Veterinary Medicine, DVM

Review the requirements for becoming a veterinarian, and find out what you'd learn in a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program. Explore the job duties, employment outlook and salary potential for veterinarians.

Is Veterinary Medicine For Me?

Career Overview

Veterinary medicine involves the diagnosis and treatment of different illnesses in animals. As a veterinarian, you may work in a private practice treating domestic animals, such as dogs, cats, birds and reptiles. On an average day, you may see several different animals, taking care of anything from broken bones and skin lesions to eye infections and heart complications. You can also attend to many pregnant animals, even assisting through the birthing process.

In addition to working in private practices, many veterinarians find work treating wild animals in zoos or aquariums. These types of veterinarians may treat an array of exotic wildlife, including lions, tigers, monkeys, giraffes, dolphins and whales. Veterinarians typically spend their workdays in offices or laboratories but can be required to treat animals in unsanitary conditions. You can also expect to work irregular hours, including nights, weekends and holidays when responding to emergency and other unexpected appointments.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for veterinarians was projected to grow by 12% over the 2012-2022 decade, which is considered to be average growth compared to all jobs (www.bls.gov). With only 29 accredited veterinary schools in the country, as of 2012, only a limited number of qualified veterinarians enter the workforce each year. The BLS also reported the average annual salary for veterinarians in May 2013 was $96,140.

How Do I Work in Veterinary Medicine?

Undergraduate Education

Prerequisites for admittance into veterinary school vary with each individual program. While certain schools require a bachelor's degree upon applying for entry, others allow you to apply if you meet a certain number of undergraduate credits, which typically range from 45-90 semester hours. The BLS reported that if you're interested becoming a vet, you could pursue science courses, such as organic and inorganic chemistry, animal biology, genetics, zoology and cellular biology. The BLS also recommended that you take courses in the humanities or social sciences.

Graduate Education and Licensure

To become a veterinarian, you need to complete a 4-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program and obtain state licensure. The DVM program consists of 2-3 years of coursework, followed by a year or two spent interning at a veterinary clinic or hospital. You can take courses in veterinary anatomy, emergency and critical care, animal behavior, veterinary pathology and animal surgery. Post-graduate residencies in a variety of areas, such as veterinary oncology or cardiology, are sometimes available. State licensure requirements vary by state, but you generally must have a DVM and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam.

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