If you want to go to veterinary medical school, be prepared to put in the
time and hard work to get excellent grades. Competition is fierce. And simply
having a love of animals isn't enough.
The first step is a pre-vet program. These generally last two to three
years. But many students decide to complete a four-year undergraduate degree
before going to veterinary school.
In general, you'll want to choose a pre-vet school that has a strong biological
science program. That's according to the Association of American Veterinary
Medical Colleges (AAVMC). You can get a good biological science foundation
at some liberal arts colleges.
But in the U.S., there are benefits to going to a school that has ties
to the college of agriculture at a state university. That's because most of
the state universities have programs tailored to the needs of the veterinary
All veterinary schools must meet standards established by the Council on
Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Expect to take courses in anatomy, biochemistry, embryology, physiology,
microbiology, clinical medicine, surgery and more. Don't expect to spend
much classroom time with actual animals until your last two years.
That's why outside experience with animals is so important. The
earlier you start and the more you get, the better.
Volunteer at a zoo or an animal clinic. Keep a diary of the kind
of work you do. That could help you figure out what kind of veterinary medicine
you want to specialize in.
Roberta Dwyer is a veterinary professor at the University of Kentucky.
She recommends working with vets to gain experience. Join any leadership clubs
that emphasize communication skills. Try activities that emphasize working
"It takes much more than just liking animals to be a veterinarian," she
says. "You have to be able to work with people as well, since they own the
In high school, concentrate on science and math. Also, participate
in science and chemistry clubs, science fairs, 4-H, Future Farmers of America
(FFA) or other agricultural activities.
Schools look for well-rounded students, says Dana Allen. Allen is
a professor of small animal internal medicine at a veterinary college. "[Veterinary
students should be] not only academically strong, but demonstrate involvement
in extracurricular activities, for example, sports, the arts [and] the community,"
You'll need thermometers, stethoscopes, lab materials and lab coats. The
cost for these can really add up.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Veterinarians
Center for Veterinary Medicine
A great place for information
NetVet and the Electronic Zoo
Lots of neat resources
News and resources for those interested in animal rights issues
Information from the American Animal Hospital Association