How Do I Become A Veterinarian?

"I really want to become a veterinarian after school so that I can help animals. I always knew I was interested in medicine, but I finally have figured out that I want to become a vet and not a doctor, as I originally had planned. I don’t know anything about how to get to my new goal, though. What do I need to do to ensure I get a job as a vet?"

asked by Josh from Nampa, ID

First you will need to get into a veterinary school. Start by taking courses which can prepare you (in high school or college) like biology and chemistry. You will need to choose an undergraduate program to get started. Usually something like biology which provides you with the prerequisite classes you need to move onto the advanced degree program is best, since it will make you more competitive (and cut down on time later). It is key to keep your grade point average as high as you can. Most vet schools will most closely examine your last 3 to 4 semesters, and will look for a GPA of 3.5 or above.

Another good move is to start volunteering. Check with your local vet clinics to see if you can start getting some hands-on experience. This is also a good way to be sure that you are on the right career track and will find this job rewarding. Working as a vet can be emotionally very stressful, so it is good to get some first-hand experience.

This will look great to the admissions boards when it comes time to apply for vet school. You will also need to pass the GRE and get some letters of recommendation. At least one must be from a veterinarian (another reason volunteering is a great idea).

Your grad school program will probably last four years. At the end of that time, you will have earned a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. You will study biochemistry, pharmacology, and more, and do a lot of clinical work during your third and fourth years. Make sure that you find an accredited program; there are not that many of them, which is one reason vet school is so competitive. If you can, do an internship while you are in school.

Once you graduate, you will have to pass the licensing exam and pass the licensing board requirements in your state (they can vary). You’ll take an oath, and then you will be ready to search for jobs. There are tons of different opportunities out there.

Most vets work in clinics treating cats, dogs, and other common pets, but some work at zoos treating exotic animals, and others work with farm animals. Many vets continue to take classes and enhance their education and skills long after finding work.

Vet school is difficult to get into, but that should not deter you from pursuing a career in the field. The need for vets is going to grow by leaps and bounds in the years ahead. This makes this the perfect time to start planning a veterinarian career!

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