With your love of animals and passion for their health and well-being, you may have decided that veterinary work is the career path for you. Now it’s time to make a plan for how you can achieve this goal, including your education, internships, and plans for practical aspects such as disability insurance for veterinarians and other benefits.
Start Early on Your Career Path
The earlier you begin to prepare, the better! Gain as much exposure to animals as you can. Study hard in math and science classes; you will need to know a lot in these two areas to get through veterinary school.
You may be able to take some extra classes that count towards college credit. Even if they don’t, taking classes that are relevant to your degree will help you be better prepared for college-level courses. For instance, you may want to take biology, physics, chemistry, and statistics in high school.
Plan for Your Undergraduate Degree
During your time in high school, you should start looking at schools with a veterinary program. You may want to apply at several to ensure you get accepted to one that you will like, as a pre-vet major. To get into veterinary school, you will need to complete pre-requisite courses, such as animal sciences, biochemistry, biology, zoology, physics, nutrition, and other classes.
You can complete any undergraduate degree you want, as long as you take the required pre-req courses for veterinary school following your undergraduate studies. Still, it’s a good idea to major in something compatible, such as animal science or biology. You will need to have good grades in those courses to be admitted into vet school.
Gain Experience with Animals
During your undergraduate degree program, you should find opportunities to work with animals. Most schools of veterinary medicine require a certain number of hours of direct experience with animals. This can be achieved with internships or jobs in veterinary offices or on farms. You can even work in a pet store, stable, or zoo, and the hours will count.
An ideal option is to work with a veterinarian. They can provide a letter of recommendation for your application to the school of veterinary medicine you choose.
Testing for Graduate School
You will need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) test. Graduate schools, including veterinary schools, require this test. It includes testing on critical thinking, verbal reasoning, and other skills to assess your ability to handle graduate programs. Some schools require you to take a GRE Subject Test, which could cover mathematics, chemistry, or other subjects.
Once your application is submitted, the school will consider all of your information together. GRE test scores are usually weighted the same as GPA in pre-vet courses, letters of recommendation, and any experience with animals. Prepare well for this exam!
Attending Graduate School and Licensing
You will need to attend four years in a school of veterinary medicine and pass the required courses. Most schools will have a minimal grade for you to achieve in each class in order to graduate.
Students are also required to take the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination to be licensed to practice as a veterinarian. The test is difficult, so you are allowed to take it five times to pass. Once you have completed all courses and passed the exam, you will graduate and be qualified to practice as a veterinarian.
The Next Steps
You may decide you want to continue your education and add a doctorate. You can specialize in certain fields related to your future goals, such as public policy or animal diseases.
Some students want to begin their practice right after graduation. They may apply for certification with the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners or a board of their future specialty. Graduates can apply for membership in professional societies. All students will need to meet the minimum requirements for the state where they plan to practice.
Planning for Your Future
Many students begin the next steps in their career while in the last year of graduate school, while others wait until after graduation. Regardless of when you choose to do so, you should search for jobs in your chosen area of veterinary medicine. This may be a position with an established veterinarian, in a zoo, or lab.
Disability Insurance for Veterinarians
One area you may not think much about is your physical safety while working as a vet. Your physical ability to work is worth insuring, as this is your source of livelihood. It’s especially important to protect yourself and your income when you’re just starting out. If you should get seriously injured while doing your job and be out of work for a few months, you need to have income coming in to pay your monthly bills until you can get back to work.
Disability insurance for veterinarians can replace your income until you’re back on your feet. It has a low cost compared to the benefits it provides. Research your insurance options so that you are prepared for anything your job (and life) may throw at you!
As you work towards your goal of becoming a veterinarian, be conscious and intentional with the decisions you make. Each decision can help you move forward on the path to successfully achieving your goals!