The Path to Becoming a Veterinarian 

Many individuals who are passionate about animals and their welfare aspire to become a veterinarian, and for many, this can be a dream job. However, it’s important to recognize that the path is not without its challenges. It’s best to spend some time thoroughly researching the career path and what a day in the life of a vet looks like in order to determine if it’s really the right choice for you. 

Do You Have What It Takes to Become a Veterinarian? 

Veterinarians can benefit from having exceptionally strong emotional resilience, as well as interpersonal skills, communication skills, and physical stamina. They often spend long days on their feet, they may sometimes need to deal with difficult clients, and they need to come to terms with the fact that not all of their patients will survive. Furthermore, it can be heartbreaking to treat animals who have been rescued from less-than-ideal situations. 

Despite these challenges, if you’re truly passionate about animals and enthusiastic about promoting their welfare, becoming a veterinarian might be the most meaningful, rewarding decision you’ll ever make. Although patients passing away is a normal part of the job, you’ll be able to save countless others.  

Consider signing up for a job shadowing experience so that you can see what it’s really like to be a veterinarian. You’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on at a busy vet clinic—everything from how the groomers use grooming tubs and tables to how the vet tech weighs animals on scales to what vets do when the animal is on the exam table.  

Plus, you’ll get a better idea of whether this is the right career path for you. If you’re confident becoming a veterinarian is the right path for you, follow these steps. 

Talk to Your High School Guidance Counselor 

Focus on getting good grades, especially in science and math classes. Talk to your guidance counselor about your career plans and see if you qualify for advanced classes in math and science, such as Advanced Placement (AP) or honors classes. In addition, take any relevant electives (e.g. medical sciences) available and sign up for relevant extracurricular activities. Consider joining clubs like the Future Farmers of America (FFA) where you can get firsthand experience working with all different kinds of animals and learning about their environments.  

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree 

Before choosing a college and degree program, you should carefully research entrance requirements for veterinary colleges. There is no one universal pre-veterinary bachelor’s degree program, but veterinary medicine colleges do have prerequisite course requirements. These generally include courses in science, math, English, humanities and social sciences. 

For instance, you can expect to need good grades in undergraduate classes such as: 

  • Biochemistry 
  • Microbiology 
  • Genetics 
  • Biology 
  • Chemistry/organic chemistry 
  • Pre-calculus 
  • Physics 
  • Statistics 

These are in addition to general education classes in humanities subjects. Check the websites of at least a handful of veterinary colleges to determine which prerequisites you’ll need. A biology degree is generally a safe bet for meeting prerequisite requirements. 

Seek Experiential Learning Opportunities 

Entrance to veterinary colleges is typically competitive, and good grades alone might not always be enough. You can make your application stand out by demonstrating hands-on, entry-level experience. 

While you’re still an undergraduate student, visit your campus’ career services department and ask for help looking for animal-related internship opportunities. Try to complete at least two or three internships during your undergraduate years, ideally in settings like veterinary clinics, animal shelters, animal rescue groups and similar organizations. 

It’s also a good idea to sign up for and actively participate in any relevant extracurriculars on your campus, such as a pre-vet club or an animal welfare advocacy group. 

You might also go the extra mile by applying to become a veterinary assistant at a clinic near your school. (The bar to entry is lower for vet assistants compared to vet technicians, which means this job can be doable for an undergrad student.)  

Another option is to apply to become a volunteer at an animal shelter. Most veterinary colleges require a minimum of 100 hours of experience either working or volunteering in a relevant setting, so becoming a volunteer can be an option if you can’t land an internship or job as a vet assistant. 

Earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) Degree 

Vet school generally lasts four years. At first, you’ll take intensive coursework in subjects such as: 

  • Animal anatomy and behavior 
  • Health and diseases 
  • Ophthalmology 
  • Parasitology 
  • Pharmacology 
  • Radiology 

Then, you’ll start doing clinical rotations. You’ll complete rotations in a variety of clinical areas, such as surgery, oncology, equine medicine, and so on. During rotations, you’ll gain hands-on experience assessing and treating animals under the close supervision of a licensed vet. 

Toward the end of your degree program, you’ll sit for the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE). Depending on your state, you may also be required to sit for a state licensing exam. 

Passing these exams enables you to become a licensed vet. Congratulations! 

Residency’s and Starting Your Own Practice  

If you choose a veterinary specialty, you may want to apply to a residency program after earning your license. A three-to four-year residency allows you to develop stronger clinical skills and practical experience in your chosen specialty area. You may also pursue an additional certification in your specialty from the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. 

At some point, you might start to think about owning your own vet practice. If so, you’ll need to carefully plan everything from hiring staff to purchasing veterinary equipment. This may require you to take some business or entrepreneurial classes, whether you do this online or attend an institution.  

Superior Veterinary Equipment Made With You in Mind 

TriStar Vet is known for designing and manufacturing exceptional veterinary equipment that is not only highly durable and easy to maintain, but also provides ergonomic support for busy vet clinic staff. From work islands and grooming tubs to veterinary surgery equipment, TriStar Vet has everything you need to meet your patients’ needs and keep them safe. 

Call TriStar Vet today to request a free product catalog.