Become a Veterinarian: The Veterinary Career Path Explained

If you'd like to help animals and their owners, you might want to become a veterinarian. A veterinary career not only offers financial security, but can also give you a way to help others. Here's some more information about how to become a veterinarian.

Decide If A Veterinary Career Is Right for You

You shouldn't pursue a veterinary career unless you're sure you're absolutely willing and capable to perform veterinary duties. How do you know if the veterinary career is right for you? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you like animals? Do you love them enough to deal with them day in and day out, seven days a week, 365 days a year?
  • Do you mind handling blood, excrement and other bodily fluids?
  • Are you good at science and math?
  • How would you feel if an animal died under your care? Could you tell an owner that his beloved pet has died under your care?
  • Are you good with people?
  • Would you enjoy a career that demands constant growth and development of new skills?

Get Your Pre-Veterinary Work Experience

Most veterinary schools require some form of work experience that involves working with animals. You could try working in a local veterinary clinic, kennel, or animal shelter. You could even work for a local farmer. If you can't get a job working with animals, you might still gain the requisite experience as a volunteer. Do your work diligently and with enthusiasm; you'll want to make a good impression on your supervisors so you can get the best possible letter of recommendation when it's time to apply to veterinary schools.

Here are some other suggestions for gaining preveterinary work experience:

Visit a local private or public practice; tell the veterinarian there that you are interested in becoming a vet one day and ask if you can shadow them as they perform their daily duties. Participate in a summer program that allows you to gain laboratory research experience. Any volunteer or sports experience that brings you into contact with the community can be of help, even if it isn't veterinary related.

Choose A Veterinary School

In order to become a veterinarian, you'll need to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from a four-year accredited university, as well as pass a state board exam. Each veterinary school has different admissions requirements; do your research before you begin applying to schools. Some of the most prestigious veterinary schools in the US are located at Cornell University, Colorado State and the University of Pennsylvania.

Get Started

Once you've earned your degree and passed your state's board exams, you're ready to begin your career as a veterinarian! Most vets start out working under another, more experienced vet before going into practice for themselves.