Veterinary medicine is a much broader field than most people realize. Not only can a veterinarian enter private practice as a large- or small-animal vet, he or she can specialize in an area such as wildlife medicine, emergency animal medicine, care of marine animals or veterinary orthopedics. Many veterinarians work for government agencies like the USDA or the FDA, while others work in veterinary research, public health, global health and many other areas.
Veterinary school is a four-year program leading to a DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) degree. Specialties can require advanced training beyond the DVM. Admission to veterinary programs is very competitive, and real-world veterinary experience (see below) is of great importance in addition to excellent grades and test scores.
Veterinary programs do not require completion of a B.S. or B.A. degree, but nearly all successful applicants have done so. There is no specific major requirement to enter the program, so long as the prerequisite course requirements are met. A BS in Biology is recommended unless you have a strong interest in another area.
Core course requirements for almost all veterinary programs include:
Most veterinary schools also require two composition courses (ENG 115/125 and 315), statistics (PSY 250) and additional courses in the biological sciences such as Biochemistry (BCM 365), Microbiology (BIO 340), Genetics (BIO 260), Molecular Biology (BIO 360), Zoology (BIO 202) or Physiology (BIO 302). Some require calculus MTH 151 & 152
Because these requirements vary, you should identify veterinary programs you are interested in early on and determine their specific requirements. Veterinary Medical School Admissions Requirements is published annually and lists the requirements of all veterinary programs in the U.S. and Canada.
The average GPA for students accepted to veterinary schools is about 3.6. Admissions committees look at overall GPA, science GPA and also upward or downward trends. Most programs require the GRE as an entrance exam; some will also accept the MCAT (see a list of all schools' entrance exam requirements here). Applications are completed using a standardized format, the VMCAS.
Veterinary schools look for experience in the veterinary field to demonstrate that you understand the field that you are planning to work in and are comfortable working with animals. Direct experience in the veterinary field is extremely important to a successful application! It is typically recommended that you have a variety of veterinary experience by the time you apply to veterinary school, including both small-animal and large-animal experience.
A job as a veterinary technician or assistant is a good way to gain this experience. Paid or volunteer work or internships with animal shelters, zoos, veterinary clinics or even in farm or ranch settings can all contribute to meeting this requirement. Our Pre-Health Organization (PHO) can be helpful in finding these kinds of opportunities.
Research experience is valued and strongly recommended by all veterinary schools. Usually, you should have worked at least 50 hours with a mentor on a research project that was not part of a course. See the Biology research page for more information on working with NCC faculty mentors, applying for an off-campus summer research program or finding a research internship.
Service and Leadership
Extracurricular activities that are important to veterinary admissions committees include significant volunteer service and demonstrated leadership potential. NCC's Ministry and Service programs can connect you with local service opportunities or take you around the country. Volunteer work does not have to involve animals, but volunteering at an animal clinic or adoption agency is certainly one good way to demonstrate your dedication. Leadership activities might include being a student lab assistant or preceptor, serving as an officer in a student organization, tutoring or leadership roles in employment.
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Pre-health advisor Marguerite Degenhardt