Steps to Becoming a Veterinarian
There are 28 veterinary schools accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in the U.S. Each year nearly 6,000 applicants compete for approximately 2400 openings. In other words, it is very competitive to gain admission to a veterinary school.
Admission requirements for veterinary schools have many things in common; however the specific requirements may vary among schools. It is therefore advisable to become familiar with the entrance requirements early in your career as this may affect course selection especially after your first year of college.
Most U.S. veterinary schools utilize the centralized application service operated by the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (Veterinary Medical College Application Service-VMCAS). This application service accepts your application and your letters of evaluation and distributes them to each school you indicate. Applicants are responsible for ensuring that their official transcripts are submitted to each school to which they are making application. Many schools have a supplemental application as well and require that this information be sent directly to the school.
Steps to Take
Start preparing as early as you can
Take all the courses in mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physics courses which are available to you in middle and high school; they will open up many career opportunities in college including veterinary medicine.
Undergraduate Degree Program
Choose a degree program which will provide you a strong grounding in the biological and physical sciences. Maintain a competitive grade-point average, preferably 3.5 or higher. Most veterinary schools examine courses taken in the last 3-4 semesters closely.
Volunteer with a veterinarian to gain animal and clinical experience, and appreciation for the veterinary medical field. This might be an opportunity to find out if veterinary medicine is for you.
Graduate Record Examinations
Take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) which is accepted by most veterinary colleges. Check each school’s web page for their target GRE scores.
Letters of Recommendation
Choose three individuals to provide letters of recommendation. One is required from an academic adviser; one is required from a veterinarian; and the third one can be from an individual of your choice (typically one of your course instructors).
Some schools may require letters from two veterinarians. The application will give you a choice to waive your right to see letters of evaluation. You also have the choice not to waive that right and therefore request to see the letters after your application has been evaluated.
While it is your right to see the letters, our advice is to waive the right to examine the letters. Evaluators will know before they write the letter if you have waived the right to see the letters or not. Some schools will think hat evaluators may be hesitant to make negative comments about students do not waive their right to examine the evaluations. This can influence the evaluation of that letter by the admission committee.
Make sure to have a back-up plan!
Most U.S. veterinary schools require the following college courses (specific Penn State courses are listed in parentheses)
- Two semesters of general chemistry with laboratory (CHEM 110, 111, 112, and 113)
- Two semesters of organic chemistry with laboratory (CHEM 202 and 203; or CHEM 210, 212, and 213)
- One or two semesters of biochemistry with laboratory (B M B 211, 212, and 221; or B M B 401 and 402)
- Two semesters of general biology (BIOL 110, and BIOL 220W, 230W, or 240W)
- Two semesters of physics with laboratory (PHYS 250 and 251)
- Mathematics—The minimum requirement ranges from algebra and trigonometry to two semesters of calculus and varies with each school. Note that it is a minimum requirement. Most schools do not accept students who have not taken calculus, even if their published requirement is algebra and trigonometry (MATH 140 and 141).
- General education—Penn State students rarely have difficulty meeting this requirement if they meet Penn State's General Education requirements for graduation.
- The specific number of credits required in each of the above categories may vary among veterinary schools. Thus, it is important to check the specific admissions requirements for each veterinary school.
Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of livestock resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.