Happy veterinarians examining dog in clinic.
Academics | 6/28/2024

How To Become a Veterinarian

Happy veterinarians examining dog in clinic.

To become a veterinarian, students must earn their degree and choose a specialization—steps we’ll cover in this blog. 

Veterinarians play a crucial role in the health and well-being of animals, from domestic pets to wildlife. The journey to becoming a veterinarian is marked by academic preparation, hands-on veterinary experience, and a dedication to understanding the complexities of animal disease and treatment. Specialization in this field leads to many possibilities, allowing veterinarians to focus on areas such as surgery, internal medicine, or exotic animal care. Each part of the journey is designed to equip aspiring veterinarians with the knowledge, skills, and compassion needed to excel in this rewarding profession.

Understanding the veterinarian's role is the first step in the journey toward specialization in animal health. In this article, we'll cover how you can become a veterinarian and what to expect from your experience. 

What Degree Do You Need To Be a Veterinarian?

Pursuing a career in veterinary medicine begins with obtaining a solid educational foundation in related fields such as animal biology, chemistry, or animal science. An undergraduate degree in one of these disciplines not only prepares students for the rigors of veterinary school but also provides them with a comprehensive understanding of the biological and chemical principles that underpin veterinary medicine. This step is crucial for anyone aspiring to become a veterinarian, as it lays the groundwork for advanced studies and specialized training in veterinary medicine.

After completing an undergraduate degree, the next step is enrolling in a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program. Most American veterinary medical colleges offer this professional degree, which is essential for practicing as a veterinarian. A DVM program covers a wide range of topics, including veterinary anatomy, pharmacology, pathology, and clinical practices, ensuring that students acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to diagnose and treat any animal disease effectively. 

Before applying, students are required to have completed prerequisite courses in science and mathematics, along with gaining relevant veterinary experience. Other roles like a veterinary assistant or veterinary technician may have differing educational requirements, depending on the type of job. 

The time of study required to become a veterinarian typically spans eight years—four years to complete an undergraduate degree followed by another four years in veterinary school. This extensive training is necessary to prepare veterinarians for the complexities of animal healthcare and to ensure they are well-equipped to meet the profession’s challenges. 

At Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), students can earn a combined Bachelor of Science in Premedical Health Studies and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada. This pathway program is only seven years compared to the traditional eight, enabling students to go through the necessary education faster and get into the workforce a year earlier. 

During the first few years of the program, students will study biology, chemistry, medical microbiology, and other healthcare-related topics to achieve a sturdy foundation for the next phase of learning. Then, learners will continue their education through hands-on experiences at SGU’s on-campus veterinary Small Animal Clinic and Large Animal Resource Facility. They’ll also prepare for clinical training rotations for general veterinary practice after they graduate. 

What Other Steps Are Necessary for This Field?

Outside of getting a bachelor's and doctorate degree, there are a few other steps necessary to enter the industry. Here’s what you can expect as a veterinary student:

Obtain a Veterinary License

To graduate from vet school, you must pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). This requires you to submit two separate applications:

  • NAVLE application: The general application to take the exam that you’ll submit to the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association (IVCA).
  • NAVLE state territorial application: Submit this application to your state or territory’s licensing board.

NAVLE is the standardized licensure examination for veterinarians in the United States and Canada. Passing the NAVLE is a testament to a candidate's comprehensive understanding of veterinary medicine and their capability to practice as a veterinarian. This licensing exam ensures that all veterinarians meet the same high standards of animal healthcare.

To pass the NAVLE, students must meet the eligibility criteria set by the state or provincial licensing board, which typically includes completing a DVM program accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education. Candidates must apply for the NAVLE through their national board and pay the necessary fees. Preparing for the NAVLE requires thorough study and a deep understanding of veterinary medical knowledge, making it a significant milestone in a veterinarian's career.

Complete an Internship or Residency

Selecting and completing internships or residency programs is another critical step for aspiring veterinarians, especially those interested in specializing in a particular area of veterinary medicine. These programs provide invaluable hands-on experience, allowing veterinarians to apply their knowledge in real-world settings under the guidance of experienced professionals. 

Choosing the right internship or residency involves considering factors such as the area of specialization, the program's reputation, and opportunities for professional development. Completing these programs enhances a veterinarian's skills and significantly contributes to their career advancement.

Become the Next Veterinarian

Enrolling at MCPHS for veterinary studies is the first step for those aspiring to join the veterinary profession. Located in the heart of the Longwood Medical Area, MCPHS offers a unique environment for students to immerse themselves in their veterinary studies. With access to cutting-edge resources and a curriculum designed to prepare students for the challenges of veterinary medicine, MCPHS is an ideal choice for your higher education. With a commitment to providing a comprehensive education, MCPHS ensures that each veterinary student is well-equipped to succeed in their future career.

The benefits of learning at MCPHS extend beyond the classroom. Students can engage with a vibrant medical and research community, gaining exposure to a range of veterinary medical practices and innovations. This environment fosters a culture of excellence and collaboration, allowing students to learn from leading professionals in the field. 

Additionally, the proximity to various veterinary hospitals and research institutions offers unparalleled opportunities for hands-on experience and internships, further enhancing the educational experience.

If you're ready to start your veterinary journey, MCPHS is waiting for you. Don't wait to make a difference in the lives of animals and their owners, apply to our veterinary studies program today to take the first step toward becoming a veterinarian.