Veterinary Studies Programs by Degree Level

Veterinary studies degree programs are offered at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. These programs offer instruction for students pursuing careers as veterinarians, educators and researchers.

Essential Information

Bachelor's degree programs in veterinary science are usually geared toward those who plan to pursue a graduate degree, although graduates may work as animal keepers, veterinary assistants or veterinary technologists. Students in this kind of program learn about animal anatomy, diseases, genetics and biochemistry. A master's degree program in veterinary science is available as a standalone program or as a combined program with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. Students do lab work and take courses in advanced animal anatomy and physiology, as well as complete a thesis. A DVM program prepares students to become licensed veterinarians and includes research, laboratory work and clinical rotations. Those who want a doctoral degree and would rather work in veterinary research than medicine may pursue a doctoral degree in veterinary studies. This program involves the advanced study of animal nutrition, biology, genetics, pathology and virology.

  • Prerequisites: High school diploma or GED; SAT/ACT scores; Bachelor's degree (for master's); GRE, VCAT, and/or MCAT scores (for doctorate); High school biology, algebra, and chemistry are desired; Letter of recommendation (for master's and doctorate);
  • Other Requirements: Internships available; Experience working with animals (for doctorate)

Bachelor's Degree in Veterinary Science

Bachelor's degree programs in veterinary studies are often designed as pre-veterinary programs that provide training to students who intend to become veterinarians. Undergraduate programs may also prepare students for graduate school or careers in the animal industry. Veterinary studies bachelor's degree programs have a strong foundation in basic sciences and provide instruction in animal health, welfare, and nutrition, including common illnesses and rare diseases. Bachelor's degree programs are often offered through the agricultural or animal science colleges or universities. Bachelor's degree programs in veterinary studies focus on science and lab work related to animal science. In addition to math, physics, biology, and chemistry, students learn about various types of animals, their anatomy and diseases that affect them. Course topics may include:

  • Biochemistry
  • Animal parasite biology
  • Livestock and companion animal diseases
  • Molecular virology
  • Genetics of microorganisms
  • Microbial-host interactions

Master's Degrees in Veterinary Science

Master's degree programs in veterinary science typically take two years to complete and often focus on a particular area, such as animal anatomy and physiology, pathology, microbiology, radiological health sciences, or biomedicine. Master's degree programs may also focus on nonmedical issues, such as public policy regarding animal welfare. Some master's degree programs are combined with Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) programs and offer a concentration in a particular area, such as biomedical research, neuroscience, oncology, epidemiology, bioethics, and environmental health. Combined programs may take five years or more to complete. Master's degree coursework in veterinary studies programs often combines lecture classes, lab experience, and the completion of a research report or thesis. Students become familiar with laboratory techniques and research methods, learn to identify infectious diseases, and take advanced courses in animal physiology and anatomy. Course topics may include:

  • Disease mechanisms
  • Molecular biology
  • Parasitology
  • Virology
  • Immunology
  • Animal genetics

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree

According to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) (, there are 28 accredited veterinary colleges in the United States. Veterinary school takes four years to complete and requires a combination of classroom instruction, laboratory work, research and clinical rotations. Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) programs train large and small animal health care providers as well as research scientists. Some schools offer concurrent master's degrees and Ph.D.s along with a DVM degree. Veterinarians can pursue careers in private practice, food safety, wildlife medicine, animal surgery, epidemiology, and disease control.

The first three years of a 4-year veterinary doctoral program are often devoted to coursework in science, medical practice and research, including medicine for small animals, equine medicine, clinical pathology, radiobiology, diagnostic imaging, neurobiology and surgery principles. The final year provides an opportunity for hands-on clinical rotations in a variety of areas, including:

  • Anesthesiology
  • Oncology
  • Neurology
  • Surgery
  • Ophthalmology
  • Emergency medical care

Doctorate Degree Programs in Veterinary Studies

Doctoral programs in veterinary studies provide in-depth coursework in research disciplines related to animal science. Veterinary Ph.D. programs can be completed in about four years; however, some schools offer combined DVM and Ph.D. programs that can be completed in six years. In addition to coursework and lab experience, programs may also include a residency and dissertation requirement. Doctoral programs may focus on a variety of areas, including biomedical sciences, reproductive biology, vaccine development, environmental medicine, public health, nutrition, or informatics. Classes could include:

  • Bacteriology
  • Genetics
  • Virology
  • Vascular system biology
  • Pathology
  • Nutrition

Popular Career Options

A bachelor's degree in veterinary studies can qualify graduates for some animal care and research positions, as well as entry-level management, sales and administration careers in animal-related industries. Career options may include:

  • Pet pharmaceuticals sales representative
  • Animal welfare organization administrator
  • Pet food development
  • Livestock product management
  • Veterinary assistant
  • Veterinary technician or technologist

Master's degree programs in veterinary studies prepare students for careers that include education, research, public health and conservation. Career options may include:

  • Animal biotechnologist
  • Animal product development
  • Veterinary genetic research
  • Cell culture specialization

Students who complete Ph.D. programs in veterinary studies often pursue research careers, in which they compete for federal funds and grants. Those who also complete DVM degrees may work as research veterinarians. Other job titles may include:

  • Veterinary medicine independent investigator
  • Veterinary pathologist
  • Food production development specialist
  • Professor of veterinary medicine
  • Senior biotechnologist

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ( has predicted job growth of 12% for veterinarians throughout the 2012-2022 decade. The BLS has attributed the projected growth to a greater demand for nontraditional veterinary services such as preventive medicine, transplant surgery, cancer treatment, and dental care. Most veterinarians work in private practice, while smaller numbers work for educational institutions, research labs and government agencies. The average annual salary for veterinarians in May 2014 was $98,230, the BLS stated.

Continuing Education Information

After completing a DVM degree, students often participate in internship and residency training programs, which may be offered in specific disciplines, such as small and large animal practices, equine medicine, or biomedical sciences. According to the BLS, veterinarians must obtain licensure in all states in order to practice. Licensure requirements typically include a DVM degree and a passing grade on the North American Veterinary Licensing exam.

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