Veterinarian (Equine): How Does One Become an Equine Veterinarian?

Research the requirements to become an equine veterinarian. Learn about the job description, and read about the step-by-step process to start a career in veterinary medicine.

Should I Become an Equine Veterinarian?

Equine veterinarians are animal doctors who provide medical care for horses. They examine, test and occasionally operate on or euthanize the animals. Travel to ranches and farms is often necessary, and equine vets have to work outdoors in various types of weather conditions. In addition, surgeries sometimes have to be performed on-site under dubious levels of cleanliness.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Licensure (Certification) Licensure is required in all 50 states and the District of Columbia; certification is available through the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Experience Internships or residency programs
Key Skills Compassion, decision-making, communication, management, problem-solving, manual dexterity
Salary (2014) $87,590 (Median annual wage for all veterinarians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), O*Net Online

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

While no specific major is necessary for pre-veterinary degrees, it is helpful to have undergraduate training in the sciences, such as biology, chemistry, physics, genetics, zoology and nutrition. Prerequisites for veterinary school may include coursework in math, English, humanities, social science and business. Most equine veterinarians hold bachelor's degrees before entering veterinary school; however, some veterinary colleges admit students with only 45-90 undergraduate credits.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. According to the BLS, equine veterinarians who complete an internship program before entering the practice generally experience greater employment opportunities and higher pay later in their careers. Internships typically last one year and offer paid, practical experience in equine medicine.

Step 2: Earn a Veterinary Medicine Degree

According to the BLS, admission to veterinary school has become increasingly competitive in the past few decades because the number of applicants has outgrown the number of colleges. Those with bachelor's degrees have the best chances for admission. Admission requirements vary by school, but all applicants must sit for a standardized test, such as the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) or VCAT (Veterinary College Admission Test).

Veterinary school generally lasts four years and results in a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) degree. The first two years of veterinary school typically take place in the classroom and focus on biomedical science courses and preparation for clinical practice. In the last two years, students usually participate in clinical clerkships, gaining hands-on, animal care experience under the supervision of licensed veterinarians. During the fourth year, students can choose to complete clinical rotations in equine medicine, among other specialties. Some veterinary school graduates choose to enter clinical practice directly after earning a D.V.M. or V.M.D and obtaining state licensure.

Step 3: Obtain a License

All 50 states and the District of Columbia require veterinarians to be licensed. The requirements to earn a license vary from state to state, but all aspiring veterinarians must complete a veterinary training program and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. The exam is offered by the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME).

Step 4: Consider a Specialty

Some equine veterinarians pursue advanced training in a specialty, such as internal medicine, surgery, neurology, dentistry or preventive medicine. To become specialists, veterinarians must complete 3-4 years of residency training in an area of expertise approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Equine veterinarians are then eligible to apply for board certification in their specialties.

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