How To Become A Veterinarian

The field of veterinary medicine is quickly expanding and offers many great career opportunities for individuals with the career goal of becoming a veterinarian. Job opportunities for veterinarians are expected to remain excellent as there are only twenty eight accredited schools of veterinary medicine within the United States. This results in a limited number of graduates and increased job opportunities for those with a love of animals and the initiative necessary to qualify for employment. As veterinarians are highly skilled individuals who diagnose and treat a variety of animal health issues, training is extensive and admission into veterinary schools highly competitive.

Recommended Veterinarian Program

Veterinarians work in a variety of setting to diagnose, treat, or prevent a variety of diseases, disorders, or dysfunctions in animals. Veterinarians administer care for pets, livestock, zoo animals, racetrack animals, aquarium animals, and laboratory animals. Nearly eighty percent of veterinarians work within private animal practices to diagnose animal health illnesses or problems, vaccinate against disease, treat and dress wounds, and administer medications for animals with infections or disorders. Veterinarians also set fractures, perform surgery, and educate owners regarding animal feeding, behavior, and/or breeding. Most veterinarians treat cats, dogs, birds, reptiles, rabbits, ferrets, and other animals while approximately 16 percent of veterinarians work in private mixed and food animal practices treating pigs, goats, cattle, sheep, and other wild or farm animals. Approximately six percent of private practice veterinarians work only with horses at farms or ranches treating entire herds or individual animals. Many veterinarians also work in colleges or universities training prospective veterinarians. Some veterinarians also work to improve human as well as animal health as many veterinarians research means of preventing and treating human health problems. Veterinarians once assisted human health researchers in battling malaria and yellow fever and many present drug therapies, antibiotics, or surgical techniques are tested first on animals. Veterinarians also work as livestock inspectors on behalf of food safety and inspection organizations to determine the presence of transmissible disease (such as E. coli) within animals before harvesting for human consumption. Meat, poultry, or egg product inspectors work within slaughtering and processing plants to ascertain diseases within live animals or carcasses, as well as enforce government regulations regarding sanitation procedures and food purity standards. Many veterinarians work as animal and plant health inspectors for the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service division or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Veterinary Medicine examining imports and exports of animal products. All veterinarians, regardless of the animals they treat or industry they work within, euthanize animals when necessary.

Most veterinarians in a private or clinical setting work long hours in noisy environments. Veterinarians in such settings often must manage not only emotional or demanding pet owners but also animals which are frightened or hurt. Veterinarians frequently risk getting bitten, kicked, or scratched. Veterinarians who work with stock, food, or farm animals often spend time driving between offices and farms or ranches. Veterinarians in this setting generally work outdoors regardless of the weather and often treat animals or perform surgery in less than sterile, often unsanitary, environments. Veterinarians who work in public health or research laboratories work in clean, well lighted offices or laboratories. Working conditions for veterinarians in nonclinical sectors spend much of their time working with people rather than animals. Many veterinarians work extended hours and respond to emergencies or unexpected appointments.

Future veterinarians should have an inherent love for animals and be eager to work with animals as well as their owners. Prospective veterinarians must be manually dexterous, have excellent interpersonal relational skills to communicate with animal owners, and strong managerial skills to promote, market, and sell their services. Training to become a veterinarian can begin as early as high school. Students pursuing a career as a veterinarian may prepare for future educational and career opportunities with courses in: business, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physical education, and English. To increase chances of acceptance into an accredited program following completion of high school, students can find employment at a farm, stable, or animal shelter to gain experience and demonstrate ambition. Advancing to a two year degree program in veterinary science, offered by most community colleges and some online universities, is the first step in obtaining training necessary for a future as a veterinarian. Prospective veterinarians must possess a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from a four year program offered by an accredited college as designated by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Most programs do not require a bachelor’s degree but require 45 to 90 semester hours of undergraduate educational training. Courses in organic and inorganic chemistry, physics, biochemistry, general biology, animal biology, animal nutrition, genetics, vertebrate embryology, cellular biology, microbiology, zoology, systemic physiology, calculus, statistics, algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus provide pre-veterinary education and fulfill training hour requirements necessary to advance to doctoral programs. Additionally, many veterinary medical colleges require courses in the humanities, like English or literature, as well as social sciences, general business management courses, and career development training.

Upon fulfilling preveterinary course requirements, candidates must successfully complete and submit test results from the Graduate Record Examination, the Veterinary College Admission Test, or the Medical College Admission Test per the preference of the veterinary college. Admission into a veterinary college is highly competitive as only one in three applicants are generally accepted during 2007. To increase chances of acceptance, gaining formal experience during preveterinary training from work as within a veterinarian’s office or clinic, agribusiness research, scientific research facilities, or within a health science field is generally recommended. Following completion of a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, graduates must complete a one year internship, go on to practice veterinary medicine upon licensure, or advance to a three to four year residency program to complete certification requirements. Certification programs provide specialized training through one of thirty nine AVMA recognized programs including: internal medicine, oncology, pathology, dentistry, nutrition, radiology, surgery, dermatology, anesthesiology, neurology, cardiology, ophthalmology, preventative medicine, and/or exotic-small animal medicine. Licensure within the United States is determined by state regulations and varies significantly from state to state. All licensing programs require completion of the DVM degree and successfully passing the eight hour North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. For individuals trained in countries outside of the U.S., the Educational commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates is offered to those who meet clinical, educational, and English language requirements. Many states also require candidates to pass state jurisprudence exams in reference to state laws and regulations and additional exams regarding clinical competency.

All states require veterinarians to continue education to maintain licensing. Requirements for continued education vary by state and often include taking courses and demonstrating knowledge of medical or veterinary advances. Advancement for most veterinarians who begin within an established group animal practice usually involves the financial investment into equipment, facility space, and employing staff for a private practice or purchase of an established animal practice.

Employment for veterinarians is expected to increase at an above average rate with many job opportunities for individuals seeking rewarding careers working with animals.

Recommended Veterinarian Program

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