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How to Become a Veterinarian

Every animal lover has considered becoming a veterinarian. Getting to work with animals all day, every day to help heal them is one of the best possible careers if you love animals. Imagine working with adorable dogs and cats all day; could you really ask for more?

If you feel called to this profession, you have likely wondered how to become a veterinarian. Luckily, the process is relatively simple and we have it laid out step by step for you below.

What Is a Veterinarian?

Veterinarians are, by definition, animal doctors. They are considered doctors, but they are only qualified to practice on animals—not people. Veterinarians treat illnesses and injuries, vaccinate, and perform surgeries on animals.

Owners of pets or livestock can look to veterinarians to keep their animals happy and healthy. While many veterinarians specialize in certain areas, almost all of them are properly trained to care for any animal. You can take anything from dogs to snakes to a vet.

What Does a Veterinarian Do?

Keeping animals happy and healthy is a very important job, but what exactly does that entail? It is certainly more than telling them how good they are. Veterinarians perform a wide variety of tasks.

Diagnosing Animal Health Problems

If something is ever wrong with your pet, you likely call or take them to a veterinarian straight away. This is because veterinarians are trained to assess symptoms and diagnose health issues with animals. This requires a lot of skill, as animals cannot simply tell us what is wrong; veterinarians have to use behavioral and visual clues to figure it out.

Performing Medical Procedures 

Veterinarians are the ones who give all of your pets their annual rabies shot. They are responsible for administering vaccines to all types of animals, performing surgeries including spays and neuters, and running any necessary blood tests or x-rays. They also clean and debride wounds if an animal has them.

Advising Pet Owners 

One of the most overlooked aspects of being a veterinarian is the task of advising pet owners. If an animal is obese, veterinarians will advise the owners to put the animal on a diet. They also provide tips on how to manage poor behaviors and health conditions.

Essential Veterinarian Skills

High-Stress Tolerance

Working with sick and injured animals all day can take a toll on anyone, especially if you are an avid animal lover. Being able to handle your stress well and having a high tolerance for stressful situations is vital to being a good veterinarian.

Empathy and Compassion

One of the hardest parts of this career is knowing you won’t be able to save every animal that comes through your doors. Being able to show empathy and compassion to not only the animal but also the owners is part of the job.

Able to Handle Animals

Of course, you really can’t perform any veterinary work if you can't interact with animals safely and effectively. The way you handle your pets at home is different than the way you will need to handle scared animals in an unfamiliar environment.

Veterinarian Salaries and Job Outlook

The great thing about becoming a veterinarian is that you will earn a decent salary. Even the lowest salaries earned are still around $60,000 and that is for entry-level positions. As you gain experience and achieve higher positions, your salary will grow.

The average salary for a veterinarian in the United States is $95,460 per year. This salary can easily be earned if you have the experience, an accredited education, and are hired at the right place of employment.

If you decide to work as a veterinarian for a long time, you could start earning more and more as you gain more experience. Some of the highest paying veterinary jobs in the United States pay over $160,000 per year.

Job security is important to everyone, and making sure your dream job will still be around by the time you are ready for it is important. The good news is, veterinary care isn’t going anywhere. In fact, this is one career that is expected to grow extremely fast.

By 2028, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts an 18 percent growth of veterinary jobs, which is much higher than the average. With pets becoming almost a trend on social media, it isn’t hard to see why.

People are spending more on their pets than ever before. Many people have Instagram or Facebook accounts for their cats or dogs, where they post thousands of pictures of their pets wearing clothes or eating a special treat. This has become a new societal norm.

When people are so willing to spend money on their pets, they are more willing to take their pets to veterinary clinics regularly. Combined with more and more people deciding to get a pet and you have a booming business.

Veterinary care has also advanced significantly, allowing veterinarians to perform procedures on animals that had previously been impossible: organ transplants, blood transfusions, cancer treatments, etc. This brings more people in to help their furry friends.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Veterinarian?

Becoming a veterinarian takes some time. After completing a four-year bachelor’s degree program, students will need to spend at least an additional four years to earn a doctor of veterinary medicine. While there are options to fast-track both of these programs, it will take the average student eight years to complete both degrees.

If you are interested in a specialization, it can take an additional two years of schooling. Many veterinarians choose to specialize in cardiology or neurology. Depending on the niche you choose to focus on, it may take quite a bit longer to complete your degree.

How to Become a Veterinarian: A Step by Step Guide

Becoming a veterinarian follows a path similar to becoming a regular doctor. You will need to complete a few degrees, obtain a license, and gain experience to be successful. The process may take a while, but when broken down step by step, it is simple to follow.

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor’s Degree

Earning a bachelor’s degree from a university or community college is the best way to start this journey. While many graduate programs do not require your bachelor’s degree to be in a specific subject, having one in biology is a great start.

It is important to have an idea of what school you plan to pursue your doctoral degree from because many schools require undergraduate students to have completed certain courses before admission into their programs. If you are unsure of what school you want to go to, it is a good idea to take courses like mammalogy, biochemistry, and animal behavior.

Step 2: Earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

After completing a bachelor’s degree, you will need to complete a master’s degree and then a doctorate. Most veterinary programs will offer a path to earn your master’s degree and a doctorate in sequence.

Earning a doctor of veterinary medicine helps prepare you for work as a veterinarian. During these programs, you will learn more in-depth about the field. You will also get to participate in research, giving you hands-on experience.

Step 3: Become Licensed

Perhaps the most crucial step to becoming a veterinarian is earning your license. After completing the doctor of veterinary medicine program, you will be eligible for the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam.

Once you pass the exam, you will need to research your state’s policies. Every state is different in their requirements to become a veterinarian, and many of them require you to pass additional exams and tests.

Step 4: Gain Experience and Become Certified

Once you are licensed, you can begin practicing veterinary medicine. If you are interested in becoming certified in a specialization, you will need to practice that specialization under someone who is certified.

After deciding what you want to become certified in, you will need to complete either a residency or additional education. Many veterinarians opt for a residency, as it involves years of working in that specialty without having to return to school.

Should You Become a Veterinarian?

It is up to you to decide if becoming a veterinarian is the right path for you. But, if you love animals and want to play a big role in their health and happiness, it would be a wise decision.

If you follow the steps to becoming a veterinarian, you should have no trouble with the process. And, working in this field, you will get to go home every night and think about the lives you saved.


Is veterinary school difficult?
Veterinary school can be difficult for some and easy for others. It is very science-based, so it depends on your understanding of science.
Can veterinarians become rich?
Veterinarians, on average, make nearly $100,000 per year, so if they save and invest their earnings right, they can become rich.
Is being a veterinarian stressful?
It can be a stressful job, but if you can remember all of the animals and their owners that you are helping, the stress is tolerable.
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