Choosing Veterinary medicine as a Career | General Statistics | Preparing for a Career in Veterinary medicine | The Admissions Process | Sample Undergraduate Program | Relevant Websites and Resources | Frequently Asked Questions |
Veterinary medicine offers a broad variety of career opportunities. The majority of veterinarians work in private small, large or mixed animal clinical practice diagnosing and treating illnesses of animals and maintaining their health. Many other veterinarians practice with county, state and federal governments, universities, private industry, zoos, the U.S. military, and wildlife organizations. Daily activities of a veterinarian may include clinical practice, education, regulation enforcement, biomedical research, and traveling. As a veterinarian, you may also work with individuals trained in closely related fields to veterinary medicine, such as animal welfare, wildlife preservation, marine biology, agriculture, and animal training and breeding.
Fast Facts PDF
Choosing Veterinary Medicine as a Career
Many individuals interested in studying veterinary medicine had a strong desire to work with animals beginning at a very young age. Others have gained an interest later in life. Veterinary medicine recruits individuals from all types of backgrounds with diverse goals.
There are many reasons students choose veterinary medicine as a career:
- Salary income: according to Bureau of Labor and Statistics, veterinarians earned a median average of $71,990 in 2006.
- Satisfying professional career: many veterinarians enjoy the independence and autonomy of owning their own practice and the flexibility of determining their practice hours (thus allowing more time for personal life).
- Career outlook is excellent: increasing demands by animal owners and production animal managers is resulting in a demand for additional veterinarians in companion and production animal practice.
- Bioterrorism and national security needs: there is an extreme shortage of veterinarians who enter research and public practice. Many doors will be open for those who pursue this path.
- Opportunities in ecological health: there is a demand for veterinary expertise on issues pertinent to the environment, conservation, aquaculture, and wildlife management.
- Increased specialization in the future: not only are practices focused on large or small animals, they are also developed specializing in critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.
- Working with federal agencies: veterinarians are hired by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Defense, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Nearly 80% of all veterinary students are female: the number of women applying to and matriculating into veterinary schools is increasing.
- Pet owners are purchasing pet insurance: more individuals are spending more and more money on veterinary care for their pets.
To date, there are currently 80,000 practicing veterinarians. About 75% of veterinarians work in private practice and supervise Veterinary Assistants and Technicians. Others serve in wildlife management groups, zoos, aquariums, and animal shelters. Many also work with government agencies, in academics, and with biomedical research.
Most veterinary schools require at least 3 years of college; some require a baccalaureate degree. When reviewing admissions statistics, most students matriculating into veterinary schools enter with at least a bachelor's degree or an advanced degree. To receive a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree, one must complete 4 years of professional education with at least 1-4 years of residency training.
In the U.S., there are only 28 colleges and schools of veterinary medicine that offer approximately 2,645 positions for first-year students. Because of this, veterinary schools tend to be even more competitive and harder to get into then medical schools! Ohio residents generally have their best chances of getting accepted into an Ohio veterinary school. Currently, Ohio only has one veterinary school: The Ohio State University. Veterinary school admission statistics can be found at the following links:
- National Statistics
- Ohio Statistics
For more information on veterinary school admission statistics, please visit the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website at www.avma.org, or the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) website at www.aavmc.org.
Preparing for a Career in Veterinary medicine
Does it matter what you major in if you want to pursue veterinary school? While the answer is "no", the majority of veterinary students major in biology, and sometimes psychology (behavioral sciences). What's most important is that the student completes the necessary course requirements for admission. Because of the minimal number of seats available in veterinary schools, not every qualified applicant will be accepted. Thus, it is always important to major in a discipline that provides the student with additional career options should they not be accepted into veterinary school. Often, students who are not accepted to veterinary school the first time around will apply during a second application cycle and gain admission.
Admission requirements to the veterinary schools vary by school. However, all veterinary schools require successful completion of the preprofessional course requirements, maintenance of a high GPA, competitive standardized test (GRE) scores, exposure to different fields of veterinary medicine, and demonstration of leadership.
Required Coursework: it is important to remember that each veterinary school requires a different set of courses and it is the student's responsibility to be familiar with the schools you plan on applying to. Below is a list of courses required by many of the colleges and schools:
Math and Sciences
Biology with lab
Inorganic Chemistry + lab
Organic Chemistry + lab
Not all courses are required by each school and some schools will allow closely-related courses as substitutions. In addition, some schools will require courses in business/finance, physiology, vertebrate anatomy, technical writing, history, economics, or a computer skills course. It is important that a student works with the Pre-Health Advisor or veterinary school admission representatives when questioning course requirements. Applicants who do not complete the necessary course requirements will not gain admission.
Most veterinary schools give preference to applicants who will have earned a baccalaureate degree prior to matriculation. Although a degree is not required (minimum 3 years of college study is required), less than 1% of the matriculating class had not completed a degree.
The Admissions Process
Factors Evaluated by Admission Committees:
- Academic Record: one of the most important factors in admissions decisions. Committees will evaluate cumulative GPA as well as science GPA, courses completed, academic rigor, and trends in performance. An outstanding resource that provides students with average GPAs and test scores accepted by each school is the Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements, or VMSAR.
- Standardized Test: required by all veterinary schools. This test can be one of the following:
- Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
- Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
- GRE Biology
Most veterinary schools require the general GRE exam. Again, it is important for the student to be familiar with individual school requirements and to consult with the Pre-Health Advisor. Most schools have minimum test score requirements and deadlines for reporting the scores in order for a student to be eligible for admission. GRE exams can be taken early, sometimes after a student's second year of college. However, it is most important for a student to take the exam only when they are fully prepared. Most students will take the GRE test in the spring of the year they are applying. A student is eligible, and strongly encouraged, to retake the GRE if original scores were not competitive.
- Experience in the Veterinary Field: it is important that an applicant gain exposure to animal and health-related fields. Through this experience, applicants need to demonstrate their commitment to veterinary medicine, gain exposure to a variety of practices (especially large and exotic animals), and show confidence and compassion around animals. Examples of ways to gain animal exposure are:
- Through internships
- Shadowing or assisting at private veterinary practices
- Participating in animal-related research
- Working on a farm; training horses; at a zoo; grooming dogs and cats
Sample Undergraduate Program
- B.S. Biological Sciences/pre-vet - Coming Soon
- B.S. Psychology/pre-vet - Coming Soon
Relevant Websites and Resources
- Associate of American Veterinary Medical Colleges www.aavmc.org
- American Veterinary Medical Association www.avma.org
- Veterinary Medical School Admissions Requirements (VMSAR): can be found in your local or school library; consult with Pre-Health Advisor for information
- Veterinary Information Network www.vin.com
- www.ExploreHealthCareers.org Sponsored by the American Dental Education Association, it provides about all health-related occupations.
- Health Professions Admissions Guide: Strategy for Success. National Association of Advisor for the Health Professions, Inc. (NAAHP)
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I apply to vet school?
Students interested in attending vet school immediately after college should begin preparing their application materials during the spring of their junior year. Applications aren't normally available until early in the summer, but students can begin requesting letters of recommendations, drafting personal statements and submitting transcript requests in the spring. Completed applications should be submitted in the fall semester of their senior year (most deadlines are October 1st). Because vet schools do not require the completion of an undergraduate degree, very well-qualified students may submit their applications in the fall of their second or third year. However, it's important to remember that a very small percentage of students who don't complete an undergraduate degree are accepted into vet school.
How do I go about applying to veterinary school?
Most veterinary schools require that applications be processed through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS). The application is web-based and is completed by the applicant only once. Once submitted, the completed application is processed and sent to each school the student wishes to apply. The VMCAS becomes available each year in late May/early June and can be found at www.aavmc.org
Two additional, and very important, components of the application are the personal statement and letters of evaluation. The personal statement should be written in a way that demonstrates who the applicant really is; their unique attributes and aspirations. It also gives the committee members an idea of the applicant's communication skills and writing ability. Applicants should address such things as career goals and objectives, their understanding of veterinary medicine, and why this is the right career field for them. The VMCAS application also requires that letters of recommendation be submitted through its Electronic Letters of Recommendation system (eLOR). Every school that receives a student's application will also receive the same letters of recommendation.
Not all veterinary schools use VMCAS as their application processing system and require students to submit individual applications to their schools. Contact the Pre-Health Advisor or admission representatives if you have any questions about the application process.
What is an acceptable GRE or MCAT score?
At the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, students need to post a minimum GRE score of 955 (total for all subsets) or MCAT score of 24. Competitive GRE scores generally average near 1190.
Where can I find more information about the GRE or MCAT?
For information on when and where you can take the GRE, visit the website www.ets.org or call 1-800-473-2255. Information about the MCAT can be found at www.aamc.org
How many letters of evaluation are required for vet school?
The VMCAS application requires that you enter the names for three evaluators. Generally, veterinary schools like to see a letter from a practicing veterinarian and at least one science professor. Other letters can come from research professors, internship supervisors, pre-health advisors, employers, etc.
What is the veterinary school interview like?
Not all veterinary schools require an interview. Those that do, generally only invite applicants that are seriously being considered for matriculation. Applicants will be expected to discuss their motivation for veterinary medicine, their personal and professional goals, and their assessment of current animal health issues. Interviewing formats vary and can either be one-on-one or in a small group. Applicants are usually provided with information about the school's interviewing process before the interview. Most students will be taken on school tours, meet with current students, and discuss financial costs with an advisor.
For assistance in preparing for the interviewing process, please contact the Pre-Health Advisor or the Career Services office to schedule a mock interview.
What types of extracurricular activities and work experience should I have in order to be a competitive applicant?
" Community service that demonstrates a commitment to helping animals and/or increasing awareness of animal health issues
" Leadership positions, such as in student organizations, charity organizations, fundraiser activities, etc.
" Activities that demonstrate your ability to manage multiple tasks while performing well academically
" Shadowing hours with a practicing veterinarian or assisting at a shelter, grooming facility or zoo.
"Quality and persistence are far more important than quantity"
When will I find out if I am accepted into vet school?
Veterinary schools generally hold interviews between the months of November through March and may begin sending offers of acceptance as early as December 1st. Most veterinary schools will require a tuition deposit to hold a position in a class.
Are there any joint degree programs provided with veterinary medicine?
Yes, some programs will offer a joint Master's (e.g., Public Health, Business Administration) or Doctoral (Ph.D.). For more information on these degree programs, you can see the Pre-Health Advisor or speak with an admission representative.
Does Wright State have a pre-vet student organization?
Yes! The University has a student organization for pre-vet students that provides mentoring, educational speakers, volunteer and community service, and social activities. If you are interested in joining, please contact the President of the pre-vet society, the pre-vet peer mentor, or the Pre-Health Advisor.