Prospective veterinarians must graduate with a Doctor of Veterinary
Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) degree from a 4-year program at an
accredited college of veterinary medicine. There are 28 colleges in 26
States that meet accreditation standards set by the Council on Education
of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
The prerequisites for admission vary. Many of these
colleges do not require a bachelor's degree for entrance, but all
require a significant number of credit hours -- ranging from 45 to 90
semester hours -- at the undergraduate level. However, most of the
students admitted have completed an undergraduate program. Applicants
without a bachelor's degree face a difficult task gaining admittance.
should emphasize the sciences. Veterinary medical colleges typically
require applicants to have taken classes in organic and inorganic
chemistry, physics, biochemistry, general biology, animal biology,
animal nutrition, genetics, vertebrate embryology, cellular biology,
microbiology, zoology, and systemic physiology. Some programs require
calculus; some require only statistics, college algebra and
trigonometry, or pre-calculus. Most veterinary medical colleges also
require some courses in English or literature, other humanities, and the
social sciences. Increasingly, courses in general business management
and career development have become a standard part of the curriculum to
teach new graduates how to effectively run a practice.
addition to satisfying preveterinary course requirements, applicants
must submit test scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the
Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT), or the Medical College
Admission Test (MCAT), depending on the preference of the college to
which they are applying. Currently, 22 schools require the GRE, 4
require the VCAT, and 2 accept the MCAT.
veterinary school is competitive. The number of accredited veterinary
colleges has remained largely the same since 1983, but the number of
applicants has risen significantly. Only about 1 in 3 applicants are
decisions, some veterinary medical colleges place heavy consideration on
a candidate's veterinary and animal experience. Formal experience, such
as work with veterinarians or scientists in clinics, agribusiness,
research, or some area of health science, is particularly advantageous.
Less formal experience, such as working with animals on a farm or ranch
or at a stable or animal shelter, also is helpful. Students must
demonstrate ambition and an eagerness to work with animals.
New graduates with a
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree may begin to practice veterinary
medicine once they receive their license, but many new graduates choose
to enter a 1-year internship. Interns receive a small salary but often
find that their internship experience leads to better paying
opportunities later, relative to those of other veterinarians.
Veterinarians who then seek board certification also must complete a
3-year to 4-year residency program that provides intensive training in
one of the 39 AVMA-recognized veterinary specialties including internal
medicine, oncology, pathology, dentistry, nutrition, radiology, surgery,
dermatology, anesthesiology, neurology, cardiology, ophthalmology,
preventive medicine, and exotic-small-animal medicine.
All States and the
District of Columbia require that veterinarians be licensed before they
can practice. The only exemptions are for veterinarians working for some
Federal agencies and some State governments. Licensing is controlled by
the States and is not uniform, although all States require the
successful completion of the D.V.M. degree—or equivalent education—and a
passing grade on a national board examination, the North American
Veterinary Licensing Exam. This 8-hour examination consists of 360
multiple-choice questions covering all aspects of veterinary medicine as
well as visual materials designed to test diagnostic skills.
Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates grants
certification to individuals trained outside the United States who
demonstrate that they meet specified requirements for English language
and clinical proficiency. This certification fulfills the educational
requirement for licensure in all States.
Most States also
require candidates to pass a State jurisprudence examination covering
State laws and regulations. Some States do additional testing on
clinical competency as well. There are few reciprocal agreements between
States, so veterinarians who wish to practice in a different State
usually must first pass that State's examinations.
veterinarians begin as employees in established group practices. Despite
the substantial financial investment in equipment, office space, and
staff, many veterinarians with experience eventually set up their own
practice or purchase an established one.
Newly trained veterinarians can become U.S. Government meat and poultry
inspectors, disease-control workers, animal welfare and safety workers,
epidemiologists, research assistants, or commissioned officers in the
U.S. Public Health Service or various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
A State license may be required.
Nearly all States have continuing education requirements for licensed
veterinarians. Requirements differ by State and may involve attending a
class or otherwise demonstrating knowledge of recent medical and
represents the highest standard of achievement for veterinary medical
education in the United States. Institutions that earn accreditation
confirm their commitment to quality and continuous improvement through
a rigorous and comprehensive peer review. There are several
college is many states that meet accreditation standards set by the Council on
Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association of the American
Veterinary Medical Association. Be sure to check to see if a program is currently accredited before registering.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.