How To Become A Veterinarian: Steps To Take From High School
If you love working with and caring for animals, then theres a good chance that youve considered becoming a veterinarian. But as a high school student, it can be challenging to figure out which steps will set you up for career success, especially when certain career paths, like becoming a vet, have so many requirements. And how do you know if being a veterinarian really is the right career choice for you?
While you shouldnt expect to have everything figured out by the time youre in high school, it doesnt hurt to begin exploring careers that youre already interested in. Most students are interested in occupations with related skills and knowledge requirements. By beginning to learn about and prepare for one career, students often discover opportunities which will help prepare them for other careers in similar fields.
If youre reading this, theres a good chance that you have an interest in working with animals, and many animal-related occupations have similar educational requirements. So if youre an animal lover, looking into becoming a vet is a great place to start. By taking the right courses and gaining practical experience while youre in high school, youll be exposed to the variety of animal-related careers out there and be able to hone in on whether becoming a veterinarian is the right choice for you. Heres some information to help you get started.
Apply To Veterinary Programs
Its critical to focus on performing well in your course prerequisites in addition to gaining plenty of animal and veterinary experience before applying to DVM programs. Another benefit to getting hands-on experience is working with veterinarians who can write you a glowing recommendation for veterinary school, Dr. Pasternak says. Additionally, set aside plenty of time to work on writing your vet school essay, obtaining letters of recommendation, and completing program-specific requirements before submitting applications through theVeterinary Medical College Application Service. This service allows you to easily distribute your application to multiple schools at the same time. If youre lucky enough to gain acceptance to more than one program, youll need to think carefully about which one best fits your needs. Dr. Pasternak notes that you should pay particular attention to schools that focus on clinical and communication skills. You may want to get in touch with current students at schools youre considering to gather some of this information.
Important Qualities For Veterinarians
In addition to education and licensure, veterinarians should possess certain qualities that are important to the role and occupation. These qualities may not be taught in the classroom, but are considered soft skills that every veterinarian should have to be successful in the role.
Ability to solve problems: A veterinarian must have good problem-solving skills as they assess animals and respond to emergencies. Vets must figure out what is causing problems for an animal and determine the best course of treatment. For those who conduct research, such as the impacts of certain drug therapies, superior diagnostic and problem-solving abilities are necessary.
Communication skills: Veterinarians explain problems and treatment plans to animal owners. They give instructions to staff and for owners to carry out at home. Having effective communication skills helps a veterinarian successfully convey instructions and directions.
Compassion: When working with animals and their owners, compassion is essential. Vets should treat animals with respect and kindness, while remaining sensitive to an owners feelings regarding treatment and care.
Empathy: As with compassion, empathy is important for veterinarians to have towards both animals and their owners. By understanding and sharing the feelings of an animal owner, a veterinarian conveys how much they care.
Tuition And Debt Concerns
According to the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, the average annual tuition is about $50,000 for out of state students and $24,000 for in-state students as of late 2019.
Since vet school tuition is expensive, many students have to take out substantial student loans. This problem is compounded by the fact that vet students are often unable to bring in any income during their education because of the long hours of study required. According to the AVMA, as of 2016, the average debt for a vet student at graduation was $143,758.
How Much Will You Make As A Veterinarian
In 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that veterinarians made an average salary of $93,830. The lowest 10 percent of veterinarians made $56,540, and the highest 10 percent made an average of $162,450. These statistics show that there is immense pay variation within the veterinary medicine field depending on where you practice and your experience, your annual salary could vary by as much as $100,000.
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Earnings Potential For Veterinarians
Healthcare practitioners, in general, can expect to earn $2.5 million over their working lifetimes, or more. According to BLS, veterinarians earn a median annual wage of $99,250, which is much more than the $69,870 median annual wage for healthcare practitioners as a whole. While the lowest 10% of earners in this occupation made an average of $60,690, the highest 10% earned over $164,490 per year.
Industry type impacts earnings for veterinarians. BLS reports four top-paying industries for veterinarians. These industries include veterinary services, social advocacy organizations, government, and educational services . Earnings for each of these industries are as follows:
Veterinary services: $99,300Government: $94,610Educational services: $87,110
Earnings also vary by city. BLS reports top-paying metropolitan areas for veterinarians, as well as nonmetropolitan areas. In these cities and rural areas, veterinarians can earn a considerably higher wage than the average, especially in metro areas. However, earnings potential should be weighed against the cost of living and other factors that may impact the bottom line.
Professional Veterinary Associations & Groups
Students are encouraged to investigate and join professional associations that advocate for veterinarians, their common interests, and that support research in the field. The benefits are legion. An association can provide mentors and practitioners for career networking, employment strategies, the latest job alerts, advancements in the profession, and evidence-based clinical techniques. Here are several to consider as you grow into the field:
The VBMA assists veterinarians and students in the development of key skills in networking, personal management, knowledge of student loans, finance, communication, and business operations.
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Job Outlook For Veterinarians
There are many rewards to a career as a veterinarian. They enjoy the option to operate their own practice, as 18 percent of veterinarians do, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, most veterinarians chose the occupation not for the financial benefits, but because they have a passion for working with and caring for animals.
Overall job prospects for veterinarians are expected to be very good for the next decade. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment for this occupation is projected to grow 16% through 2029. The rate of growth is much faster than the average for all occupations. As pet-related spending increases among consumers and pet owners, veterinary services are expected to be positively impacted. Vet services employ veterinarians, thus an increase in hiring is projected.
In addition to consumer-driven impacts, new advances in veterinary technology and services will impact the job outlook for veterinarians. Todays working veterinarians offer services that mirror many healthcare exams, procedures, and treatments on humans. Complicated kidney transplants and cancer treatments are just some of the advanced services offered to animals. These advancements should lead to the hiring of more skilled veterinarians.
Veterinarian Salary & Job Growth
Across the United States, veterinarian salaries very widely based on factors that include state and city cost of living, types of veterinarian clinics or private practice, and personal experience in the field. According to the BLS, the 69,400 veterinarians in the country earn a mean annual wage of $101,530.
Experience also impacts earnings. PayScale reports that beginning veterinarian salaries range from $52,863 – $103,684. Average initial bonuses can amount to $17,633 per year, with commissions from $2,021 to $40,490. Mid-career veterinarians can earn up to $109,815, with a $20,000 bonus and $38,438 in commissions. Late career veterinarians earn up to $140,954, with a bonus of $20,664 and commissions as high as $49,665. Dont forget to consider profit-sharing. Depending on the practice or firm, veterinarians can receive annual profit sharing contributions that range wildly, from $2,432 – $181,207.
The BLS has compiled 2016 data for every state, including salaries, numbers of veterinarians, and job projections . The bureau predicts that nationwide employment for qualified veterinarians will grow by 19% between 2016-2026. The highest median annual wages are offered in Hawaii, $198,340 New Jersey, $124,830 New York, $122,500 Nevada, $121,150 California, $120,300 Connecticut, $114,110 and Rhode Island, $118,660. The lowest-paying states include Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.
Currently Employed: 200
Change in Employment : -1.70%
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Gain As Much Experience As Possible
The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges 20192020 data report shows most applicants have spent hundreds of hours working with animals, and many schools emphasize work performed under the supervision of a veterinarian. Internships and job shadowing are a few good options. According to Dr. Lori Pasternak, a veterinarian and cofounder ofHelping Hands Affordable Veterinary Surgery & Dental Care, the more variety the better. Gathering adiverse range of experiencesis also a good way to find out if veterinary medicine is the right path for you. You must love animals, of course, but a love of science, service, teamwork, and compassionate care are equally required, Dr. Pasternak says.
“A love of science, service, teamwork, and compassionate care are equally required.”
Also consider getting involved in extracurricular activities. Students should also look into joining a pre-vet club or organization at their undergraduate university, says Dr. Danel Grimmett, a veterinarian atSunset Veterinary Clinic. These types of clubs offer support and education regarding preparing for veterinary school. Some colleges even offer internships based at animal hospitals and zoos.
How To Get The Job
TAKE SCIENCE CLASSES IN COLLEGE If you are thinking about applying to veterinary school, takeand excel inscience classes, including biology, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, zoology, and animal science while in college.
WORK WITH ANIMALS Gain experience by working in veterinary offices, animal shelters, or other animal-related businesses.
STUDY Admission to a veterinary college is competitive. Once that hurdle is cleared, completing the program will require a high level of dedication and commitment.
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Entry Requirements For Veterinary Degrees
In order to study veterinary science, you will be expected to demonstrate a very strong academic record in science subjects, especially chemistry and biology. Youll need to show excellent grades from your previous studies in these two subjects and have an overall good diploma. Good grades in mathematics and physics are usually not obligatory, but they may be an asset to your application. As veterinary degrees are often highly competitive, applicants are also expected to show evidence of their longstanding interest in the field, perhaps through completion of some relevant work experience or voluntary work.
Select Schools And Address Specific Admission Requirements
Start researching programs well before applying, because each has slightly different admission requirements. These can include obtaining letters of recommendation, completing the Graduate Record Examination , and meeting minimum grade expectations. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges has a helpful resource that allows you to compare programs, even schools in Canada and other international locations. But its a good idea to visit individual school websites to make sure you have all your bases covered. The Université de Montréal, for example, maintains strict French fluency requirements.
“If you want to save time and money, then go to an accredited school.”
You should also be mindful of how a schools accreditation status may affect your licensure process later on. If you want to save time and money, then go to an accredited school, Dr. Martin says. I don’t think it matters how many schools you apply to or where they are.Attending a fully accredited international program, such as St. Georges University, means youll be eligible to seek licensure in Canadaor the USafter passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination . Well go into this in a bit more detail below.
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Gather Veterinary And Animal Experience
Gaining as much animal experience as you can, particularly under the supervision of a veterinarian, is going to be a huge help as you get closer to applying to vet school. Schools dont specify a minimum number of hours applicants must complete, but many of them provide a general overview on their website.Gathering experience isnt just about demonstrating your abilities. Its also the best way to ensure youre dedicated to veterinary medicine. Seeing both the positive and negative parts of the job will help you make an informed decision about whether its the right career path for you.
Complete Any Additional Requirements
You may need to complete additional steps depending on where you want to practice. Make sure to contact the correct provincial regulatory body in Canada or state regulatory board in the US to find out which specific requirements you need to meet. For instance, US students who attended an international school may need to obtain certification through the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates .
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How To Choose A Vet Major In College
Students often choose a major based on what they think they should study to achieve a certain outcome , but thats not always the right move. For many careers, including veterinarian, there are multiple undergraduate majors you could choose from and still wind up in your desired profession.
Here are the factors you should consider when choosing an undergraduate major as a prospective veterinarian:
Choosing a major isnt like solving a problem with only one right answer. Different degree paths may help you achieve these different outcomes in various ways. Your personal interests and strengths should also play a role in choosing your major. If you dont really love biology or chemistry, you might opt to take only the minimum courses in these subjects required to satisfy your vet school prerequisites and instead major in something you do have a passion for, even if its not especially relevant to vet school.
Salary And Job Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for veterinarians in 2016 was $88,700. Salaries vary by region with the best-paid jobs located in Honolulu, Hawaii where the mean annual wage for veterinarians in 2016 was $216,840. The second highest paying city was Jacksonville, Florida with a reported mean salary of $188,880. Demand for veterinarians is expected to increase by 18% between 2016 and 2026.
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I Am Finishing College Now What
Most college students traditionally apply to vet schools in the fall of their senior year to meet the deadline of September 15 . Hopefully you will have the entire junior year to prepare to take GRE test and decide on which vet schools and how many vet schools to apply.
There are many factors to consider when choosing which schools to apply. While all 30 veterinary schools are good quality schools, there are different strength that each school has to offer. You just need to match your strengths and desire with theirs when making a decision. We recommend you apply to 5 to 7 schools.
Take time to evaluate schools to determine the best schools for you and save on application costs. Start your VMCAS online application as soon as it becomes available. Ask for your recommendation letters in a timely fashion. Utilize VMCAS’s check-list to send a complete package to them.
After receiving interview offers from the vet schools, you start preparing for the each interview. Consult with your academic adviser, pre-vet club advisers, and career counseling advisers on your campus to prepare for your interviews. Usually Pre-Vet club holds sessions on previous year’s applicants about general do’s and don’ts on veterinary school applications/interviews. .
Complete Your Undergraduate Studies
Though you arent required to obtain a four-year bachelors degree prior to attending veterinary school, most programs have pretty strict course requirements. Be sure to review individual school websites to research their specific prerequisites. Some applicants are veterinary technicians looking to advance their careers, and they often have a two-year associates degree. Dr. Alec Martin, former Program Manager at the Veterinary Skills, Training & Enhancement Program and Director of Health Services at Neighbourhood Pet Clinic, says they may face some problems. I don’t know how this is going to work, because their educationthough strong in a practical sensewill be missing so many components, Dr. Martin says. He adds these applicants may be missing out on subjects that are crucial for succeeding as a veterinarian, including organic chemistry, genetics, and statistics.
“A four-year science degree is more likely to ensure the necessary understanding of these key components.”
The decision is ultimately up to you, but obtaining a bachelors degree is likely a good choice. A four-year science degree is more likely to ensure the necessary understanding of these key components, but I think a three-year degree would also suffice, Dr. Martin says.
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Do You Need Any Certifications Or Licenses
Veterinarians everywhere in the United States must be licensed to practice legally. You can only acquire your veterinary license after you have completed an accredited DVM program, and youll also have to pass a certification exam. A variety of entities provide certification exams for aspiring veterinarians, but the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination is considered to be the best exam for easy certification.
What Courses Should I Take In High School
Take all college preparatory courses in all major subjects especially biology, chemistry, physics, calculus, trigonometry, statistics, environmental/earth science and English. Also important are computer science, history, and languages. Take all at the highest level your high school offers. New York State students should earn a NYS Regents Diploma.
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