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THE PET HEALTH LIBRARY
By Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP
Educational Director, VeterinaryPartner.com

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Who Wants to be a Veterinar(ian)?

(with apologies to Regis Philbin and ABC for this terrible pun)

We get email on a weekly basis at least from young people of all ages who want to know what is involved in becoming a veterinarian. Often career projects are involved that require interviews and research.  We have put together this section to help the next generation decide if this career is what they want and if the efforts needed to get there are what they are willing to accomplish.

For children who love animals:


 
I want to Be...A Veterinarian
by Stephanie Maze
Ages 9 - 12


 
I'm Going to be a Vet
by Edith Kunhardt
Ages 4 - 8


 
If You Were a....Veterinarian
by Virginia Schomp
Ages 9 - 12

 

 

 

 

 

 

These books may be helpful to curious young minds looking brightly into a distant future. Click on any of the book titles to link directly to Amazon.com, where you can find more information or order them for yourself.

For older students ready to pursue a career interest in more detail, here are some links:

 

Most veterinary schools have web pages of their own and list their requirements for admissions. Most major universities have a pre-vet club or organization.
 

To assist with career research projects we have assembled an FAQ.

What Kind of Personal Qualities are Needed to Become a Veterinarian?

You need to be dedicated to animal welfare and to serving the relationship of human and non-human animal. A veterinary career is a lifelong commitment. You must enjoy reading and research. You must be able to handle stress well. You must have physical endurance for the long hours necessary. One must enjoy teaching and communication as helping animals is accomplished through the humans that care for them.

How Long Do you have to go to School to Become a Veterinarian?

After high school, college comes next. Most veterinary students have graduated from college, which means they have studied four years and received an undergraduate degree. Many veterinary schools will accept applicants after only two or three years of college but these students represent a minority in a veterinary school class. Expect to complete college before attending veterinary school. Keep in mind that having more experience in school can only be helpful.

Veterinary school itself is a four-year program, just as medical school is. After graduation from veterinary school, a student is now a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine but training may not stop there. An internship may follow graduation, which means the new graduate will work in supervised hospital environment for an additional year. If specialization is desired in a particular body system and its diseases, a residency follows for an additional two or three years.

What Kind of Grades are Necessary for Admission into Veterinary School?

High school grades are not considered. How you do in high school gets you into college. How you do in college is what gets you into veterinary school and that means as close to straight Aís as possible. Veterinary school admission is quite competitive with approximately five applicants for each place. You must show knowledge of the profession by working with animals on an extracurricular basis and working in an animal hospital or with a veterinarian. This career is not one to be applied for casually.

What are the Duties of a Practicing Veterinarian?

This is a difficult question to answer as there are so many different branches of veterinary medicine. We tend to picture the private practice veterinarian in a small community hospital, seeing patients and performing surgery but there are so many other choices. There are veterinarians who treat only horses, for example. Some veterinarians treat food animals such as cows, chickens or pigs where the focus is on the health of the herd or group, not on the individual. Some veterinarians work in zoos, some with laboratory animals in research settings. Some work academically with microscopic organisms. Some teach. Some work with animal athletes such as race horses or sled dogs and some work with only fish. Veterinary medicine is a big world in and of itself with many choices to make and career life styles to choose from.

What is the Best Aspect of Being a Practicing Veterinarian?

Veterinarians serve the human-animal bond. We do so much more than just help sick animals; we help these animals be loved. The reward of seeing a patient recover and be returned to the loving arms of its family is unmatchable. We help bring more love into the world and doing that is the greatest contribution that can be made.

What are the Disadvantages of Being a Veterinarian?

Being a doctor requires staying abreast of an ever expanding body of medical information. This requires regular (if not daily) reading, attending seminars, and basically doing homework. If a lifetime as a student is not what you are looking for, becoming a doctor is probably not for you. Sometimes emergency hours are required. The work is physically challenging and the hours are long and not always amenable to family life.

Aside from the lifestyle issues of being a doctor, it is important to consider what the work entails. Private practice veterinarians have to euthanize patients, patients that they have seen grow up from baby puppies or kittens into adulthood. Beyond this, there will be cases where all your knowledge and all the resources open to you will not be enough to help your patient. Their owners may be grieving, they may be angry or blaming but sometimes part of a veterinarianís job includes guidance through the end of a beloved petís life. How will these stresses affect you on a day to day basis?

Date Published: 2/8/2008 5:06:00 PM
Date Reviewed/Revised: 05/28/2012

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