Veterinarians play a major role in the healthcare of pets, livestock, and zoo, sporting, and laboratory animals. Some veterinarians use their skills to protect humans against diseases carried by animals and conduct clinical research on human and animal health problems. Others work in basic research, broadening the scope of fundamental theoretical knowledge, and in applied research, developing new ways to use knowledge.
Veterinarians often work long hours, with well over one-third of full-time workers spending 50 or more hours on the job. Those in group practices may take turns being on call for evening, night, or weekend work; and solo practitioners can work extended and weekend hours, responding to emergencies or squeezing in unexpected appointments.
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Prospective veterinarians must graduate from a four-year program at an accredited college of veterinary medicine with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) degree and obtain a license to practice. The prerequisites for admission vary by veterinary medical college. Many of these colleges do not require a bachelor's degree for entrance; but all require a significant number of credit hours—ranging from 45 to 90 semester hours—at the undergraduate level. However, most of the students admitted have completed an undergraduate program.
The Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS) allows students to apply to multiple schools using a single application. You can also connect with VMCAS and other pre-veterinary students through Facebook. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) also has a Facebook page.
There is a growing need for vets with post-graduate education in particular specialties, such as molecular biology, laboratory animal medicine, toxicology, immunology, diagnostic pathology, or environmental medicine. The veterinary profession also is becoming more involved in aquaculture, comparative medical research, food production, and international disease control.
Applicants to veterinary medical school are not required to have a bachelor's degree, but more than 90% of all entering students do. The other 10% choose to start veterinary school after their junior year of college.
AAVMC publishes a summary of course prerequisites required by veterinary schools.
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Last updated: November 23, 2015
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