Doctors of veterinary medicine (DVMs) are animal care providers educated to protect the health of both animals and people. They work hard to address the health needs of every species of animal and they also play a critical role in environmental protection, food safety, animal welfare, and public health. In the United States, approximately two-thirds of veterinarians work in private or corporate clinical practice. Veterinary college/school faculty members conduct research, teach, provide care for animals in veterinary teaching hospitals, and develop continuing education programs to help practicing veterinarians acquire new knowledge and skills. Research veterinarians employed at universities, colleges, government agencies, or in industry are finding new ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent animal and human health disorders. Veterinarians in pharmaceutical and biomedical research firms develop, test, and supervise the production of drugs and biological products such as antibiotics and vaccines for human and animal use. Veterinarians also work in management, regulatory affairs, technical sales and services, agribusiness, pet food companies, and pharmaceutical companies. More than 100 veterinarians are employed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to protect public health by investigating zoonotic diseases and other diseases affecting the health of animals and people. Veterinarians are also employed in animal welfare, zoological medicine, aquatic animal medicine, aerospace medicine (shuttle astronauts), animal shelter medicine, sports medicine, animal assisted activity and therapy programs, and wildlife medicine.
After completing the required veterinary medical curriculum (usually over four years), many graduates choose to pursue additional education in one of the 20 AVMA-recognized veterinary specialties such as surgery, internal medicine, animal behavior, dentistry, ophthalmology, pathology, or preventative medicine.
If you intend to apply to veterinary school, a wide breadth of veterinary experience is essential to demonstrate your commitment to veterinary medicine. In addition, admissions committees look for strong letters of recommendation, a clear motivation for veterinary medicine, maturity, good judgment, and volunteer experience.
Jobs for Veterinarians
While many veterinarians are engaged in private practice, there are several other careers open to those with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M .) degree, including:
- Working in public preventive medical programs for federal, state and municipal governments.
- Holding important positions with the U.S. Army or the Department of Energy.
- Teaching and conducting research at veterinary schools, medical schools, colleges, and through medical research programs.
- Working in the private sector for industries that manufacture drugs, vaccines, biological products, or animal feeds.
- Working for industry in the fields of pathology and toxicology.
The courses listed below are those that undergraduates are required to complete prior to entering veterinary school.
As you plan your course of study, please note these important considerations:
- Admission requirements can vary by school. Be sure to check with each of your schools of interest to verify these requirements.
- All of your required courses must be taken for a letter grade, not on a Pass/No Pass (P/NP) basis.
- Please note that some veterinary schools will not accept AP credit.
One year of general chemistry with lab
-Chem 1A/1AL, Chem 1B/1BL, Chem 1C/1CL (or Chem 2 equivalent)
One year of organic chemistry with lab
-Chem 109A, 109B, 109C and 6AL, 6BL
One year of introductory biology with lab
-MCDB 1A/1AL, 1B, MCDB 1BL or EEMB 2L, EEMB 2, 3, 3L
One year of physics with lab
-Physics 6A/6AL, 6B/6BL, 6C/6CL
Three quarters titled "Writing" or "English"
-Writing 1 or AP credit will not count for this requirement
-One quarter should be a literature course taught in the English department
-Writing 109HP is a useful course for writing personal statements and should be taken closer to when you apply
-Calculus is not required but is as a pre-requisite for some of the required science courses
-PSTAT 5A or 5LS or PSY 10B
-(12-28 quarter units)
Additional biology courses required:
-MCDB 108B (MCDB 108A is a prerequisite for this course)
-MCDB 111 (physiology)
-MCDB 131 (microbiology)
-Check each school’s admission requirements.
Possible additional coursework
Some schools require additional coursework. It is important that you check with the individual schools about specific requirements. The following are some courses that may be required:
-Psychology 1 or Sociology 1
-Public Speaking: Writing 105PS-Writing for Public Speaking (should be taken in addition to the 3 quarters of English) or Communication 131 at SBCC. If enrolling at SBCC while also enrolled at UCSB during fall, winter, or spring quarters, meet with a Letters and Science advisor to discuss petitioning for concurrent enrollment prior to the start of the SBCC courses.
*New Biology Labs: Beginning in Fall 2019, the Biology Program will restructure its introductory labs, changing from three, 1 unit labs--MCDB 1AL, MCDB 1BL/EEMB 2L, and EEMB 3L--to two, 1.5 unit labs--MCDB 1LL and EEMB 2LL. Most students will do MCDB 1LL in winter quarter and EEMB 2LL in spring quarter. Although taken over two quarters rather than three, these will count as a full year of introductory biology labs.
Please consider the schedule above as a sample; it is only one of several paths for completing the most essential pre-vet requirements. Students, in consultation with pre-health, general, and major advisors, should develop individual schedules that will allow them to explore their interests, achieve their goals, and complete other required and recommended courses. Note that veterinary schools require a year of physics with lab (Physics 6A & 6AL, 6B & 6BL, 6C & 6CL), and most students complete physics by the end of the 3rd year. Students should meet with general, pre-health, and major advisors during their second year to consider their options for scheduling upper division biology courses required or recommended for pre-vet students as well as to evaluate their progress toward completing major and general education requirements.
Typically, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required for admission to veterinary school. Some schools, however, will accept the MCAT. To find out specific GRE requirements for veterinary schools, you will need to check the website for each school to which you intend to apply.
If you intend to apply to veterinary school, it is important that you select extracurricular activities that will strengthen your application. Veterinary schools look for substantial experience with animals, including direct work with a veterinarian. Schools also like to see experience with several animal species. If you are wondering how much time to dedicate to relevant veterinary experience, you should at least aim for the minimum range required by veterinary schools: 100-500 hours. More experience is preferred, however, as successful applicants often have 2500+ hours of experience.
In addition to directly working in a veterinary setting, research can enhance your application.
For more information about internships and volunteer opportunities, please visit the Clinical Experince page.
When you apply to veterinary school, you will use the Veterinary Medical College Application Services (VMCAS). This service allows you to apply to multiple veterinary schools using one application. The VMCAS also will accept your letters of reference, your official transcripts, and your standardized test scores and will forward them to the appropriate schools. The VMCAS uses an electronic letters of reference service (eLOR), so it is important to familiarize yourself with this process. Some veterinary schools require information in addition to the VMCAS application (such as a secondary application). Check the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges website to find out which schools require supplemental application materials and/or additional admissions requirements. If additional materials are required for an individual school, you will need to contact that school directly. Finally, make sure you have taken the GRE prior to applying.
When can I apply to the Colleges of Veterinary Medicine?
Most veterinary schools require applications through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS). For information about application requirements, applicant data statistics, and other admissions resources, visit www.aavmc.org/vmcas/vmcas.htm. Applications are received the first of June and close the first of October. Early submissions are preferred.
What are the Selection Procedures for Admission?
Students should perform well in general science and biology in junior high school and pursue a strong science, mathematics, and biology program in high school to prepare for pre-veterinary coursework at a college or university. Before applying to veterinary college/school, students must successfully complete university level undergraduate prerequisites. Each college or school of veterinary medicine establishes its own pre-veterinary requirements, but typically these include demonstrating basic language and communication skills and completion of courses in the social sciences, humanities, mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics.
Admission to veterinary school is highly competitive, with the number of qualified applicants admitted varying from year to year. Applicants may be required to take a standardized test (usually the Graduate Record Examination or GRE).
There are presently 28 AVMA Council on Education accredited colleges/schools of veterinary medicine in the United States, five in Canada, and nine in other countries.
What are some of the characteristics of entering students?
Approximately 6,766 applicants applied to veterinary medical school in 2013. Other national statistics are not available at this time, however, at Western University in Pomona, California, the 2012 entering class of 105 were selected from 748 applicants. The average overall GPA was 3.32 and average GRE sores were 493 for Verbal, 640 for Quantitative and 4.00 for Analytical writing. For UC Davis, a class of 159 students was selected from 1142 applicants with an average GPA of 3.63 and GRE Verbal of 80%, Quantitative of 76%, and Analytical of 67%.