To get into veterinary school, students will need to complete an undergraduate education, typically lasting 4 years. They must then take the GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, and apply to veterinary school with their scores.
Graduates of accelerated programs may complete the education in as few as 6 to 7 years, while those who wish to advance in the field as specialist veterinarians generally spend at least 11 to 12 years in training. On average, it takes about 8 years after high school to become an entry-level veterinarian.
The bachelor’s degree is the most common qualification held by veterinary school applicants, but some students have master’s and doctoral degrees. Although animal science and biology majors predominate, no specific undergraduate degree is required. Instead, students are expected to have completed specific coursework requisites.
There are 28 accredited veterinary schools in the United States, and each has its own specific curricular expectations. Typically, these include courses in biology, organic and general chemistry, calculus, physics, statistics, and English composition, as well as general education classes. It’s very important to maintain an excellent GPA as an undergraduate—at least a 3.5.
Prior experience is not technically a veterinary school requirement, but competitive admissions make pre-professional clinical practice a major asset on graduate applications. Today, many programs look for students with at least 500 to 600 hours of industry exposure, whether through internships, work or volunteer opportunities.
In general, professional and volunteer experiences are best completed while earning the bachelor’s degree. Waiting until after graduation could extend the amount of time it takes to become a veterinarian.
Professional veterinary programs are usually 4 years long. They are typically bisected into dual 2-year segments, focusing on classroom instruction and clinical practice, in that order.
Veterinary school is extremely competitive. Even the most qualified students may need to apply to several schools several times before they are granted admission, potentially increasing the time it takes to become a veterinarian.
Veterinary students may also pursue advanced graduate training after vet school to move into a specialized field, such as equine medicine or clinical veterinary pharmacy. Such post-professional training might include specialty internships or residencies, a degree like the Master of Veterinary Medicine (MVM), or a full Ph.D in Veterinary Medicine.
Graduate students may also choose among dual-degree and accelerated tracks. Some schools, for instance, offer combined programs that let students earn a DVM plus either a Ph.D. or MBA within an accelerated timeframe.
After students have successfully completed their professional education, they can seek state licensure. Veterinarians must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) or another board certification test to earn a state license to practice.