Veterinary medicine provides healthcare to pets, livestock, and zoo, sporting and laboratory animals. Veterinarians (DVM or VMD) treat the injuries and illness of animals with a variety of medical equipment, providing care for animals as doctors due for humans. While the majority of veterinarians work in private clinics treating pets, there are specialties in veterinary medicine including equine, food animal, food safety and inspection and research veterinarians who travel to farms, work outdoors or in laboratories. Many veterinarians also work with the intersection of human and animal health.
Veterinarians typically do the following:
- Advise owners on the proper care, medical conditions, and treatments of pets and livestock
- Examine and treat sick and injured animals
- Perform surgery on animals
- Prevent the transmission of animal diseases to people through vaccination
- Protect the animal and human food supply by maintaining the health of food animals
- Ensure wildlife preservation and conservation
- Euthanize animals
- Communication skills: Strong communication skills are essential for veterinarians, who must be able to discuss their recommendations and explain treatment options to animal owners and give instructions to their staff.
- Compassion: Veterinarians must be compassionate when working with animals and their owners. They must treat animals with kindness and respect, and they must be sensitive when dealing with the animal owners.
- Decisive: Veterinarians must decide the correct method for treating the injuries and illnesses of animals.
- Manual dexterity: Veterinarians must control their hand movements and be precise when treating injuries and performing surgery.
- Problem-solving skills: Veterinarians need strong problem-solving skills because they must figure out what is ailing animals. Those who test animals to determine the effects of drug therapies also need excellent diagnostic skills.
Learn more about Veterinary Medicine:
This is a list of common Veterinary Medicine program prerequisites and the Kalamazoo College course equivalents. The course prerequisites vary across programs. This list does not include all courses that may be required by Veterinary programs. Additionally, schools have differing policies for accepting AP/IB credits to fulfill prerequisites. Students are responsible for verifying the prerequisite coursework and policies of the schools to which they plan to apply.
* BIOL 123 while this course is not a veterinary school requirement, we strongly recommend BIOL 123 to first-year students, as it includes physiology and is required for the Biology major.
GPA and Extracurricular Experience
According to the AAVMC’s Admitted Student Statistics, the average science GPA of admitted students for the class of 2020 was 3.48, while the average cumulative GPA was 3.55. The average GRE score for the same class was 58.1 (quantiative) and 65.7 (verbal). In addition, according to the AVMA’s Veterinary School Admission 101, most schools prefer applicants to have some experience working with animals:
“If you’ve been in 4-H, FFA or a similar group, that’s great experience that should go on your veterinary school admission form. Similarly, working with animals in any way can be of value. For example, volunteering at shelters or rescues can provide animal handling experience that will help make you a better candidate.
It goes without saying that volunteering or working for a veterinarian is very important. Not only does it expose you to your potential career (so you know what you’re getting into, so to speak), but it also might provide a good recommendation for you from the veterinarian.
Varied experience is also helpful. If you have the opportunity to work in a research lab or for veterinarians who work with different species, that’s a bonus that can make you more appealing to a veterinary school admissions committee. Get as much experience as you can while you have the opportunity.”
Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
Most veterinary schools require scores from the GRE, although some will accept Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) scores instead. Students should check on the preference of the college to which they are applying.
Admissions Exam: Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
Length: 3 hours and 45 minutes
Sections: There are six sections – Analytical Writing (one section with two separately timed tasks), Verbal Reasoning (2 sections), Quantitative Reasoning (2 sections), Unscored, and/or Research
Scores: Scores range from 260+0 to -340+6.
Rules and Regulations: You can take the test once every 21 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days).
Cost: The test administration fee is $205, which entitles you to request that scores be sent to up to four graduate institutions or fellowship sponsors. If you wish to send scores to additional institutions or decide to send scores after test day, you may do so by ordering Additional Score Reports for a fee of US$27 per recipient.
There are ~30 colleges of veterinary medicine in the United States. Programs are generally four years in length consisting of basic science courses and clinical education. Basic science courses include subjects that might include (but are not limited to) histology, physiology, pathology, and immunology. Students also take courses on subjects such as anatomy, nutrition, pharmacology, reproductive medicine. Courses increasingly become more systems based, encompassing systems such as gastroenterology, neurology, ophthalmology. The latter part of the curriculum is generally focused on clinical education, where students begin to practice operationalizing their basic science and systems knowledge. Students also take courses in professionalism, including ethics, practice management and communication.
Factors to consider:
- Admission requirements: The required prerequisite coursework and veterinary experience may vary between each program. Determine where you’re eligible to apply based on the coursework you’ve completed or will complete before matriculation and the amount of veterinary experience required.
- Location: Urban vs. rural setting, proximity to family, recreational opportunities, cost of living, etc.
- Mission Statements: You should look for schools with mission statements that fit with your own goals.
- Curriculum: Seek out information about the curriculum and consider how it fits with your learning style.
- Cost: Consider tuition and type of financial aid available
Students will apply in the spring of the year preceding their planned matriculation.
The Careers in Health and Medicine office recommends applying as early in the cycle as possible.
- Centralized Application Service: VMCAS – Veterinary Medical College Application Service
- Not all veterinary schools participate in VMCAS; applications to those programs should be sent directly to those schools. The College Descriptor Pages provide links to specific application requirements.
- Number of Participating Schools: Review the list of schools that participate in VMCAS
- Cost: Application fees are calculated based on the number of colleges to which you are applying.
- Fee Assistance? VMCAS is moving to a fee waiver program starting with the VMCAS 2022 cycle. The fee waiver program will open in May when applicants have the ability to submit applications to schools. A limited number of VMCAS fee waivers are provided to qualified applicants on a first-come, first-served basis until allotted funds are exhausted. Each fee waiver covers only the initial application fee, so if you wish to apply to additional programs, you are responsible for the remaining balance. If you received a fee waiver (fee reimbursement) during a previous cycle, you may still apply for a fee waiver in the next cycle. More information will be available before May 2021, please see the following fee waiver information page.
- Application Requirements:
- Biographical information
- Colleges/coursework information
- Standardized Test Scores
- Personal statements
- Personal Statement: A one page essay that gives admissions committees a clear picture of who you are and, most importantly, why do you want to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.
- Recommendation letters
- VMCAS requires a minimum of three electronic evaluations. Some schools WILL NOT accept a composite letter. Requirements for letters of recommendation vary from school to school, and many require letters specifically from veterinarians. Be sure to check each school’s requirements.
Secondary Applications/Supplemental Materials
Some participating VMCAS institutions require a supplemental application and/or fee. Supplemental fees should be paid directly to the institution (Do not send your supplemental fees to VMCAS). Please refer to the individual college specification pages to determine if a supplemental fee and/or application is required and the deadline for each school.
Please note: A college’s receipt of your supplemental application or fee may not necessarily indicate that your VMCAS application is complete. The college may have additional requirements that you must fulfill before they consider your application completed. Please refer to the college descriptor pages and the VMCAS application instructions for details.
After submitting the primary application, and secondary applications where required, students may receive interview offers any time in the year preceding matriculation. Not all programs require an interview as part of the application process, but for the ones that do, the interview is a very important element in the application process. When a school invites you to an interview, they are indicating an interest in selecting you. The interview gives both of you the opportunity to exchange information to determine if you are a good “fit” for each other.
Schools use personal interviews with applicants to assess qualities such as self-confidence, interpersonal skills, and ability to overcome challenges. Be prepared to discuss why you wish to pursue a career in Veterinary Medicine and the experiences that have motivated you.