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Veterinary Science Degree Program Overviews

Bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in veterinary science are offered at a number of colleges and universities throughout the U.S. They prepare students for positions in the animal health industry, food production, and pharmaceuticals.

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Essential Information

For admittance into a bachelor's degree program in veterinary science, students need a high school diploma or GED. Students should take high school chemistry, biology and algebra classes. A bachelor's program culminates in an independent study project and internship at a participating animal health facility or organization.

Admission to a master's program requires a bachelor's degree in a related area of study, a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and prerequisite coursework in biology, chemistry and statistics. In a master's program, students can select a concentration such as pathology, microbiology or pharmacology. The program consists of traditional coursework, labs, seminars and a graduate thesis and research project.

Veterinary science programs are different from veterinary medicine. Graduates with a veterinary science degree cannot become veterinarians. However, students can pursue a joint Doctor of Veterinary Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy in Veterinary Science degree program to meet the education requirements to take the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. To enter a doctoral program, students must have a bachelor's degree in a related area of study and satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The seven-year program culminates in a doctoral dissertation.


Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Science

Veterinary science is the study of animal health and the medical treatment of animals. With a bachelor's in veterinary science, students can go on to graduate school, veterinary medical school, and entry-level positions in the animal health industry. The program consists of coursework in biology, chemistry, microbiology and other sciences. Students spend a considerable amount of time engaged in laboratory coursework where they receive hands-on instruction working with laboratory instruments and developing hypotheses based on scientific research. Coursework instructs students on how to work with a variety of animals, including wildlife, domesticated animals and livestock. Students learn the biological basis for animal disease, methods for identifying microorganisms in animal specimens and methods of ethical scientific inquiry. Course topics might include:

  • Parasites
  • Bacterial disease
  • Digestive systems
  • Organ systems
  • Epidemiology

Master of Science in Veterinary Science

Studies in veterinary science cover a broad range of subjects including epidemiology, immunology and pathology. Laboratory courses allow students to examine animal specimens, carcasses, organs and nervous systems. Students conduct academic research and apply research findings to a major paper intended for publication in an academic journal. Coursework examines animal anatomy and physiology, motor function, and parasites and microbes that cause illness and disease. Other areas of focus in coursework include:

  • Gene structure
  • Metabolism
  • Disease prevention
  • Immune disorders
  • Reproductive systems

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  • Veterinary Microbiology and Immunobiology
  • Veterinary Pathology
  • Veterinary Physiology
  • Veterinary Preventive Medicine and Public Health
  • Veterinary Toxicology and Pharmacology

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) / Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Veterinary Science

The combined clinical and research curriculum in a DVM or Ph.D. program provides students with the necessary education to become research scientists or licensed veterinarians. Students complete clinical rotations working with animals where they provide preventative care and medication management, as well as diagnose and treat animals for illness and disease. Students work with mentors, attend seminars, develop a thesis project and take comprehensive examinations throughout the course of the program. Coursework includes studies in anatomy and physiology, organ systems and epidemiology. The program is research intensive and divided into four tracks: small animal, food animal, equine, and public and corporate. Coursework covers topics like:

  • Histopathology
  • Hormones
  • Infectious disease
  • Veterinary law and ethics
  • Domestication

Popular Career Options

Career opportunities for graduates exist in a variety of settings including animal hospitals, offices of veterinarians and animal shelters. Graduates go on to careers in research, sales and pharmaceuticals. The following are career paths graduates might consider:

  • Product developer
  • Research analyst
  • Food production manager
  • Veterinary technician
  • Animal caretaker
  • Laboratory technician

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that jobs for veterinarians are expected to grow by 9% between the years 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that veterinarians held 65,650 jobs in the U.S. in 2015, with most jobs in professional, scientific and technical services. Veterinarians made a median annual salary of $88,490 in May 2015, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education Information

Graduates who want to become veterinarians can enroll in a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program, the minimum degree requirement to practice as a licensed veterinarian. Some states allow graduates of veterinary science degree programs to take the American Association of Veterinary State Boards' Veterinary Technician National Examination, which is generally intended for graduates of veterinary technology programs. Graduates should refer to their state licensing boards for specific requirements.

Licensing Information

Graduates are eligible to take the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination, administered by the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME). While licensing is required in all 50 states, licensing requirements vary so graduates should check with their state licensing boards for a complete list of requirements.

Veterinary science programs are offered at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral level and do not necessarily prepare individuals to become veterinarians. Students must have a strong background in science and higher level degrees offer more specified coursework.

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