Veterinarian Licensing & Certification

Find out more about what it takes to become a veterinarian. Here, you will get information about the degree requirements, the salary, job duties, and more! Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career at a Glance

Veterinarians work with livestock, pets and other animals that need medical attention or require consistent treatment. They work by diagnosing, treating, managing and researching medical treatments for animals that are brought into their clinics. Check out the chart below for more information.

Degree RequiredDoctoral or professional degree
Education Field of StudyVeterinary medicine
Job DutiesDiagnose illnesses or injuries in animals; treat medical conditions and diseases; operate medical equipment to perform surgery on animals
LicensurePass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE)
Median Salary (2017)$90,420 per year or $43.47 per hour*
Job Outlook (2016-2026)19% growth*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Does a Veterinarian Do?

Veterinarians are qualified medical professionals that can treat a wide range of animals by performing examinations, testing for diseases and treating any official diagnoses by prescribing medication or surgery. They can diagnose animals by using medical equipment such as x-rays and perform surgery. Furthermore, there are a few other examples of veterinary specialty positions, including companion animal veterinarian, food animal veterinarian and food safety and inspection veterinarian.

A companion animal veterinarian works with animals that include dogs, cats, birds, ferrets and rabbits. Food animal veterinarians treat farm animals, such as sheep and cattle, and spend a lot of time on farms dealing with injuries and administering vaccinations. Additionally, a food and safety and inspection veterinarian inspects and tests livestock and administers animal and public health programs.

What Degree Is Required?

You will need to first obtain a bachelor's degree from an accredited university. During this time, you will want to take courses such as chemistry, biology, anatomy, animal science, zoology, microbiology and physiology. Once you have earned your bachelor's degree, you will be able to apply to a university that offers a 4-year veterinary medicine program. As a reference, typically veterinary medical schools want to see formal veterinary experience when applying. In veterinary medical school, you will spend 3 years in the classroom, attending labs and completing clinical work, and in the 4th year, you will be performing clinical rotations in a veterinary hospital or medical center. After graduation, you will be able to earn licensure by passing the NAVLE.

What Licensing Is Necessary?

All states in the U.S. require a basic license that involves passing the NAVLE. However, some of these testing standards will vary by state; for example, if you are working for the federal or state government you may not need a state license. Each state requires the NAVLE, yet some agencies or organizations may require you to have a specific state license that covers state laws and regulations. Furthermore, if you are interested in a particular specialty such as surgery or internal medicine, the American Veterinary Medical Association recognizes certification in 41 areas.

How Much Will I Earn?

In May 2017, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that the median salary for veterinarians was $90,420 per year. The top industry was found for those working in social advocacy programs with a median pay of $92,840 per year. The majority of veterinarians work full-time and may need to put in additional hours that stem from working overnights, weekends and responding to emergencies outside of official work hours.

What Are Some Similar Careers?

Zoologists and wildfire biologists get to study animals, other wildlife and how these animals interact in their own natural environments. This only requires a bachelor's degree and still allows you to work directly with animals and conduct research. Another great option that doesn't require a medical degree would be becoming an agriculture and food scientist. These scientists spend their time researching ways to improve the effectiveness and safety of agriculture products and establishments; this only requires a bachelor's degree.

If you are interested in working in the medical field prescribing medications, diagnosing ailments and performing surgery, becoming a surgeon working with humans or a dentist who works with patients' teeth and oral health may be a good fit for you.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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