Veterinarian Training Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a veterinarian. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about the degree programs, job duties and licensure requirements to find out if this is the career for you.

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Veterinarians work with animals, providing preventive, emergency, and other medical care. A Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, sometimes with an internship, is required, along with passing a state licensing exam. Vets can specialize working with small or large animals and can work in other medical specialties, usually requiring additional training or residency.

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Essential Information

Veterinarians diagnose and treat diseases and disorders in animals. Students in veterinary schools typically have a bachelor's degree in a related field and experience working with animals. After obtaining a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.), veterinarians must pass their state's licensing exam before they can practice.

Required Education Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Other Requirements State license required; professional certification optional
Projected Job Growth 9% from 2014-2024*
Median Salary (2015) $88,490 annually*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Undergraduate Training

Some of the programs at the 28 veterinary colleges accredited nationally by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Association (AVMA), do not require an undergraduate degree for admission. However, they do require between 45 and 90 semester hours of prerequisite courses.

An applicant's undergraduate program should consist of courses in topics such as physics, biochemistry, general biology, animal biology, genetics, zoology, animal nutrition and vertebrate embryology. Typically, veterinary colleges also place considerable importance on a candidate's animal experience, such as working in agribusiness, veterinary clinics, animal shelters, stables or farms.

Depending on the school, scores from the Medical College Admission Test, GRE or Veterinary College Admission Test are required for admission.

Veterinary School Training

Veterinary schools offer 4-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine programs. During the first two years, the programs usually consist of advanced training in the basic veterinary sciences, such as those covered in prerequisite courses. The final two years of the programs consist of training in clinical procedures, including disease diagnosis and treatment, surgery, toxicology, obstetrics, anesthesiology, radiology, zoonosis, which is any animal diseases that can be transmitted to humans and anthroponosis, which is any human disease that can be transmitted to animals.

It's during veterinary school that many students decide to concentrate on becoming large animal vets, dealing with farm animals, such as horses and cows, or small animal vets, dealing with domestic pets, such as dogs and cats.

Following graduation, some individuals choose to participate in a 1-year internship to fine-tune their veterinary skills and possibly secure more rapid advancement in the field.

Licensure Requirements

With the occasional exception of employment by federal or state governments, all states and the District of Columbia require newly graduated veterinarians to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination, in order to practice. D.V.M. candidates must pass an examination on state laws and regulations governing the field of veterinary medicine. Most states require veterinarians to participate in continuing education dealing with newly discovered diseases and newly developed treatments in order to renew a vet's license on a regular basis.

Because there is little reciprocity between states, as a general rule, veterinarians who move to a new state must pass that state's licensure examinations.

In order to fulfill the national educational licensure requirement, individuals who have received veterinary training outside the United States must demonstrate a proficiency in the English language, as well as clinical competence. This is accomplished by sitting for an examination administered by the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates.

Certification Requirements

While not mandatory, some veterinarians decide to become certified by the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties in a veterinary medicine specialty. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, depending on the specialty, individuals must complete a residency that can last up to four years (www.bls.gov). Among the 39 AVMA-recognized veterinary specialties are exotic-small-animal medicine, internal medicine, dentistry, dermatology, cardiology, preventative medicine and oncology.

Veterinarians are medical practitioners specializing in animals. They usually complete a bachelor's degree and then a post-secondary doctor of veterinary medicine degree. Licensing is required, which includes testing and other requirements once education is completed.

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