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How to Become an Equine Practitioner: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Aug 09, 2018

Learn how to become an equine practitioner. Use our step-by-step career guide to explore the education and licensing requirements that can help you start a career in equine healthcare. View article »

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  • 0:04 Equine Practitioners
  • 0:48 Career Requirements
  • 1:27 Steps 1 & 2
  • 2:36 Steps 3 & 4
  • 3:56 Steps 5 & 6
  • 4:55 Step 7

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Video Transcript

Equine Practitioners

Equine practitioners are veterinarians who specialize in treating horses. They work for private practices, animal hospitals, and government agencies. Some find employment in industry, teaching, and research. While equine practitioners who conduct research often do so in typical office conditions, those who specialize in hands-on care may work in veterinary clinics or travel to farms or ranches for on-site care. Hands-on equine practitioners need the physical and emotional stamina necessary to care for sick or injured horses, those who are frightened or confused and may bite or kick the veterinarian. As medical professionals, they may be on-call or work nights or weekends to handle emergencies.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Doctoral
Degree Field Veterinary medicine
Licensure and Certification State licensing is required; board certification optional
Key Skills Compassionate, decisive, have good diagnostic abilities, and manual dexterity, and know how to use veterinary medical software
Salary $88,490 (2015 median annual salary for all veterinarians)
Job Growth 9%, or faster-than-average, growth in employment projected for veterinarians from 2014 to 2024.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, O*NET OnLine

Step 1: Undergraduate Studies

An aspiring equine practitioner usually earns a bachelor's degree in a major of his or her choice before applying to veterinary school. Each vet program sets its own requirements for admission, but the prerequisites are similar, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Pre-veterinary studies typically include courses in animal anatomy and science, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and zoology. Pre-veterinary course requirements may also include general education classes in English, the humanities, math, and the social sciences.

Step 2: Standardized Tests

Veterinary programs also consider standardized test scores when deciding which applicants to admit. Tests depend upon the individual school. Most American vet schools require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), but a few programs use the Medical College Admission Test. The GRE evaluates an individual's abilities in analytical writing, critical thinking, and oral and quantitative reasoning. Prospective test-takers can find more information about admission requirements from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

Step 3: DVM Program

Equine practitioners need a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from an accredited program. DVM programs typically take four years to finish. They include classroom studies, labs, and clinical experiences. Once enrolled, students may take courses in animal behavior, nutrition, and ophthalmology, equine reproduction, pharmacology, radiography, and veterinary ethics. Some DVM programs allow students to select a track in equine practice or other specialty. During the last year of veterinary school, they also do clinical rotations at animal hospitals.

Success Tip:

  • Join a student chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP). With the assistance of faculty advisors, local chapters provide students with extracurricular experience with horses, including their medical care and breeding. AAEP chapters also provide community outreach to horse owners and equine enthusiasts.

Step 4: Licensing

While each state sets its own licensing requirements, applicants need a DVM degree from an accredited program and a passing score on the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE). Many states require that applicants also pass a test about local laws and regulations.

Step 5: Post-Graduate Internship

A veterinarian can begin practicing after earning a DVM degree and obtaining a license. However, according to the BLS, participating in a post-graduate internship may lead to higher-paying opportunities and provide the experience needed to obtain board certification. As noted by the AAEP, internships are a good way for graduates to receive additional training and practical experience. A one-year internship or clinical practice in an equine specialty is also required for residency programs approved by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP).

Step 6: Residency Program

Veterinarians in ABVP-approved residency programs receive at least two years of training and clinical experience in equine practice under the supervision of experienced vets. Equine residency programs include clinical rotations in different areas of horse healthcare, such as preventative medicine, anesthesiology, surgery, dermatology, and reproduction.

Step 7: Board Certification

Although not required to practice, some equine practitioners seek board certification from the ABVP. The ABVP certifies veterinarians in ten specialties, including equine practice. Applicants are usually graduates of an AVMA-accredited program who have fulfilled the additional training and clinical requirements. Applicants must also pass an exam to become certified as an equine practitioner.

In addition to keeping education and certifications current, equine practitioners wishing to advance in the field may want to take advantage of industry job boards. The AAEP is one organization that allows professionals to search job listings and post their resumes on its website.

We've covered a lot of information here, so let's review. Equine practitioners are state-licensed veterinarians who specialize in caring for horses. Educational requirements include a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from an accredited program, after which horse vets may earn a median annual salary of $88,490.

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