before me! I absoloutly LOVE ANIMALS and learning about them intrigues my excitment. Although my GPA is relatively high no one has kept me abreeast on any requirements or courses needed to becoming a veternarian. This is my dream and i want to accomplish this more than anything else but i know NOTHING about what it takes or what i need to do it. Saddly i know i wont have the finicial support i need from my family alone therefore, scholarships are a MUST; but here to, my knowledge of them stops. i know nothing about scholarships or required courses and degrees….if i can get feed back from current vets that would be AMAZING because i dont know any and since im only a 16 yr old i dont have mobility or free way to talk to one or anyone else with a helping hand
    1.What should i major in, in college
    2. what do i need degrees in, in college beforing applying for the DMV
    3. what should my minor or second major b
    CAN SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME I REALLY NEED IT
    sighned: A FUTURE VETERINARIAN (with your help) THANKS!

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Hi, Kentrea! I think that our “Veterinary School Admissions 101″ document (https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx) will help you with some of your questions. We don’t have any info on scholarships, though, because they’re handled by the schools. Your best bet there would be to talk to your school’s guidance counselor about scholarship opportunities for college, then talk to a college counselor about scholarships while in college.
      Best of luck, and let me know if you have other questions.

  31. Felicia says:

    Hi! I’m currently attending a local community college for my associates degree in Math and Science with a concentration in Science. I will graduate college in May 2014. I was wondering that after I graduate can I still get into a vet school? I already have a vet school that i want to attend. I’ve taken chemistry, biology my first and second semester. I also took precalculus my second semester. The fall semester coming up im taking advanced statistics, a computer programming class, American Sign Language and ecology. Am I on the right track to be a vet? I have a GPA of around a 2.75. But I know it will rise with my classes I’m taking in the fall. It’s not too late to change my courses. If I should change my courses what should they be changed to? Thanks!

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Hi Felicia! You can apply to vet school only after you have completed the prerequisite coursework, which varies a bit by school (but they all have the same core prerequisites). Your best bet is to check the site for that vet school (or call and talk to an admissions staff member) to see what the prereqs are and make sure you’ve met the requirements. Some schools have a minimum GPA for the prerequisite courses, too, so make sure you meet that as well.

      You’ve definitely got some good courses that will help you in life, and I’d also suggest making sure you’ve got some courses that focus on writing and communication skills because they are so valuable (and necessary) in vet med. You’ll also need organic chemistry, biochemistry, and physics for most vet school admissions – but check with the school to see what they require.

      Good luck!

  32. Elizabeth says:

    Hi, I’m about to be entering my sophomore year of high school. As I am coming closer to the time that I have to apply for college, I have been thinking more and more about what would be a reasonable career path that would also be enjoyable. I love animals, and I think that I have what it takes to be a vet. I took all honors classes my freshman year and I will be taking all honors next year as well, which will make me eligible for AP sciences as well as the College in High School classes that my school offers through the University of Pittsburgh. My high school offers AP Bio, AP Chemistry and Honors Physics, which is a prerequisite for College in High school physics. I can take 2 of these courses before I graduate, and I was wondering which ones would be the most valuable for an aspiring vet.

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Sorry, Elizabeth, for the delay in my reply. For some odd reason, I wasn’t notified of your comment. That’s a tough choice, really, because all three of those sciences are important. I don’t think you’d go wrong with any two of them. That said, any leg up you can get on chemistry may help, because you’ll need general chem, organic chem and biochem to satisfy most schools’ admissions requirements. Organic chem is often the least liked, most frustrating class for pre-vet students, so going into it with additional experience could really help. Good luck!

  33. Amanda says:

    Dear Kim,

    I am going into my senior year and I would love to go to vet school. However, I am not sure if I have good enough grades or experience. I am also not sure about the cost, my family can’t afford too much so the lower the better. We live in upstate New York.

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Check out our Vet School Admissions 101 doc for some info about grades and other things you can do to make yourself a better candidate for vet school, if that’s what you choose to do. Here’s the link: https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx

      Regarding the cost, it is very expensive. Vet school graduates often have debt from undergraduate AND vet school studies, and graduate with high student debt (in the $130,000 to $200+ range). That’s the harsh reality of it. You’d likely need to get loans to cover it (the majority of students do), and it can be a struggle to pay them back. I’m not trying to talk you out of it, but it is something you need to know.

  34. Tamara says:

    Can anyone tell me the answer to this question its very important.
    do I need to attend a pre-veterinarian school my first four years?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Tamara, you do not have to go to a specific “pre-veterinary” school or take a pre-vet program. However, you do have to complete (and do well in) the prerequisite courses for vet school. If you don’t have the prerequisite courses completed, you won’t even be considered for admission to veterinary school. It varies a bit with the school, but the usual prerequisite courses include biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry and physics. The advantage to a pre-vet curriculum is that it focuses on the courses that would help you get into vet school and be prepared. But you can also do that on your own. For more info, check out our Vet School Admissions 101 document at https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx.

  35. Samantha Harvey says:

    Hi, I’m a senior in high school and I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian. I have pretty much decided on going to Virginia Tech for college and to go through their veterinary school also. I was wonder how is there reputation is before I am dead set on going. Also last year and this year I am in a new veterinary assistant class offered by a vocational school here(its a two year program), was this a better choice taking this instead of taking more math and science? I all ready have taken bio 1 and 2, chemistry, and trig. Should I have taken pre calculus and physics instead of this vet class? I figured even if it was for vet assistants at least it would give me the basics. And do your grades in high school classes really make a big difference? I’ve been mostly an A-B student but I’ve gotten C’s in both Trig (math is not my strongest subject) and chemistry.
    Thank you for you help!
    Samantha H.

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Hi Samantha! First of all, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Virginia Tech grad (3 years undergrad, 4 years of vet school, 3 years of residency/Masters program, and a year on the faculty at the vet school). GO HOKIES! So you could say I’m a bit biased in their favor. :) I can tell you from experience that their undergrad programs are certainly top-notch (I took a bunch of great AnSci, Biology, Biochem classes, and more). And ANY vet school, Va Tech included, will give you a great veterinary education as long as you put in the effort to learn.

      Taking the vocational classes could certainly provide you with good experience, but don’t cut back too much on the math and science. You’ll need college physics and pre-calc for vet school (they’re required classes for admission to most vet schools), so you’ll have to take them in college even if you take them in high school. That said, having a high school foundation of the physics often makes college-level physics a bit less scary. Same goes for pre-calc/math classes. I’m not saying you made a bad decision – it’s a tough one, and you made the one that’s right for you and you will benefit from it – but expect that these classes might present a bit more challenge to you at the college level.

      Your grades in high school aren’t considered by a vet school, but they are considered by a college when you’re being considered for admission to undergrad. Since you’ve said that math isn’t your strongest subject, it’s something you’ll need to invest a bit of extra effort into. No, calculus isn’t a daily sight in clinical veterinary practice (but if you do any research you might need it), but math is used daily and math errors can be life-threatening for your patients. Chemistry, organic chemistry, physics and biology set the foundation for understanding anatomy, physiology, and how drugs and toxins work in the body, so they’re important as well. Work hard on those in college so you can walk into vet school with a solid foundation.

      Check out our “Vet School Admission 101″ doc for some more info: https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx

      Good luck!

  36. Jenn says:

    Hello!

    I have a strong passion for animals, but unfortunately did not decide that I would like to go to school to become a vet tech until recently. In terms, I did not prepare the usual way that most students still in high school would. I graduated back in 2006, so its been a few years and I am missing a lot of the pre requisite courses. What do you think the best step of action to take would be?

    Thanks!

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      I’m not as well versed in vet tech preparation, Jenn. I suggest you contact the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA) at http://www.navta.net or contact the veterinary technical school that interests you and talk to one of their advisors.

      Good luck with your new career path!

  37. Natalie says:

    Hi Dr. May,
    I’m a tenth grader in a private school that does a “physics first” approach. Physics was a mess for me, I managed to pull a decent B+ out of the class, but it was a painful struggle. What sciences are most useful for becoming a vet? Is physics an important aspect to continue?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Hi Natalie! Physics is important, but it’s not the only science you need. And depending on what you go into as a vet, it might be more or less important. For example, vets that do research on locomotion (movement and interaction of bones, muscles, etc.) use more physics than others. You need a solid foundation in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and biochemistry as well. Most vets go into vet school with one, maybe two, college-level physics classes under their belts.

      For more info on course prep, check out our Vet School Admissions 101 doc at https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx

      Good luck!

  38. Mackenzie says:

    Hi! So I have always had a strong passion for animals and currently work in a vet office. Lately, I have been considering pursuing a DMV. About ago year I graduated from college with a B.A. in History, in my first two years of college I was a Chemistry/ Biology major and did pretty well, but with a combined lack of focus and immaturity my GPA suffered. I know I would need to retake some classes to strengthen my GPA, but would this affect my chances of getting into vet school if I applied?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Your GPA in the prerequisite courses is pretty important, so you want to get those grades up for sure. Many schools have a minimum GPA for the pre-reqs, and you won’t be considered if you don’t meet it. If your GPA is above the minimum, but not impressive, then work on developing a strong application in other areas such as experience, communication, leadership skills, etc. Your best bet would probably be to contact a vet school nearby (or one that interests you) and ask if they have a pre-admissions counselor who can provide you with some guidance.

  39. Kristina says:

    I have a question that may sound silly but here goes…originally I was part of the class of 2003. I had a child at 17 and dropped out of school then went back had another child and dropped out again then finally made up my mind and decided to go back. I graduated high school with the class of 2005. Now almost 9 years after graduating I want to go back to school. my dream growing up was to become a vet. now I am a single mother of 4 and I want to go back to school crazy as it sounds. I don’t know what my GPA was in high school and I honestly don’t know where to even begin looking or who to call for that matter. I live in Framingham MA and need help. what can I do?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Your GPA in high school doesn’t matter to the vet school, they want to know how you did/do in college. If you don’t have any courses beyond high school, you’ll have several years of undergraduate courses to complete prior to applying to vet school to meet the requirements for vet school. Given that you’re in MA, I suggest you contact the vet school at Tufts and ask if they have a counselor with whom you can speak. And talk to some students and recent grads about their experience, so you can make sure it’s realistic for you. Vet school is incredibly demanding of your time, so being a single mother of 4 is going to add some challenges for you. I’m sure you can excel if you set your mind to it, but going into the education with realistic knowledge and expectations is half the battle. Best of luck!

  40. Tyler says:

    Dr. May;
    I am a junior in High School, and am in need of some help for what out of school activities I should participate in to help me prepare for vet school.
    P.S. What did you do in High School and College that made you a more desirable candidate?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Our “Vet School Admissions 101″ document has some good advice: https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx
      Volunteer or work with vets and animals, develop your communications skills, etc are the common recommendations. But they’re common because they’re pretty effective. If there’s an FFA chapter at your shoolc, that’s a great way to get some good skills in a number of areas.

      Good luck!

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Check out our “Vet School Admissions 101″ document, it’s got some good suggestions. https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx
      Personally, I spend a lot of time volunteering and then working for a mixed-animal veterinary practice, doing everything from kennel work to assisting with anesthesia and watching surgeries. If you volunteer, sometimes you have a bit more flexibility – after all, why would they pay someone just to stand around and watch? Work on your communication skills (writing, verbal/public speaking), too, because good communication skills are critical to many professions.

  41. Cory Marshman says:

    Lets see, where should I begin. I should probably start with the fact that I am 29 years old and in desperate need of a career change. Now that you know that let me explain a little bit more about my current situation. I am a traveling ESL teacher and I’m not living in the US money is tight and I am considering studying in central Europe due to University prices, 6-9000 euros per year.

    I have always had a higher affinity for animals than I have people and recently I did a 6 week internship in Thailand working with rescued elephants. I absolutely fell in love with those big nosed, intelligent creatures and I felt like I found my true calling. I talked with a few of the on call vets at the rescue centre and they said Vet School was HARD. They made sure to emphasize the hard part.

    My bachelors degree is a BA in Anthropology with a specialization in Biological Anthropology, so I’m no stranger to science, but, and I guess this is my first question to you, I’m a bit lost as to how to get started. I thought about just doing a DIY science refresher with Amazon bought university intro science books, because, I may not be a stranger to science, but we have been out of touch for many years. How should I go about preparing for this, or is it possible for some one my age to even try this?

    My end goal would be to open my own rescue shelter, not necessarily for elephants but for abandoned or injured animals, wild or domestic.

    I know this is a lot to basically say, help me weed through all of this information. Any suggestions or advice would be very helpful.

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      A few things to consider: first of all, if you plan on practicing in the US, you need to go to a COE-accredited school (either in US or abroad). If you go to a a non-accredited school, you will have to go through additional equivalency testing that adds time and cost to your training – so what you may save on tuition might be made up with extra expenses and time associated with the equivalency testing. If money is tight, that’s something you need to factor in. Regardless of where you go, veterinary school is expensive.

      You can do some online refreshers, but they won’t count for vet school. They must be taken at an accredited college or university to count. You may find those refreshers useful for preparation, but you will need to complete (and do well in) the prerequisite courses required for vet school, or they won’t even consider your application. At 29, you’re certainly not washed up – although many vet school classes are predominately composed of recent college grads, there are people in their 30s-50s in vet school.

      Keep in mind that there are other animal-related careers available to you if you want to go the shelter/rescue route. For example, consider becoming a vet technician, wildlife rehabilitator, or even going a business/management route, then work WITH a veterinarian or veterinarians to provide care to injured animals. I’m not trying to talk you into or out of anything, just want to make sure you’re aware that you don’t have to be a veterinarian to open/run a rescue/shelter. A veterinarian is needed for many duties, such as diagnosing and making treatment recommendations, but these other avenues might be just as fulfilling for you with less time and money invested.

      If you choose to pursue veterinary medicine, I suggest you talk to an admissions counselor at a vet school to discuss what courses you’ll need to take (or retake) in undergrad studies to prepare for vet school.

      Good luck!

  42. hey im tori-beth.haisell and when I grow up in want to become a vet hope it comes true

  43. Nate says:

    Hi Dr. May,

    I’m in senior year in high school at the moment, and I’ve been spending some of my time researching about universities for my undergraduate studies that would prepare me well for vet school before I apply. Currently, I have a 90% average and I think that most universities would accept me, but I’ve heard from a few people that some students who attend a less prestigious university have a higher chance of getting a higher GPA which is crucial when applying to vet school. I’ve read that vet schools don’t look at which university you are coming from. I know that ultimately it depends on the person, and their work/study habits and how determined they are, but what is your advice? Is it wiser for me to attend a university that may be slightly easier for me to get a higher GPA? I’m not trying to look for the easier path, just the more practical path. I was also wondering, and I apologize if I’m being too nosy (I’m just curious since you are a doctor and had to go through the same process), what range were your marks in high school and in undergrad? What clubs/teams were you involved in? Were you accepted to vet school by your first attempt?
    Thank you so much in advance!

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Hi, Nate! It’s true that vet schools don’t weigh the ‘prestige’ of a university when considering applicants. The school you choose does need to be an accredited school (that’s different than vet school accreditation). I wouldn’t necessarily say that a “less prestigious” school is any easier than a “more prestigious” school, though. Choose the school that appeals to you as a whole package – location; tuition; social and/or sports opportunities that appeal to you; offers the prereqs you need and other courses that will benefit you; etc.- and don’t focus on comparing the prestige of the schools. A higher GPA in undergrad is a good thing, but some people thrive in a larger university while others thrive in a smaller school.

      Honestly, I don’t remember my grades in high school. They were decent, but I wasn’t a 4.0 student. They were good enough to get me early admission. Vet schools don’t even look at your high school grades. My undergrad GPA was around 3.7 if I remember correctly, with the same or higher GPA in the prereqs and a 4.0 my junior year (taking 3000- and 4000-level classes). I was admitted after my junior year of undergrad, and did get in on my first try. I did the pre-vet club and was in an honor society, but didn’t do much else club/team-wise. Based on hindsight, though, I recommend that you get involved in leadership in your school. Maybe student government, club leadership, or something, but it helps.

      Have you seen our “Veterinary School Admissions 101″ document? It’s got some additional tidbits of info that might help you. Good luck! https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx

  44. James says:

    Dr. May,

    My daughter is very interested in becoming a Veterinarian when she is older. She currently is in 8th grade and moving to high school next year. There is a Agriscience Magnet Program that is offered in her school district. We are considering enrolling her into this program rather than just her local high school. What are your thoughts on this type of education for her future?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Sorry for the delay in my reply. I’m not familiar enough with that program to provide you with any specific advice, but it sounds interesting and may benefit her. Make sure it has the science-based courses she needs, like biology, chemistry and physics. Some of those programs are more ag-based and less applicable to pre-vet studies, but some are very good pre-vet prep. And the level of difficulty in magnet programs can provide her with a good foundation and a leg up for college admissions.

      Our “Vet School Admissions 101″ sheet could help her, and is available at https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx.

      Good luck! Give her our best wishes.

  45. annabelle pacey says:

    Are any vets epileptic?
    My wonderful daughter is 19 and worked so hard to get to vet school.In the last 18 months she has had 3 seizures, the last , a few days ago resulted in a head injury. She had tests a year ago which were non conclusive and was discharged. Now she has to see a neurologist again and I am so fearful that she will have to give up her life long wish of becoming a vet. Can you offer any help. She is in London. Thank you so much. A very desperate mum .

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      People with epilepsy, if that’s what she has, can do many things successfully – including veterinary medicine. There are risks that would need to be managed, but it’s possible. She should talk to the doctor and listen to his/her honest assessment, then decide what’s best for her. There are specially trained seizure alert dogs, and one of them might help her keep her condition manageable and keep it from interfering with her life and dreams. If I can find any other resources, I’ll let you know. Take care, and give her our best wishes. Tell her to stay strong, and don’t give up.

      • annabelle pacey says:

        Thank you so very much Dr May. It all seems so distressing and hopeless at the moment and cruel. She has been doing work experience since aged 8 ! In the UK to get accepted for veterinary school is far harder than for medical school ! Good luck to all you prospective vets out there.

        • Felicity S. says:

          sorry I couldn’t help but see your comment. my lifelong dream has always been to become a vet & when I was in 3rd grade I started having epilepsy so my grandmother has homeschooled me since. I wish her the best of luck & I hope she can run after her dream like I am going try to!

        • Dr. Kimberly May says:

          She’s very lucky to have such a loving, supportive mom. Best of luck to you both.

        • Dr. Kimberly May says:

          Annabelle, I have a good friend who is a vet and has a similar problem. I reached out to her to ask if she would be willing to help, and she is. Is it OK with you for me to give her your email address so she can contact you? The system shows a hotmail.co.uk address for you. If you’d prefer I give her a different email address, you can send me an email at kmay@avma.org with the one you’d prefer. She’s a great person, and I think she’d be of a lot of help to you. She’s traveling right now, but would be able to contact you later next week.

  46. Felicity S. says:

    I am a high school student that has been looking around for colleges online. some sites I have looked at says you have to go to college for your bachelors degree for 3 years before you can go to veterinary college. some other sites don’t. do you or not? because if you have to go get your bachelors for 3 years then get your DVM degree for 4 years that’s almost 10 years of college.

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Felicity, you have to take college courses that are prerequisites for vet school. The average veterinary student does 4.5 years of undergrad and most have Bachelors degrees. The BS is not required, but many end up getting one. And yes, it’s a lot of school, averaging 4.5 undergrad and 4 in vet school.

  47. Amy says:

    Hello,

    I’m 25 and have no degree, and am considering going back to school and later, to veterinary school. I have also considered becoming a licensed vet tech, or getting a Bachelor’s in something like zoology or biological sciences, and then deciding whether or not to apply to veterinary school and continue my education. I’m wondering if getting either of these degrees (associate’s or bachelor’s) would give me a chance at finding a job or internship that would pay for part (or all!) of my tuition for veterinary school?

    The other thing I would really like to hear about is your experience with school/work along the way to becoming a vet. I’m sure it was incredibly difficult- Were there times you wanted to quit? Are you satisfied with your career and the money you make (in regards to student loan debt that veterinarians typically graduate with) now that you’re there? Did you earn an associate’s or bachelor’s along the way (in what)? Master’s? Did these things help you or feel like a waste of time/money? Any input would be greatly appreciated, and I plan on asking my own vet all of these questions as well.

    Thank you,
    Lilian

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Lilian, if you’re undecided about veterinary school (and there’s nothing wrong with that), you should pursue a degree that will provide you with a rewarding career if you decide not to go to vet school, so I’d recommend you investigate the ones you’re considering and see what seems right for you. I’ll be honest, though: the chances that you’d find any job that will pay for all, or even part, of your tuition is extremely low. Because veterinary school is postgraduate training, there is comparatively little financial assistance in the form of scholarships. The only thing that comes close is the US Army, you might want to check that out.

      During the pre-vet and veterinary training, I think that everyone goes through periods where they feel stupid or like they’ll never know enough. It is difficult, and although there were times I wish I could quit a certain class because it was particularly unenjoyable (organic chem comes to mind here), I never wanted to quit my career path. I did not get my BS degree prior to vet school. I did do a residency and Master’s program afterward, though, as part of my path to becoming a board-certified large animal surgeon. I’m of the opinion that there’s no such thing as “too much education,” so I personally think that any education above and beyond the minimum does nothing but improve your life.

      I was fortunate enough to graduate with low debt, thanks to good financial planning and probably a bit of luck. Plus, the tuitions were more manageable at that time – they hadn’t skyrocketed much yet. New grads are certainly struggling and most (if not all) are living on very restricted finances for years, but it is possible to live comfortably as a veterinarian. The odds are against being wealthy, but there are veterinarians out there who would consider their lives full and not lacking. Aspiring veterinarians pursue the career because of its merits, not because they’re seeking money or fame.

      Good luck with whatever path you choose.

  48. Sandra says:

    I’m 13 and I really want to be a vet but I don’t know which kind gets payed the most. Of course, I want to be a vet because I love animals, but I also want to know what kind of vet gets paid the most and their requirements. What age am I suppose to be to start volunteering at a clinic? How many years of college do I have to go through altogether to become this vet who gets the most paid? I tried looking it up but I keep getting different answers.

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Sandra, I have to say that choosing a veterinary career or specialty based on salary is likely to make you unhappy in the long run. The salary can vary quite a bit, based on experience – for example, practice owners make more money. But they start as associate vets making less money. Industry and research jobs can have high salaries, but they’re not for everyone. You should go into the field that you find interesting and rewarding. If money really is the primary issue, then another career choice might be best.

      In general, you’d do a minimum of 2 years of undergrad (but the average is 4.5 years), then 4 years of veterinary school. For the higher-paid specialty positions, or those in research, you’re probably also looking at another 4-5 years after vet school to get a residency, Masters degree, or PhD.

      I’d recommend volunteering as soon as you’re old enough to be allowed to do it. That age can vary, so you need to check the regulations in your area/state. Volunteering will help you decide if you truly want to be a vet. You can still love animals and follow another career path.

  49. Josh R. says:

    Hi Dr. May,

    I have grown up with animals all my life (dogs,cats,horses,birds) and ever since I was little I wanted to be a vet. Now I’m 16 years old and getting closer to the end of my highschool sophomore year. I live in Central Florida. I was wondering about college/community college and how would a veterinary school view each. When it gets time to go to college, I’ll most likely attend UCF since I live 15 minutes away. If I decided to go to my local community college to do all my prerequisites (Valencia) and then transfer to UCF, would I be at a disadvantage in the eyes of a veterinary school? The main reason I would do that is just to save money.

    I have one more question pertaining to the veterinary field. Since it is so difficult to get into veterinary school and by chance I wouldn’t get in, what other career fields are there that follow the lines of being a veterinarian? Anything besides vet tech? I have a leader type personality so I believe I would have a hard time working under the vet.

    Thanks!

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      The grades and prerequisite courses are what matter, and the schools don’t put a lot of weight on community college vs. university. You shouldn’t be at a disadvantage if you’ve met the requirements and have good grades. Keep in mind, however, that the schools are looking for more than just grades, so make sure you get experience and also pursue other things that make you a well-rounded student. Check out our “101″ document for more info: https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx

      There aren’t options other than vet techs when it comes to keeping within the private practice aspect of veterinary medicine, but there are other jobs that combine the science and animal health aspects – laboratory research, zoo animal management, wildlife management, and public health come to mind. I’m probably forgetting a few there, too.

  50. Taylor says:

    Hi, I’m a sophomore in high school and I dream to become a vet. Right now I am taking every science class possible. I applied for this program offered at my school for high school students who want experience and college credit for a career they want to do in the future. The program is a high school called South Tech. Anyway, I signed up and was accepted because of my grades and gpa. I signed up for the vet tech class. The vet techs there get to learn about animals, get animals from a rescue center and help them, etc. But I have been reading lately that vet tech is not the way to go if you want to be an actual vet. Will this affect me in anyway since its just high school class? Thanks!

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      That experience will definitely help you because it exposes you to vet medicine and gives you some very practical skills. In addition, it could help you find a job with a veterinarian as you try to gain experience. I’ve known veterinarians who were vet techs before they became vets, and they were glad they did. The downside is that if you go through a certified veterinary technology program, you might not have the prerequisites required by the vet school and you would have to take additional classes at a college to meet the requirements. Otherwise, it’s a matter of personal choice, and wouldn’t be likely to hurt you.

  51. Graci says:

    I’m 19 years old and am about to finish up my first year at a community college. I’m going for my associates in science to get some pre recs out of the way. I plan to start volunteering at pounds and clinics to get more experience. My end goal is to become a vet. I am very poor, and am considering going to school to be able to get a higher than minimum wage job before continuing my path to veterinary medicine. Would going to school for 2 years to become a vet tech be worth the debt and time if my ultimate goal is being a vet? I’ve heard that being a vet tech can hurt my chances of getting into a vet school. Thank you for your time.

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Graci, becoming a vet tech first should not negatively affect your chances. For some, it’s not the right decision because it might not get all of the prerequisites needed and it can add to the financial burden. For others, though, it offers an opportunity to get a decent-paying job to help save for vet school and possibly make money during vet school. It also allows you the opportunity to work in a vet clinic and gain experience. I can’t tell you if it’s the right decision for you, though – only you can decide that.

  52. Jack says:

    Hi.. I’m from Singapore. Currently, I study veterinary course at university which do not accreditated by AVMA. I hope in future I have a chance to work as zoo veterinarian at U.S or other countries. Is there any ways to do so? Like taking an exam for foreign vet who want work at U.S? And can a normal vet become a zoo vet?

  53. Justin says:

    Hello, I am 18 years old and about to finish my first year at a community college. I am currently pursuing an AA in science in order to get some general requirements out of the way. My end goal is to become a vet, but I have no experience working with animals except the occasional greet here and there. My reason to become a vet is because I love helping others in a direct/indirect way. So I have just started volunteering at the animal shelter in my county in order to get more experience. And my grades thus far is not the best it can be as of this point because my time management skills are not all that great last semester. But this semester, I was able improve a lot after I learned how to manage my time more efficiently. Would no experience thus far and one semester of bad grades greatly hinder my chances?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Justin, it’s great that you recognize the need for the experience because it is critical and animal experience is one of the factors that veterinary schools really look at when they’re considering your application. The animal shelter experience is a good start, and it would be good to veterinary clinic experience as well. Often, volunteering is a great way to get that because you may be allowed to watch more (since they’re not having to pay you for tasks/time). Take a look at the applications process (see http://aavmc.org/Students-Applicants-and-Advisors.aspx for more info) and see what they look for, so you can prepare and be the best candidate you can be.

      Regarding the grades, they may or may not hurt you. The schools look at your overall GPA, so that semester will factor in, and they also look at your GPA in the prerequisite courses (such as biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics). At this time, no experience and one semester of grades would hinder your chances. But you have time to make up for it.

      Good luck!

  54. Emily M. I. Harasyn says:

    Hi, I am a 15 year old freshman in high school… I was wondering if you have to take business classes in high school to become a vet. And I was also wondering if large animal vets have to take different classes than that of small animal vets. I have called a local vet to talk to him about this, and how hard is it to “shadow” a large animal vet who does farm calls? Thank you for you time and I really got a lot of information from this website!!!!! T_T

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Emily, it’s a great idea to have business education any time, because it is always helpful and you’ll be happy you did it if you end up owning or managing a veterinary clinic.

      The basic courses in veterinary school address all species, but many (if not most) veterinary schools allow students to “track” an interest and take additional courses in the species that interest them. As our knowledge expands, it gets harder and harder for the schools to pack all of the knowledge you need in the time they have to educate you.

      It’s hard to say how difficult it would be for you to shadow a vet, because it’s variable. Your state or local authorities may have minimum age requirements for volunteers, so that’s one factor. The availability of a nearby large animal vet is another factor, as is their ability to have a person shadow them. The best thing I can tell you is to call the vets and ask them. Good luck!

  55. Grace says:

    Hi, I am interested in becoming a veterinary doctor in the future. I am now pursuing my A level in a college and am taking Biology , Chemistry , Maths and Psychology as my fourth subject. I am not confident in Physics, that’s why I choose not to take it. Is the combination suitable for studying veterinary course in universities? Most universities look only on the three best subjects, so taking psychology is really due to my personal interest. However, is it better to focus on subjects that help me getting into veterinary schools or shall I just follow my interest?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Grace, physics is a prerequisite for veterinary school, so you will need to take it (and do fairly well) in order to be considered. Veterinary schools don’t only look at the “three best subjects,” they have a list of courses that you are required to take in order for them to consider your application. What I’m saying is based on US schools, I don’t know how non-US schools handle it.

      Take a look at the requirements of the schools that interest you (they vary a little bit, but most of them have similar requirements) and make sure that you’re taking the courses you need to take, or they won’t even consider your application regardless of your grades and experience.

  56. Blanca says:

    Hello, I just have a question. I have graduated UCM with a Bachelors Degree in Human Biology. I want to be a Veterinarian. I’m I able to get any position in a Veterinary Clinic with a Bachelors Degree? I simply want to get more exposed to animals and experience, so that I can apply to Graduate School. I have already volunteered at Merced Zoo and gained experience there. I just want to know if I can get a job position in a Veterinary Clinic?
    Thank You

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Blanca, a Bachelors degree will not get you a job as a veterinarian because you have to get a DVM or VMD (Doctorate) degree in veterinary medicine before you are considered a veterinarian. There is no guarantee that a Bachelors degree will get you any job in a veterinary clinic, so you’ll just have to talk to the hiring managers when you’re applying. It’s great that you’ve gotten some experience already, and it’s good that you’re looking to get more.

  57. jessica says:

    I am 24 I have a BFA in fine art and realized a little to late that it wasn’t for me. I worked with a cat rescue for for years of my five at school. I would like to become a veterinarian but really don’t know where to go or what is required at this juncture. Money is also a concern I support myself and make very little as it is. Ideas?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Hi, Jessica. It’s certainly not too late as far as your age is concerned – there are people who start veterinary school in their 40s or later as a second career. The money could certainly be a problem, I won’t lie to you about that. There aren’t any scholarships to help you in veterinary school – the ones that exist are for relatively small amounts compared to those you might hear about for undergrads. If you’re looking at more undergrad training, and I have little doubt you’ll need some of that to meet the requirements for admission, you’ll have college and veterinary school debt that could exceed $100K pretty easily. There are loans, but you will have to repay them.

      I think your best bet would be to try to get an appointment with an admissions counselor for a veterinary school (if there’s one near you), either in person or by phone, and discuss what you’ve got so far and what you’ll need to complete in order to be considered for admission. Then you’ll have the information you need to make the right decision for you. I wish you the best, whatever decision you make.

  58. Misty says:

    Hi,

    My daughter is 19 and just finished up her first semester as a sophomore in Pre-Vet at Tennessee Tech University. We’ve heard that University of Tennessee has a great vet program but very hard to get in to. Could you offer any advice on getting accepted to vet school? We know volunteering/working for a vet, zoo, etc is good way to start. She has wanted to be a veterinarian since she was 5 years old and I would hate to see her dreams crushed. She finished up this semester with a 3.9 GPA. She also has had a lot of hands on experience with farm animals this semester. And she also wants to know if there is any special training she needs to be a vrt for a zoo.

    Thanks!!!

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Hi Misty, it sounds like she’s taking the right approach. All of the accredited veterinary schools in the US are great programs, and it’s definitely recommended to go to a school in your state to save $$ on tuition. We have a document with some additional guidance that could help her at https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx.

      If she wants to do zoo vet med, that can be a tough field to get into because there are less opportunities. Experience is key, and also making connections with zoo vets. If she can do some volunteer work at even a small zoo, that could be helpful.

      Best of luck to her!

  59. Jecoliah says:

    Hi im doing career fields in school n im only in gr7 whar personal interests and abilities will u need if u want to be a veterinarian

  60. Jecoliah says:

    Thanks Dr. Kimberly May if u don’t mind I reallynneed your help …..so, what are the difficulties of been a veternarian

  61. Angel says:

    Hello :) . I am from NJ and I am at a community college right now. I knew since kindergarten I wanted to be a vet, I have never changed what I wanted to be. I’m going into the vet tech program though. Recently I was at a university going straight for vet school, majoring in biology but I switched it because I was struggling and I wasn’t ready academic wise. Now I really know what it takes and I am ready I’m just trying a different path. So I decided to do the vet tech program to start over and to get the feel of being behind a veterinarian. Do you think it’s a good choice financially to be a vet tech if I want to get my own place soon, not anything like a house but a nice apartment? I know I still want to continue my education because I still want to be a veterinarian. I am aware of the extra courses I have to take too. Also do you think the place I will be working at in the future as a vet tech will help me with continuing my education, like do they have programs for that? Sorry for all the questions, but I wanted to know what is the highest salary a vet tech can get paid too. Thank you in advance for answering my questions, I greatly appreciate it :) .

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Hi, Angel! I really don’t feel like I’m the best person to answer questions about being a vet tech. I think your best bet would be to talk to some vet techs and possibly contact the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). I’m not sure what you mean with your question about if the place you’re working will help you with continuing your education, though. If you’re asking if a vet clinic would financially support you to go to veterinary school, I seriously doubt it. There is little to no financial assistance, other than federal student loans, for veterinary school costs.

  62. abhinav choudhary says:

    Hlo ma’m , I’m a 3rd year veterinary medicine student in India. I want to get admission in post graduation course, but i’ve no idea which post grad. Course i should be taking and by which course i may have better employment options in USA. So please guide me a little about it so that i’ll be able to plan everything accordingly( because it’s difficult getting admission in foreign university and spend time n money , so i was thinking if u could tell me a little about post grad. Courses n job prospects in USA or is it worth doing post grad. Degree or just bachelor’s is good for a good employment )… thanks in advance

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      I’m not familiar with the veterinary training in India, so I’m not sure how much help I can be for you. There are no Council on Education-accredited veterinary schools in India, so once you graduate you would need to successfully complete a program like the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG) and pass the North American Veterinary License Exam as well as the state licensing exam for any states in which you’d practice before you can be a practicing vet in the U.S. Here’s more info for you: https://www.avma.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/Education/Foreign/Pages/ECFVG-working-in-us.aspx. That page also gives links to info about postgrad studies. Good luck!

  63. Adrienna says:

    I’ve looked up as much information as I can regarding a veterinarian… However, there is one thing I’m still curious about.

    I want to be able to work with a wide range of animals. I just can’t figure out if I want to be an exotic animal vet, zoo vet, or equestrian vet. Do I have to pick just one? Or is it possible to be able to be a veterinarian for three of those?

    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      Adrienna, when you graduate from veterinary school, you have the foundations to practice on any of these species. However, one thing to keep in mind is that it can be very difficult to keep up with the explosion of knowledge for ONE species, let alone that many. It’s likely that you will have to narrow your focus in order to keep up with the developments and provide the best quality care. There are veterinarians who do mixed practice, focusing on small and large animals (and possibly some exotics), then do some stuff for smaller, community zoos on the side, but those jobs are not common. Zoo vet jobs are relatively scarce compared to other veterinary jobs, too.

      You don’t need to commit to one type of practice when you enter veterinary school, so my advice would be to keep those interests in mind, have an open mind to other opportunities, and see what appeals to you as you progress through school. You’ll need to get as much exposure to those areas as you can, both before and during veterinary school, to give you a good feel for what’s right for you.

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