The career path to becoming a veterinarian is paved with love. The pay is not great, the working conditions can be less than hospitable, and most of the patients would rather not have you interfering in their lives. But the satisfaction of helping an animal that cannot help itself is very rewarding. Here is how to get started on this rewarding career.
In order to become a veterinarian, you must go through much the same process as a medical doctor - but getting into a top-notch veterinary program is even tougher than getting into medical programs. There is just as much interest, but there are not nearly enough programs available. If working with animals is what you seek, then read through the outline below to see if you have what it takes.
- Volunteer or seek employment with an established veterinarian: Before you decide to jump in with both feet, it is a good idea to know what you are jumping into. Work in an established veterinary practice for a year or two before deciding that this is the career choice for you. Many veterinarians love to teach and will allow you to participate in medical procedures, assist in surgery, and help see clients along with cleaning kennels and walking dogs, so that you get the best possible perspective as to what is involved.
- Enroll in a Bachelor's degree program and earn an undergraduate degree. This can be accomplished in several different ways. First, try enrolling in a community college that has an agreement with a four-year institution. This way you can get your first two years of prerequisites out of the way, generally for less money and with more one-on-one attention from professors, before transferring to a university to finish up. Secondly, enroll in a undergraduate degree program in a four-year institution. This way may be more expensive, but it is definitely the more direct route. If you are particularly fastidious, you may be able to earn your degree in less than four years this way. Regardless of which path you choose, make sure that you are enrolled in a pre-veterinary program, as this will give you the best chance of getting into a veterinary program.
- Maintain great grades: Good grades are not good enough. Only the best will be considered for entry into a veterinary program. Most applicants will have a 4.0 GPA and phenomenal scores on entrance examinations. In order to be competitive, you must have all of these things as well as glowing recommendations from veterinarians for whom you've worked for in order to be considered.
- Apply for, and complete a veterinary program: Get accepted by a veterinary program and expect to work hard in class, and even harder in practical situations. There will be little time for anything else. Prepared to be a hermit for the next four years.
- Sit for and pass the licensure examination.
- Find work as an associate veterinarian: This is where you will gain the most amount of knowledge and experience; this step is vital to the success of your private practice one day. Be prepared to work as an associate veterinarian for several years, building clientele and experience.