How to Become a Veterinarian


Are you wondering how to become a Veterinarian? Veterinarians are highly skilled individuals who work with animals diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases, disorders, and other dysfunctions. Veterinarians work within a number of environments, from private animal practices to zoos and laboratories, treating for animals and interacting with their owners or caretakers. Veterinarians treat a number of animals depending upon several factors including: level of education, organization of employment, and area of specialty. The majority of veterinarians offer medical treatment and preventative care within private practices to cats, dogs, birds, reptiles, rabbits, ferrets, and other small animals. Several also travel to farms and ranches to treat herds and livestock like horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats. Some veterinarians work within laboratories or research facilities developing drug therapies, antibiotics, and medical or surgical techniques for humans through their work with animals. Few veterinarians also work as 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.

Veterinarians diagnose and treat animal health illnesses and disorders; vaccinate and immunize animals to prevent disease; dress and treat wounds; set fractures; perform surgery; educate the animal’s owners regarding breeding, feeding, and care; administer medications; and euthanize animals when required. Veterinarians generally work long hours and usually remain available at all times to respond to emergencies or unscheduled appointments.

Training to qualify as a veterinarian is extensive and often difficult yet rewarding for individuals with an innate appreciation for animals. The field of veterinary medicine is quickly evolving, highly competitive, and offers a number of employment opportunities for individuals with combination of education, experience, and skill. Preparing for a career as a veterinarian requires successful completion of an accredited Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and state licensure. Individuals interested in establishing careers as veterinarians may prepare during high school for future educational programs by completing basic courses in biology, physical education, English, mathematics, chemistry, and business. Many students also work part time or volunteer at animal shelters, private animal practices, stables, ranches, or farms to gain hands on animal care experience.

High school graduates generally advance to two year associate’s degree programs to fulfill pre-veterinary educational requirements necessary to advance to doctoral degree studies. Associate degree programs in veterinary technology offer students a basic understanding of the field and include courses like: English; introduction to psychology; microbiology; fundamentals of biology; chemistry and life; effective speaking; introduction to veterinary technology; comparative hematology; comparative anatomy and physiology; animal medical techniques; animal husbandry and diseases; comparative parasitology; surgical principles; anesthesia; principles of radiography; technical practicum; medical records; urinalysis, clinical chemistry, and cytology; genetics; and statistics.

Bachelor degree programs in veterinary medicine offer students an expanded understanding of the field as well as the qualifications needed to advance to doctoral degree programs. Courses within a four year degree program in veterinary medicine prepare students through courses like: veterinary immunology, foundations of veterinary medicine, functional anatomy, organ systems: anatomy and physiology, principles of diagnostic imaging, fundamentals of accounting, veterinary neurobiology, veterinary nutrition and metabolism, veterinary bacteriology and mycology, veterinary parasitology, veterinary virology, biology of disease, food animal production and food safety, exotic animal anatomy and husbandry, fundamentals of finance, veterinary pharmacology, bioanalytical pathology, biology of disease, veterinary clinical toxicology, preventative medicine, emerging issues in infectious disease, veterinary ethics, fundamentals of management, principles of surgery, principles of anesthesia, principles of imaging interpretation, biology of disease, theriogenology, clinical sciences, foaling management, principles of shelter veterinary medicine, alternative and complementary therapeutics, non-mammalian vertebrate medicine, veterinary sports medicine and rehabilitation, swine medicine, food animal clinical problems, applied animal behavior, small animal medicine and surgery, veterinary sports medicine and rehabilitation, swine medicine, and practice management and professional development. Graduates with bachelor degrees often advance to Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree programs accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association upon successful completion of the Graduate Record Examination, Veterinary College Admission Test, or the Medical College Admission Test.

A doctoral degree program in veterinary medicine provides candidates with the ability to qualify as experts in the field. Doctor of Veterinary Medicine programs feature specialized courses, clinical practice, and research experiences devised to qualify individuals to manage disease, prevent medical problems, and qualify as professionals within the field of veterinary medicine. Most doctoral degree programs feature the following courses: veterinary medicine, veterinary anatomy, veterinary physiology, histology and cytology, veterinary pathogenic bacteriology and mycology, health maintenance and animal production, comparative and developmental anatomy, veterinary embryology and teratology, veterinary physiology, introduction to companion animal behavior, veterinary virology, veterinary immunology, anesthesiology, introductory pharmacology, principles of surgery and introduction to small animal surgical disease, introduction to physical examination skills, veterinary parasitology, veterinary pathology, pharmacology and veterinary therapeutics, veterinary nutritional health, equine health and preventative care, equine emergency and critical care, equine surgery, epidemiology and public health, veterinary clinical pathology, companion animal medicine and surgery, veterinary toxicology and poisonous plants, equine medicine and surgery, theriogenology, exotic and emergency diseases, veterinary radiology and radiobiology, companion animal medicine and surgery, large animal surgery and diagnostic techniques, swine and poultry medicine, advanced small animal medicine, advanced topics in veterinary anatomic pathology, clinical anesthesia, clinical behavior and nutrition, cardiology, clinical laboratory and necropsy, clinical veterinary dentistry, companion animal internal medicine, and animal welfare, ethics, and societal responsibility.

Doctoral degree graduates who meet the educational requirements necessary to qualify as veterinarians advance to one year clinical internship programs, go on to residency programs lasting three to four years, gain certification, and generally advance to employment within established group animal care practices. Some graduates may go on to establish a private practice upon securing the considerable financial resources necessary to purchase equipment, facility space, and employ staff.

Doctoral degree graduates may specialize training and gain licensure through thirty nine American Veterinary Medical Association programs. Graduates also generally must complete licensing exams offered through the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Licensing and certification programs allow candidates to display their knowledge, clinical competency, and understanding of state laws and regulations. All veterinarians are required to continue education to maintain licensure and remain current of industry changes as defined by State laws and employer regulations.

Experienced and skilled veterinarians may establish long term, secure, and rewarding careers in the field of veterinary science. With this information about how to become a Veterinarian, you’re well on your way to achieving your dreams.

Featured Degree Programs