Career Information for a Degree or Certification in Veterinary Science

Sep 26, 2019

Studies in veterinary science are necessary to become a veterinarian, veterinary technician or veterinary technologist. Veterinary technicians need to complete an associate's degree, while veterinary technologists need a bachelor's degree in veterinary technology. Veterinarians must have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and a state license.

Essential Information

There are three levels of education for veterinary science: an associate's degree for those pursuing a career as a veterinary technician, a bachelor's degree for veterinary technologists, and a doctorate for those who are pursuing a career as a veterinarian. Veterinarians can choose to specialize in domestic or exotic pets, farm animals or zoo animals. Online classes for this area of study are minimal as it is very hands-on and most science courses require lab work. Part of the education will be gaining experience in clinical environments to prepare students for real life situations. An associate's degree for a veterinary technician typically takes two years to earn, while a bachelor's degree takes four years to complete. Total school time for a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine is usually eight years. Prerequisites for veterinary medical college include a variety of science courses covered in detail below.

Careers Veterinarian Veterinary Technologist Veterinarian Technician
Required Education Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree bachelor's degree associate's degree
Other Requirements clinical work, license, certification optional license varies by state, certification optional license varies by state, certification optional
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 18% 19% for all veterinary technologists and technicians 19% for all veterinary technologists and technicians
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $93,830 $34,420 for all veterinary technologists and technicians $34,420 for all veterinary technologists and technicians

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Veterinary science is a broad field that encompasses various levels of veterinary medicine. Some shorter programs, such as associate's degree programs, prepare graduates to become veterinary technicians. At the bachelor's degree level, departments of veterinary science commonly offer pre-vet degree programs. At the graduate level, the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) is a professional degree that qualifies graduates to become veterinarians.


Veterinarians provide care to companion pets, livestock, zoo animals and horses. They also work in research laboratories. They can provide medication and vaccination, set fractures, dress wounds, perform surgery and educate owners about breeding, animal behavior and feeding. Other employment opportunities include working for the government as an inspector of meat, poultry, egg products, and slaughtering and processing plants. According to American Medical Veterinary Association (AMVA), most veterinarians work in private medical practices. They may work in zoos, animal research laboratories or work with farm animals.

Employment opportunities for veterinarians were expected to increase more than average compared to other fields. Advances in the medical practice allow veterinarians to provide treatments that were not available in the past.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of veterinarians was expected to increase by 9% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS reported that in May 2015, the median annual wages of veterinarians were $88,490.


Veterinary medical colleges require applicants to have taken coursework in areas like microbiology, anatomy, physiology, zoology, histology, and animal nutrition. Other programs require knowledge of genetics, biochemistry, organic chemistry, calculus, statistics, algebra and trigonometry. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredits veterinary medical education to ensure that minimum standards are met and that the graduates are prepared for entry-level positions.

DVM programs typically last four years, including multiple clinical experiences and coursework. In some cases, students may find undergraduate Bachelor of Science programs that allow them to transfer directly into a DVM program and offers combined coursework. Graduate level veterinary coursework can include subjects like immunology, physiology, nutrition, small and large animals, infectious diseases and cardiology.

Licensure and Certification

Licensing varies from state to state, but all states require graduates of an accredited DVM program to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE) administered by the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME). The American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) offers certification in ten recognized veterinary specialties.

Certification can demonstrate professional skill and knowledge in species-oriented clinical practice. To apply for certification, veterinarians should have completed five years of clinical practice before the application and six years of clinical practice before the examination. Other specialty certification agencies may include the American College of Poultry Veterinarians (ACPV), American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM) and American College of Zoological Medicine (ACZM).

Veterinary Technicians and Technologists

The BLS lists veterinarian technicians together with veterinary technologists. As of May 2015, the median annual salary for veterinary technologists and technicians was $31,800. Job growth was expected to increase by 19% for the years 2014 to 2024, as stated by the BLS. Veterinary technicians need an associate's degree to enter their field, while veterinary technologists are required to have a bachelor's degree.

Several years of postsecondary studies are needed to prepare for a career as a veterinarian. Veterinarians must have a doctoral degree and complete state licensing requirements; certification is voluntary. Veterinary technicians and technologists assist veterinarians and can expect strong job growth from 2018 to 2028, while veterinarians will enjoy job growth that is much faster than average.

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