Pre-Veterinary

If you're interested in a career as a veterinarian, you must first acquire a solid foundation in math and science through an undergraduate degree program. Upon completion of pre-veterinary coursework, you're prepared to apply to veterinary school or seek a career in a related field.

Are Pre-Veterinary Studies for Me?

Overview

Pre-veterinary medicine is often a concentration within an undergraduate biology or animal studies degree program, although a few schools have undergraduate pre-veterinary degree programs. These degree programs are designed to provide you with the practical and research experience you need to meet admission standards for many veterinary schools. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), to work in these fields you must be able to communicate effectively, be detail-oriented, able to solve problems and able to control animals (www.bls.gov).

Career Options

With a pre-veterinary degree, you might pursue a career as a zookeeper, a domestic animal caretaker, an animal scientist or a veterinary technologist. You could also engage in entry-level pharmaceutical or scientific research, usually working under the supervision of a scientist.

Employment Information

The BLS projected that between 2012 and 2022 the employment of nonfarm animal caretakers would increase by 15%; in that same decade, employment should increase by 9% for animal scientists and by 30% for veterinary technologists and technicians. As of May 2012, the median annual salary for nonfarm animal caretakers was $19,690, according to the BLS. During that same period, the median annual salary for animal scientists was $61,680 and for veterinary technicians. For technologists, it was $30,290.

How Can I Work in Pre-Veterinary Medicine?

Undergraduate Education

Degree programs that meet the pre-veterinary requirements emphasize coursework in biology, animal science, physics, chemistry and math. The courses have both lecture and lab components that address animal nutrition, genetics, anatomy and breeding. You gain practical experience working with animals at campus facilities and animal hospitals, engaging in clinical procedures and reading case studies. With this training, you can volunteer, intern or work at animal clinics, zoos, wildlife rehabilitation centers or laboratories.

Graduate Education

You can also apply for a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree program, but admission is very competitive. Prerequisites include courses in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and physics. Many schools require that you have experience working with animals, and some require that you have veterinary experience, which you can acquire through internships, volunteering at animal hospitals or working as a vet tech. This training can lead to a career as a veterinarian. You may specialize in the field to work with small animals like dogs, large animals like horses or marine animals.

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