Overview of Veterinary Medicine
Jump to a topic:
- Professional responsibilities
- Is veterinary medicine a possible career for you?
- Professional education
- Required coursework
- College major
- Diagnose animal health problems
- Vaccinate against diseases
- Medicate animals suffering from infections or illnesses
- Treat and dress wounds, set fractures, and perform surgery
- Advise owners about animal feeding, behavior, and breeding
- Use their skills to protect humans against diseases carried by animals
- Conduct clinical research on human and animal health problems
- Work in basic research, broadening our knowledge of animals and medical science
- Work in applied research, developing new ways to use knowledge
Do the following words/phrases apply to you? If so veterinary medicine may be a good fit:
- Enjoy working with animals
- Strong foundation in the sciences
- Good manual dexterity
- Strong interpersonal skills to deal with pet/animal owners
- Business skills (for vets intending to go into private practice)
- Would like a well-compensated career ($71,990 national median salary*)
- Degrees Offered: Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)
- Years of Study: 4 years
- B.S./B.A. degree is recommended but not required for admission to the majority of programs
- Graduates of accredited DVM programs must pass a state licensure exam in order to practice
Courses required for admission vary significantly from one institution to another. The following courses are mentioned frequently as being required and/or recommended by a majority of vet med programs:
- 1 year biology with lab
- 1 year inorganic chemistry with lab
- 1 year organic chemistry with lab
- 1 year physics with lab
- 1 year English (including public speaking and composition)
- 1-2 courses in mathematics or statistics
Some vet schools may also require courses in genetics, microbiology, animal nutrition and humanities/social sciences. Some of these courses may not be available at Northwestern University and may have to be taken elsewhere.
The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) produces a chart of all course prerequisites for the vet schools that use VMCAS (the centralized application service). The AAVMC also creates college descriptor pages for their member vet med schools.
The Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements guide (VMSAR) contains admission requirements and contact information for all 32 U.S. and Canadian veterinary medical colleges, as well as the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh. A new edition usually comes out in May and can be bought online.
Veterinary medical students come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds. Applicants are not required to major in "pre-vet" or any specific major in college to be eligible for admission to a vet med program. However, because vet med programs vary so much in required coursework, students should begin researching possible programs early to determine if their choice of major will fulfill all or most of the vet med program requirements.