What Education Do You Need to Be a Veterinarian?

You may be wondering what education you need to be a veterinarian. The answer may surprise you – you don’t need a specific degree! In fact, you can pursue a career in veterinary medicine with a wide variety of degrees.

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The Path to Becoming a Veterinarian

In order to become a veterinarian, you will need to obtain a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) degree from an accredited college of veterinary medicine. This is a four-year professional degree, similar to the medical degree (M.D.) that is required to become a doctor.


Becoming a veterinarian is no easy task. In order to be accepted into veterinary school, you will need to have completed a pre-veterinary program and earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. The type of degree you earn is not as important as the courses you take during your undergraduate studies.

You will need to complete a wide variety of science courses, including chemistry, biology, physics, and anatomy. In addition to these core science classes, you will also need to take English composition and literature, math, and social science courses. All of these classes will help you develop the critical thinking and communication skills that are essential for success in veterinary school and in your future career.

After completing your undergraduate degree, you will need to take the Veterinary Admission Test (VAT), which is required for admission into most veterinary schools in the United States. Once you have been accepted into veterinary school, you can expect to spend four years completing your studies. During your first two years, you will take classes in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, microbiology, and other sciences. In your third and fourth years, you will participate in clinical rotations at veterinary hospitals and clinics, where you will gain hands-on experience treating animals.

Once you have completed veterinary school, you will need to pass the national Veterinary Licensing Examination (VLX) before you can begin practicing. Once you are licensed, you can choose to specialize in a particular area of veterinary medicine by completing a residency program or pursuing a specialization certification.


Licensure is required in all states in order to practice veterinary medicine, although individual state requirements may vary. Candidates for licensure must first pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). The NAVLE is a computer-based test consisting of 360 multiple-choice questions, covering all areas of the veterinary curriculum. In order to be eligible to take the NAVLE, candidates must have graduated from an accredited veterinary school. Once a candidate has passed the NAVLE, he or she may then apply for licensure in the state in which he or she intends to practice.

In addition to passing the NAVLE, candidates for licensure must also satisfy all other requirements set forth by the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners. These requirements may include passing a jurisprudence exam, completing an internship or residency program, and/or completing continuing education courses.


The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is the accrediting body for veterinary programs in the United States. To be accredited, a program must meet certain standards set forth by the AVMA. There are currently 30 colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States that are AVMA-accredited.

Once you have completed an AVMA-accredited veterinary program, you will need to pass a national board exam called the Veterinary Licensing Examination (VLX). The VLX is administered by the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination Board (NAVLE). Once you have passed the NAVLE, you will be eligible to apply for state licensure. Each state has its own licensure requirements, but all states require passing the VLX.

After you have obtained your state license, you may choose to pursue additional training through a residency or fellowship program. Residency and fellowship programs are competitive and usually require completion of an internship prior to applying. These programs typically last two to four years and provide intensive training in a specific area of interest such as surgery, internal medicine, dentistry, etc.

The Veterinary Medical Profession

Becoming a veterinarian requires a significant investment of time and money. The length of time it takes to become a licensed veterinarian typically ranges from seven to eight years, although it may be possible to complete the education and training requirements in a shorter period of time.

Salary and Job Outlook

The median salary for veterinarians in the United States is $88,490 per year.1 The top 10% of earners make more than $162,450, while the bottom 10% make less than $51,800.1 Salaries vary based on factors such as employer type, industry, region, and years of experience.

Employment of veterinarians is projected to grow 19% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations.2 The need for veterinarians to care for our pets—which are often considered members of the family—should continue to spur demand for these workers. In addition, more veterinarians will be needed to care for livestock and work in zoos and other animal parks as public interest in these animals grows.

Work Schedule

As a veterinarian, you can expect to work long, irregular hours. You will be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You may have to work evenings and weekends. You may also have to travel to see patients.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Veterinarian

Like any career, being a veterinarian has its pros and cons. It’s important to be aware of both before making the decision to enter this field.

On the plus side, veterinarians get to work with animals and help them maintain good health. They also get to work with a variety of people, including animal owners, breeders, and zoo personnel. In addition, they often have the opportunity to travel and work outdoors.

On the downside, vets often work long hours, including evenings and weekends. They also deal with sick animals and their grieving owners on a regular basis. In addition, they must sometimes put down healthy animals that are no longer wanted or needed.

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