Become a Pet Nutrition Counselor: Education and Career Roadmap

Explore the path to becoming a veterinarian or pet nutrition counselor. Research the educational requirements, training and experience required for beginning a career in the field of veterinary medicine. View article »

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  • 0:01 Should I Become a Pet…
  • 1:03 Step 1: Prep for…
  • 1:54 Step 2: Complete…
  • 2:22 Step 3: Earn State Licensure
  • 2:57 Step 4: Complete a Residency
  • 3:51 Step 5: Pursue Certification

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Pet Nutrition Counselor?

Pet nutrition counselors are veterinarians who have received special training in small animal nutrition. Whether a pet is ill or healthy, pet nutrition counselors can advise an owner on the best diet for the pet's condition. Those choosing to work with animals should be compassionate, and cultivate decision-making, interpersonal, management and problem-solving skills.

Degree Level Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
Degree Field Veterinary medicine
Experience Two-year residency under veterinary nutrition specialist
Licensure and Certification State licensure required for all veterinarians
Salary (2015) $99,000 per year (Average salary for veterinarians)

Becoming a veterinarian requires a college education and licensure. Admissions to veterinary programs are highly competitive, and experience working with veterinarians or professionals in areas of health science can give a program applicant an advantage. The education and training generally lead to lofty earnings. Veterinarians in general earned an average yearly salary of $99,000 as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now, let's walk through the steps toward a career as a pet nutrition counselor.

Step 1: Prep for Veterinary School

The first step on this career path takes several years to complete as it is essential to meet the academic and non-academic prerequisites for veterinary school before applying. Academic prerequisites include completion of a bachelor's degree program at an accredited university that includes appropriate coursework in biology, chemistry, physics and math. Potential applicants must also take the Graduate Record Exam general test, an aptitude test that covers verbal reasoning, analytical writing and quantitative reasoning.

Non-academic prerequisites may include a personal statement, work experience in a veterinarian's office or clinic, letters of recommendation and interviews. Letters of recommendation should come from college professors or veterinarians who can evaluate the applicant's ability and potential to be successful in the field.

Step 2: Complete Veterinary School

After meeting prerequisites and applying, you may enroll in veterinary school to attend the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program, which generally take four years to complete. The first two years include coursework in neuroscience, immunology and infectious diseases, among other general aspects of animal medicine. The second two years are often spent specializing in a specific type of animal and doing clinical rotations for hands-on experience.

Step 3: Earn State Licensure

The next step involves state licensure. Veterinary school graduates must pass several licensing examinations in order to practice veterinary medicine. The first exam is the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. Additional examinations vary by state. A state board exam must be taken where the graduate wishes to practice, and other exams, such as the Veterinary Law Exam may be required as well. State licensing is often not transferable to another state, so if a vet wishes to practice in a different state, he or she may have to take another board exam.

Step 4: Complete a Residency

Once you become a licensed veterinarian, you can work toward specializing in pet nutrition. To specialize in veterinary nutrition, a licensed veterinarian must complete a 2-year residency program during which residents work under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian who is a certified veterinary nutritionist. These programs include at least one year of clinical work in a nutrition service. The additional time can be spent doing research, teaching or performing other clinic work.

The resident sees his or her own patients under the supervision of the certified veterinary nutritionist, with increasing independence as the program continues. Keep in mind that to be eligible for certification later on, a resident also must also have published an independent research paper on veterinary nutrition in a peer-reviewed journal. Ideally, this is done during residency.

Step 5: Pursue Certification

The last step on this career path is obtaining certification in this specialty. After completing an approved veterinary nutrition residency program, a licensed vet is eligible to take the certification examination offered by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. Upon passing the exam, the veterinarian earns an ACVN diplomate status and is considered a specialist in veterinary nutrition. An ACVN diplomate can provide the most authoritative nutrition and diet advice to a pet's owner.

To become a pet nutrition specialist, become a licensed veterinarian by obtaining a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and veterinary license before completing a veterinary nutrition residence and earning the ACVN diplomate status.

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