By a guest writer
As you eat your breakfast with your cat sitting on your lap, you realize that it’s your dream to become a veterinarian. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 12 percent increase in the need for veterinarians through 2022. Your timing is good as the demand for animal care practitioners grows. Once you’ve graduated, there are a number of specialties in which you can work. Here are the steps to becoming a veterinarian and how you can even begin your path from your own home:
A Competitive Field
Being a veterinarian in the U.S. requires a graduate degree and nearly as much training as a physician. There are currently 28 accredited colleges that offer the Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine (DVM) degree. Thousands of students apply each year for the limited student positions. Being prepared for and passionate about a career in animal care is necessary to make your way to the top.
The American Veterinary Medical Association is the professional organization overseeing the training of all veterinarians. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges manages the accreditation of all schools that teach veterinarian science. Not only are the graduate programs monitored by the AAVMC, but it also manages veterinarian tech programs and any appropriate distance learning.
To practice as a veterinarian in the U.S., you must also pass the North America Veterinary Licensing Exam. There are also individual state exams for veterinarians and vet techs.
Preparing for Vet School
Entrance into a veterinarian program requires a strong undergraduate foundation in the sciences. You will want to maintain a 3.5 GPA at a minimum to be considered a serious candidate for vet school, says the Penn State Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences program. Your undergraduate focus should be mathematics, chemistry, physical sciences and biology. The exact types of courses and number of credits is different for each veterinary college, so check the schools that you’re interest in attending.
Some of your undergraduate work can be done online. Using resources such as CollegeOnline, find out which prerequisites you can take online and get a head start on your class work. This is ideal if you are working full time and want to see if you can make your way through the undergraduate requirements.
Another key activity is volunteering with a licensed veterinarian. Some vet colleges require letters of recommendation from one or more vets. These recommendations and your willingness to do the volunteer work show the schools that you are committed to the veterinarian profession.
Preparing to Apply to Vet School
Most colleges require you to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and pass with certain grades. Each school will list the target scores they want you to attain.
Most of the colleges use the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS). This automated system takes your application online and submits it to the schools to which you wish to apply. It also sends your letters of recommendations and GRE scores to those schools for you.
While no veterinary schools offer a full program through online learning, students can use online classes to enhance their skills while attending college. If you don’t get into a veterinary program right away, another option is to take courses online to become a certified vet tech.
The vet tech role is managed by the Committee on Veterinary Technician Education and Activities (CVTEA) through the AVMA. A number of schools throughout the U.S. offer vet tech programs as well as online education courses. This might be a stepping stone into veterinarian college, especially if your GPA or GRE scores are below the norm.
A vet tech works alongside a licensed veterinarian and is allowed to participate in diagnostic procedures, give medications and anesthesia, and provide treatment under the direction of a vet. This might be a good way to determine if the veterinarian program is the right path for you.