How to Become a Veterinarian

Veterinarians can make an excellent income of $80,000 to $100,000 a year or more, but they do have to get a degree to do their work, and that usually takes four years of veterinary school on top of the usual four years of college. Your college work will need to demonstrate a strong aptitude for biology, chemistry and math. In addition to your time in school, you will also have to get at least one residency or internship when you will work at a veterinary clinic or hospital, typically for very long hours.

Even after all that training, so still will not be able to practice your trade until you have passed the national veterinary medical board exam, and then you will need to pass another exam for each state you wish to practice in. Every state’s board exam is a little bit different, but most vets usually only need to pass one exam, at least until they decide to move to another state.

Getting into veterinary school is pretty competitive. There are only 28 schools in the United States that are certified to give out veterinary degrees, so in that sense it is almost more competitive to get into veterinary school than it is to get into medical school, as there are many more medical schools than there are veterinary schools.

That does not mean it is impossible, though. You just have to give it your best shot, and possibly try again the second year if you do not get in during your first try. To really be a contender, though, you’ll need to have completed all the courses veterinarian school applicants are expected to complete in college, and most likely you’ll need at least a B average or better. You can further boost your chances by getting an undergraduate degree in veterinary technology, which is clearly a degree solely designed for people who want to go on to veterinary school.

While you are waiting to get into veterinary school, there are certainly lots of things you can do to improve your knowledge of animals and expand your experience with them. The most obvious is to become a veterinarian’s assistant, which requires minimal training. Or you can also get yourself into a two-year accredited program to become a veterinary technician. There are about 150 schools across the United States that can give you a veterinary technician’s degree, so it is much easier than getting into a four-year veterinary school.

Most vets get training to treat domestic animals and farm animals, though through your years at school you will be studying quite a few exotic species. If you want to specialize in a certain kind of animals, to treat dolphins, for example, or to specialize, say, in marine life, then you can adjust your class selection to gain knowledge in that particular area.

Many vets also specialize in just one kind of domestic animal, too, like horses or cows, or a specific kind of pet, so they can become, say, an avian veterinarian. With about 86,000 practicing veterinarians in the United States, there’s plenty of room to specialize.

Just in case you were wondering, your fellow students and colleagues will be a fairly well-balanced bunch. While most practicing vets used to be men, most newer veterinarians are women (about 60%), so it is a well-balanced profession in terms of gender, though it is expected that women veterinarians will outnumber men quite soon.