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What Education or Training Do You Need to Become a Veterinarian?

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If you love animals and desire to work with them and their owners, a career as a veterinarian may bring a lifetime of rewarding work. Veterinarians diagnose and treat diseases affecting animals large and small. A desire to work with animals, however, is only the beginning of what you need if you wish to become a veterinarian. A career in animal medicine requires years of education and training.


Becoming a veterinarian requires a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) degree from an accredited veterinary medical school. The American Veterinary Medical Association, or AVMA, reports that there are 28 veterinary schools that meet accreditation standards set by the association’s education council.

Before entering veterinary school, however, you should complete a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that all veterinary schools require up to 90 undergraduate college hours for admission, but that some may not require a degree. However, because of the competitive nature of veterinary school admissions, applicants to veterinary school who do not have a bachelor’s degree place themselves at a disadvantage in gaining admission.


To prepare for admission to veterinary school, you should pursue extensive training in the sciences at the undergraduate level. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterinary colleges require applicants to complete undergraduate coursework in biology, chemistry, microbiology, zoology, biochemistry, physics and other sciences. In addition, you should take courses in mathematics, including algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus.


In addition to an undergraduate education, applicants to veterinary school must also take an admissions test, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT) or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The preferred test varies across veterinary colleges. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most require the GRE.

Time Frame

A veterinary medical education leading to the D.V.M. degree lasts four years, after which graduates may test for a license to practice. All 50 states and the District of Columbia require veterinarians to be licensed before they can legally practice, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. Licensing requirements vary, but all states require D.V.M. recipients to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam, the national licensing test. The eight-hour exam covers all areas of veterinary medicine. In addition, many states require an exam that covers state laws and regulations affecting veterinarians.


Many recent veterinary school graduates undergo additional training through a one-year internship that may lead to greater opportunities later, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. In addition, the AVMA reports that veterinarians seeking board certification in a particular specialty undergo additional education in one of 20 recognized specialties. These include internal medicine, radiology, exotic small animals, nutrition, dentistry and oncology.


For men and women with the ambition to become veterinarians and the desire to undergo the required education and training, the opportunities may be great. The AVMA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics project healthy growth in job opportunities for veterinarians.


Shane Hall is a writer and research analyst with more than 20 years of experience. His work has appeared in "Brookings Papers on Education Policy," "Population and Development" and various Texas newspapers. Hall has a Doctor of Philosophy in political economy and is a former college instructor of economics and political science.

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