Becoming a Vet

Every day in the life of a veterinarian is different; no two days are exactly alike. Each day will bring different types of animals, some healthy and some sick. You will need to care about animals and people, and enjoy working with both. You will need to communicate with the owners of the patients as well as your coworkers. Treating animals is like treating an infant; you will need to communicate with the parent, or in this case, the owner to find out what problems the animal may be having or what symptoms they are displaying. Because an animal cannot talk back you will need to be observant in how the animal behaves or responds to you, and look for signs of discomfort or pain.

There are many different types of veterinarians dependent upon the type of practice they run or the type of industry they have decided to work in. Some have small animal practices and surgeries, these vets usually work with companion animals and pets. Others run farm animal practices; this type of practice requires them to travel to farms and ranches where their patients will be located. These VMD's work primarily with large or herd animals. There are zoo animal veterinarians and this area is the hardest to get into. These animal doctors may also work in the following areas and industries: research and pharmaceutical companies, military veterinarians, teachers, and more. Veterinarians often work long hours and will have patients needing help 24 hours a day. Communicating with the animal's owner can occasionally be difficult and emotional. The hardest part of the job for most veterinarians is euthanizing an animal.

Necessary Steps to Be a Vet

Becoming a vet is not an easy path. You will need to enjoy learning and do well in school, especially in biology and other science classes. It's very important to gain firsthand experience in veterinary medicine before making your decision. You should work with and observe a veterinarian in a practice. This will provide an opportunity for you to understand what to expect and help determine if this is the career path for yourself.

Most students applying for veterinary school have a bachelor's degree in biology or animal sciences. You will need to apply to the school or schools you wish to attend by filling out the VMCAS application. You will also need to provide test scores (usually the GRE test) and transcripts as well as letters of evaluation/recommendation regarding related experiences. Most schools will require prerequisites in biology (with labs), organic chemistry, physics, English, social and behavior sciences, animal nutrition and other general courses and electives. Since there are only 26 states that have veterinary programs the competition is intense. Residents in these states tend to have precedence over out of state students and the tuition will also be lower for state residents. For example Auburn University in Alabama currently charges $13,006 per year for an Alabama resident, while non-residents are charged $39,234 per year. Auburn contracts with Kentucky and West Virginia to allow students from those states to participate since they do not have programs. Auburn's entering class size is 120 with one third of the students being Alabama residents, 34 - 40 are from Kentucky and 2 are from West Virginia.

After successfully graduating you will need to pass the national board examination to receive licensure. All veterinarians must be licensed to be able to practice medicine in the United States. This North American Veterinary Licensing Exam is an 8-hour exam consisting of 360 multiple-choice questions as well as visual materials to test diagnostic skills. Most states also require a state jurisprudence examination covering the state's laws and regulations. There are also states that do additional testing to confirm clinical competency.

The greatest reward is being able to help both animals and people, especially when you are able to save the life of a beloved pet. It may not be an easy path, but if have the desire to become a veterinarian it is a worthwhile and fulfilling career choice.