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How to Become a Veterinarian

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The road to becoming a veterinarian is somewhat lengthy, but those with a passion for animal health care benefit from the required education and training. Taking as many science classes as possible during junior high and high school gives you a great start. After finishing your undergraduate work, you must earn a doctor of veterinary medicine degree to get licensed in most states.

High School and Undergrad Education

In high school, biology and math classes can help you prepare for a pre-veterinary college program. While a bachelor's degree isn't required to enter veterinary school, most candidates acquire one before entering a program. Degrees and coursework in math, natural sciences and social sciences are beneficial in a pre-vet education. Develop your personal communication skills, which will help when you interact with coworkers and clients.

Veterinary School

A doctor of veterinary medicine, or D.V.M., typically takes four years to complete. Assuming that you also complete a four-year bachelor's degree, your total college education may last eight years. The BLS says that 29 colleges in the United States offer accredited veterinary degrees, as of 2014. During vet school, you take several science classes, including physics, animal science and zoology, along with math and humanities courses. In addition to classroom and lab-based classes, you normally complete clinical rotations that involve hands-on experience in veterinary practices.

Training and Skill Development

Some aspiring vets feel equipped to begin practicing right after completing their education and getting licensed. Others complete a one-year internship after finishing graduate school to gain more practical experience. Several key skills will help you succeed in a veterinary practice. Compassion and communication skills help you empathize with the concerns of clients and show genuine care for their pets. Decision-making and problem-solving abilities allow you to make wise decisions in treating animals. Manual dexterity is critical when performing care and surgeries. To operate your own practice, business acumen and management talents are valuable.

Licensing Requirements

The BLS notes that all states require you to have a license to practice in a veterinary clinic. State-specific requirements vary, but common factors include completion of an accredited graduate program and successful performance on the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. You may also have to complete a state test that addresses specific policies and regulations. To specialize in a field such as veterinary internal medicine, pursue one of 40 certifications offered by the American Veterinary Medical Association, as of 2014

2016 Salary Information for Veterinarians

Veterinarians earned a median annual salary of $88,770 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, veterinarians earned a 25th percentile salary of $69,240, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $118,460, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 79,600 people were employed in the U.S. as veterinarians.