It is not easy becoming a veterinarian. They need to at least earn a doctoral degree in veterinary medicine. But the long path towards this profession is all worth it for those who genuinely love animals and who want to earn more than the national average salary.
Undergraduate Veterinarian Training
The Council on Education of the American Veterinary Association has accredited 29 veterinary colleges in the country. These colleges can accept anyone even without an undergraduate degree. However, applicants do need to have 45 to 90 semester hours of prerequisite courses.
An undergraduate program for veterinary science students usually tackles biochemistry, physics, animal biology, general biology, zoology, genetics, vertebrate embryology, and animal nutrition. Many veterinary colleges also look into the animal experience of the applicant students, such as their experience working in veterinary clinics, agribusiness, stables, animal shelters, or farms.
Veterinary colleges usually offer a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program that lasts for four years. The first two years are spent on advanced training to lay the foundation of basic veterinary sciences, similar to the prerequisite courses of the program. The last two years are spent training the students in clinical procedures, such as diagnosis and treatment, toxicology, surgery, anesthesiology, obstetrics, radiology, anthroposis, or the transfer of human diseases to animals, and zoonosis, or the transfer of animal diseases to humans.
Veterinary medical students have to choose which area they want to specialize in. Some may choose to focus on large animals, such as cows and horses, while others may choose to specialize in small animals, such as dogs, cats, and other domestic pets.
Additional Veterinarian Training and Certification
After graduating from veterinary college, some graduates choose to sign up for a one-year internship to further improve their skills in taking care of animals and increase their chances of advancing in their field. Their internship adds to their experience, giving them a chance to apply for higher paying and more competitive positions. It also helps them prepare for taking the certification exam.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, all states in the country require licenses among veterinarians. Although licensing requirements vary from state to state, the most common requirement is for veterinarians to have earned a degree from completing an accredited veterinary program and to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. The state and federal government may not require a state license from their veterinarians because of the differing requirements among the agencies.
Most states require their veterinarians to take and pass the national exam and the state exam that tackles state laws and regulations. Since only a few states honor a veterinarian’s license from another state, those who want to practice in another state must take and pass that state’s exam. Read more about Veterinarian benefits and perks.
There are 40 specialty certifications available to veterinarians in the US, among which are microbiology, surgery, and internal medicine. Even if veterinarians are not required to be certified, having a certification will prove their excellent skill and expertise in their field. To qualify for the certification exam, veterinarians must have a few years of experience in the field, pass an exam, and complete a three- to four-year residency program.