Overview of Profession
Veterinarians or Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) are medical professionals whose primary roles are to protect the health and welfare of animals. Veterinarians diagnose and treat sick and injured animals as well as educate animal owners about preventative veterinary medicine. Veterinarians also are involved in work to prevent the transmission of animal disease to human beings and therefore play an important role in sustaining the health of our communities.
Most veterinarians are generalists and work with both large and small animals but some choose to specialize in specific areas. Specialties generally require further training after vet school. Examples of these specialty areas include: anesthesiology, dermatology, internal medicine, poultry medicine, radiology, animal behavior, emergency critical care, lab animal medicine, surgery, pathology, and zoo medicine.
Most veterinarians work in private practice and treat small animals. However, there are those that work exclusively with large or exotic animals as well as those who are employed by the government, industry or in teaching and research.
All veterinarians must graduate from an accredited school of veterinary medicine. These programs involve four years of education in both the basic and animal sciences as well as clinical training. There are 28 Veterinary medical colleges in the country. Most veterinary colleges are state supported and reserve the majority of their seats for in-state residents. There are however many states in the country that do not have a veterinary medical college and these schools may have contracted for seats at other colleges. Applicants should pay close attention to the requirements at their in-state or contract schools. There are also veterinary schools located outside of the United States.
Prerequisites: All veterinary schools require basic science courses, most include general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, and physics. A considerable number of schools expect additional science courses; some may even require their applicants to have an undergraduate science degree. Schools may also expect several courses in English, the social sciences, and the humanities. A few programs ask for courses in Animal Science or Management. The best resource for leanring about the requirements of different schools is the Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements (VMSAR)
Animal Experience: Veterinary schools expect, and in some cases, require that applicants have experience working with animals; many schools specify experience working with both large and small animals as a pre-requisite for admission. Applicants with laboratory-based research experience are usually looked upon favorably as well.
Standardized Test: The (VCAT) is required by some schools. Others prefer the MCAT or the GRE. Detailed information about standardized tests is available on the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) Web site, though it is best to check with each school for individual requirements. A list of all vet schools and links to their Web sites may be found on the institutional membership page of the AAVMC Web site. Students should consult individual schools about application deadlines, but generally, the veterinary school application process takes place between July and October.
VMCAS: All 28 American, 5 Canadian and 8 international veterinary schools use the centralized Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS), which coordinates all aspects of the application. The VMCAS Web site guides applicants through the process. Students must send letters of recommendation through this service; students should also ask their recommenders to send copies of recommendation letters to the Pre-professional Office for inclusion their permanent file. Some schools may request the direct receipt of a dean's certification of good standing and character. Because veterinary school admissions requirements, application procedures, and deadlines vary widely, students must read each school's application carefully and follow instructions meticulously.
Secondary Application: Most veterinary medical schools will send applicants an additional application to be completed after receipt of the VMCAS. The form of this application will vary from school to school, but may include another essay and an additional fee.
Interviews: Most veterinary schools will invite those candidates under serious consideration to campus for an interview.
Timing of application:
Many first-time applicants to veterinary school have been out of college for a year or more. A little over a third of the application pool consists of students who are re-applying; re-applying doesn't appear to present a competitive disadvantage. After a considerable drop in applications through the 1980s, applicant numbers have been rising steadily for the last decade. As a result, the admissions process is more competitive than ever. Each year, approximately a third of applicant pool is accepted. Demographically, more than two thirds of veterinary school applicants are female.
Students interested in veterinary medicine should talk with their academic advisor as soon as possible and meet with an advisor in the Office of Pre-Professional Advising. It is important for prospective applicants to pursue pre-requisite undergraduate course work, acquire experience working with animals, and seek out laboratory research opportunities as early as possible in their academic careers. A exhaustive preparation timeline is located on the Explore Health Careers Web site.