Tuesday, November 24, 2009

So, You Think You Want To Become A Veterinarian?

On occasion I am asked by young people what all is involved in becoming a veterinarian. Most are aware that some higher education is required, which is a considerable improvement from the time about 25 years ago when a client asked my employer, "Where down at city hall does my (teenaged) son go to get his veterinary license? He just LOVES animals and wants to be a vet!"

CVMA has put together a list of recommended high school school classes to take to put you on the road to this very rewarding career, along with the typical university-level prerequisites for applying to vet school. You will need a solid core of science, math, and communications skills, and good grades from the very start are extremely important.

Applying to veterinary school is a highly competetive process. The human medical profession is full of physicians whose first career choice was veterinary medicine, but they couldn't get accepted to vet school. I was shocked to find this last bit out, but a few physicians have confessed as much to me in the privacy of my exam room.

AVMA also has an excellent page on careers in veterinary medicine. Here's a bit from that page:

"Students should perform well in general science and biology in junior high school and pursue a strong science, mathematics, and biology program in high school to prepare for pre-veterinary coursework at a college or university. Before applying to veterinary college/school, students must successfully complete university level undergraduate prerequisites. Each college or school of veterinary medicine establishes its own pre-veterinary requirements, but typically these include demonstrating basic language and communication skills, and completion of courses in the social sciences, humanities, mathematics, biology, chemistry, and physics.

"Admission to veterinary school is highly competitive with the number of qualified applicants admitted varying from year to year. Applicants may be required to take a standardized test (for example, the Graduate Record Examination).

"There are presently 28 AVMA Council on Education accredited colleges/schools of veterinary medicine in the United States, four in Canada, and nine in other countries. Each school is regularly evaluated by the Council on Education and must maintain the quality of its program to remain accredited.

"Most veterinary schools require applications through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS). For information about application requirements, applicant data statistics, and other admissions resources, visit www.aavmc.org/vmcas/vmcas.htm.

"After completing the required veterinary medical curriculum (usually over four years), many graduates choose to pursue additional education in one of 20 AVMA-recognized veterinary specialties such as surgery, internal medicine, animal behavior, dentistry, ophthalmology, pathology or preventive medicine."

I personally needed four years of full-time study plus two summers to complete my BS and all the vet school prerequisites - this was at Colorado State University in the 70's. If anything, things are tougher now, so plan accordingly.