Animal Doctor & Veterinary Medicine Education Requirements

Veterinarians require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the degree programs, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Animal doctors, also known as veterinarians, need extensive schooling in science and completion of a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program in order to practice. Those who decide to pursue a career in diagnosing and treating animals can choose from a variety of specializations, and enjoy strong job growth.

Essential Information

Individuals who have a love for animals and a passion for science may enjoy careers as animal doctors, also known as veterinarians. These professionals diagnose diseases in animals and develop and implement treatment plans. The extensive educational requirements for becoming a vet include completing veterinary school and earning licensure.

Required Education A science-focused undergraduate degree and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) degree with optional residencies and internships
Licensure Required in all states
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 9% (for veterinarians)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)* $88,490 (for veterinarians)

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Educational Requirements for Animal Doctors

Becoming a veterinarian can entail up to eight years of undergraduate and veterinary school in addition to optional internships and residencies. Due to the competitive admissions process, students generally must have completed bachelor's degree programs or, at minimum, pre-veterinary coursework in topics like biology, zoology and animal nutrition. Applicants must also submit scores from a standardized test, such as the Graduate Record Examination.


Veterinary medicine students' curricula are rich in science and animal health courses. They learn through laboratory studies, lectures, class discussions and seminars, and start working with animals early on in the program. Topics of study include anesthesiology, animal anatomy, veterinary ethics, radiology, small animal oncology and animal behavior. Students typically spend their fourth year doing clinical rotations that focus on various specialties of veterinary medicine. Upon completion, graduates earn Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees.

Internship and Residency Options

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that many animal doctors also complete internships upon graduation from veterinary school ( These internships tend to last one year and offer paid, supervised experience that often brings about higher pay later in the intern's career, compared to veterinarians who enter the profession directly after school. Some veterinarians also choose to become board certified in a specialty of the medical field, which entails 3-4 years of residency training.

Animal Doctor Licensure Requirements

Veterinarians are required in every state to have a license to practice medicine on animals. Before they can get their licenses, they must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). The NAVLE is a computer-based, 360-item test administered by the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners ( Some states also require animal doctors to pass state-administered tests on clinical aptitude and veterinary law. Veterinarians are required to take continuing education courses to maintain licensure.

Career and Salary Information

The BLS predicts a much faster than average job growth rate of 9% for veterinarians in the years 2014-2024. The BLS reported in May 2015 that veterinarians earned $88,490 as a median annual wage.

If you are interested in science and enjoy working with animals, you might consider a career in animal medicine. The path to becoming a veterinarian involves completing a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree program, completing an internship or residency, and passing standardized licensing tests, which are required by all 50 states.

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