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What does it take to become a veterinarian?

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Transcript from this week’s episode of The Web-DVM:

Whether meeting a client for the first time, it’s not unusual for a veterinarian to hear something similar to “Oh, I always wanted to be a veterinarian!” Veterinary medicine consistently ranks among the most respected and admired professions. Pet owners and animal lovers do think highly of veterinarians, but many don’t know about the incredible schooling these animal doctors must complete.

Additionally, when asked what a veterinarian does, most people will respond with a phrase about “taking care of animals.” While that is certainly true, most are unaware of the incredible diversity of careers found in the veterinary profession. Not only do veterinarians care for our companion animals and our livestock, but they are also found doing important research that benefits both people and pets. Veterinarians are active in the military and in the public health sector.

So, what does it take to become a veterinarian?

First, good grades throughout high school and an undergraduate program in college are essential. Course work should be strong in math and sciences, but it is also important for the student to be well rounded.

These early years are also a great time to focus on finding a job or volunteer opportunity that gives hand on experiences with animals. Veterinary hospitals and animal shelters often accept school age volunteers, but don’t forget about the possibilities offered by Future Farmers of America programs or the local 4H.

After a minimum of four years of undergraduate work, the process for applying to veterinary school can begin. Competition for the open spots is extremely fierce. There are only 28 schools of veterinary medicine in the United States with 4 in Canada and another 4 located in the Caribbean. Compare that to the 134 human medical schools in the US!

Once accepted, new veterinary students will find that their school days will be very regimented and filled with an incredible amount of information. For the first two years, the focus is on the sciences. Lectures on the anatomy of various animal species, physiology, microbiology and many more subjects are the focus on the student’s days.

Then, as the students progress into their third and fourth years, all of the information they committed to memory can now be used in a practical manner as they move towards more hands on work in the veterinary teaching hospitals and labs. These “soon to be veterinarians” also find opportunities to assist in surgeries, extensive dental procedures and, of course, daily rounds with the attending veterinarians at the hospital.

When graduation finally arrives, the learning and education process is not over for these brand new animal doctors. In order to practice veterinary medicine, new graduates must pass national and state board exams. Then, even as they are learning the expertise of daily routines at their new job, continuing education (CE) is a requirement of all veterinarians.

As you can see, becoming a veterinarian not only takes passion and intelligence, but a fair amount of sacrifice and commitment as well. The degree of “Doctor of Veterinary Medicine” or “Veterinary Medical Doctor” is one of diversity and certainly a rewarding profession.
This is Roger Welton Reporting, for The Web-DVM.

Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website Web-DVM.net.

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