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Pre-Veterinary

Most veterinarians care for the health of animals, although there are many other opportunities in this fast-growing field. Veterinarians are involved in food inspection, understanding and combating animal-borne diseases and medical research. In a listing of the 100 Best Jobs of 2013, U.S. News & World Report ranks the profession number 12, based on job satisfaction, pay and growth opportunities.

Veterinary school admission is among the most competitive of all U.S. graduate programs. Successful candidates need to have a passion for working with animals; solid decision-making, communication, problem-solving and organizational skills; some experience in a veterinary practice or research setting; and an excellent undergraduate academic record, particularly in the sciences.

Hood College offers the coursework needed by a successful candidate for a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) degree program, and also provides support in navigating the application process. In addition, there are many opportunities at Hood to develop and demonstrate the leadership skills and personal qualities veterinary schools value.

Academic Options

Prerequisites for admission vary among the 28 accredited U.S. colleges of veterinary medicine. In general, these schools are looking for students with demonstrated strength in the natural sciences as well as a solid back- ground in the humanities, social sciences and mathematics. Hood's cur- riculum is strong in all of these areas. Although many veterinary schools do not require a bachelor's degree, the majority of students these schools admit have earned an undergraduate diploma.

While veterinary schools will consider applicants with undergraduate majors in any field, the president of the American Veterinary Medicine Association says, "It's really important that you have a firm foundation in the sciences." Most Hood students who have been successful in gaining admission to veterinary school have majored in biology, biochemistry or chemistry. These majors offer a broad-based curriculum that includes classroom, laboratory and field experiences and that emphasizes hands-on learning. All classes and labs are taught by experienced faculty, not gradu- ate assistants, and use the same sophisticated equipment encountered in veterinary school and clinical settings.

Opportunities for Practical Experience and Guidance

In addition to completing the required pre-veterinary courses, students are very strongly encouraged by veterinary schools to work with animals during their undergraduate years. Formal experience—assisting veterinar- ians or scientists in clinics, agribusiness, research or some area of health science—is particularly advantageous. Less formal experience on a farm, ranch, stable or animal shelter is also helpful. Hood faculty members, the health professions adviser and Hood's career center staff help students find opportunities to gain practical experience that match their interests.

Hood students have volunteered at the National Zoo, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo, the Frederick animal shelter and local veterinary offices. Internship opportu- nities in the sciences are plentiful since some of the nation's top research and biotechnology firms and government agencies have laboratories near Hood's campus. Hood students have completed internships at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Cancer Institute at Frederick, the National Institute of Childcare and Human Development and the National Institutes of Health.

Hood also helps students navigate the highly competitive veterinary school application process. Applicants are required to submit transcripts; scores from the Graduate Record Examination, a school-specific supple- mental application; and letters of recommendation that address commit- ment, maturity, work ethic, leadership and communication skills. Faculty members are able to write compelling letters of recommendation because of their close interaction with students interested in the health profes- sions. Hood's health professions adviser offers programs and panels, as well as individualized guidance.

Success of Hood Graduates

Recent Hood graduates have been accepted at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine (affiliated with Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland) and to colleges of veterinary medicine at such institutions as Cornell University, the University of Florida and Colorado State University. While most recent graduates with degrees in veterinary medicine are employed in private practice, one Hood alumnus oversees the care of laboratory animals at the U.S. Army's Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that jobs for veteri- narians will increase 36 percent by 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects in large animal practice, public health and government should be best. There also will be excellent job opportunities for government veterinarians in food safety, animal health and public health.

According to the BLS, the median annual pay for veterinarians in 2010 (including experienced as well as entry-level doctors) was $82,040 in May 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,910 and the top 10 percent earned more than $145,230. The average annual wage for veteri- narians in the federal government was $88,340 in May 2010.

Resources for More Information About Careers

The American Veterinary Medical Association (www.avma.org)—which represents veterinarians in private and corporate practice, government, industry, academia and uniformed services—provides information on careers.

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (www.aavmc.org) offers information on the field and veterinary schools.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 edition (www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/home.htm) provides an overview of this career area and the employment outlook for the coming decade.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why prepare to become a veterinarian at Hood?

A Hood College education provides all the preparation needed to enter and succeed in veterinary school. The core curriculum offers a strong grounding in the liberal arts. While students may major in any field, most aspiring physicians choose biology, biochemistry or chemistry. Regardless of major, coursework offered by Hood's science departments equip students with the scientific background needed for veterinary school―as well as for advanced study in other health professions such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy or clinical laboratory science.

Hood's health professions adviser offers opportunities to learn more about careers in veterinary medicine and other health fields, as well as guidance in selecting and applying to graduate programs. Hood provides an exceptional level of individual attention, which enables our faculty members to prepare compelling letters of recommendation when students apply for graduate study―an important factor in veterinary school admission decisions.

All classes and laboratory courses are taught by faculty members who have significant experience in their fields, rather than by graduate students. In addition, there are opportunities for hands-on experience in Hood's well-equipped science labs, at nearby national health research centers and companies and through volunteer work. Hood students have volunteered at the National Zoo, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the Catoctin Wildlife Preserve and Zoo, animal shelters and veterinary offices.

What is the typical program of study Hood recommends for students preparing for veterinary school?

Year 1:
General Chemistry I (CHEM 101)
General Chemistry II (CHEM 102)
Pre Calculus (MATH 120)
Calculus I (MATH 201)
Biological inquiry I (BIOL 110-129)

Year 2:
Organic Chemistry I (CHEM 209)
Organic Chemistry II (CHEM 210)
Physiol. of plants and animals (BIOL 202)
Intro to cell bio and genetics (BIOL 203)
Introduction to Psychology (PSY 101)

Year 3:
General Physics I (PHYS 101 or PHYS 203)
Biochemistry (CHEM 301)
Anatomy and Physiology (BIOL 307)
General Physics II (PHYS 102 or PHYS 204)
Genetics (BIOL 316)

Year 4:
Vertebrate Zoology (BIOL 336)
Comparative Animal Physiology (BIOL 414)
Courses to complete major

What are veterinary medicine schools looking for in applicants?

Admission to veterinary programs is highly competitive. There are 28 colleges in 26 states that meet accreditation standards set by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association According to the U.S. Department of Labor, while the number of veterinary medical schools has remained virtually unchanged over the past 25 years, the number of applicants has increased to the point where it is typical that veterinary colleges admit fewer than half of their applicants.

Admission information for each school can be found on the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges website:

http://aavmc.org/College-Specific-Requirements/College-Specific-Requirements_College-Specifications.aspx.

In general, veterinary medicine schools look for candidates with excellent grades and a strong foundation in the sciences. Although not required, most applicants have a bachelor's degree. Veterinary medical colleges typically expect applicants to have taken many science classes, including biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, zoology, microbiology and animal science. Some programs also require math and humanities or social science courses.

Some veterinary medical colleges place a high value on experience working with animals. Formal experience―such as work with veterinarians or scientists in clinics, agribusiness, research or some area of health science―is particularly advantageous. Less formal experience―such as working with animals on a farm, at a stable or in an animal shelter―can also be helpful.

Many veterinary medicine schools seek to recruit a diverse class of students, taking into consideration such factors as life experiences, work experiences, professional goals, geographical background (rural, urban or suburban), cultural background and disadvantaged status. Students who are not U.S. citizens may apply to most veterinary schools.

At most schools, students are asked to disclose and explain any felonies or misdemeanors, and may be required to provide consent for the school to conduct a criminal background check.

Describe the application process.

Students apply through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (www.vmcas.org). Most of the participating VMCAS colleges also require a supplemental application. Each school has its own policy on the handling of supplemental materials; applicants should thoroughly read through the individual school's web page for specific information, accessible through www.aavmc.org

Most schools require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), although some will accept the Medical College Admissions Test in lieu of the GRE. Letters of recommendation are required, and students should chose recommenders who know them well enough to speak to personal characteristics and attributes. It is strongly recommended that at least one letter writer be a veterinarian. Hood's health professions adviser can help students develop a list of recommenders. Students should seek out potential letter writers as early as possible. The letters must address commitment, maturity, work ethic, leadership and communication skills as specifically as possible.

Most schools require on-campus interviews. At Hood, students can prepare through practice interviews available at the Career Center.

What is involved in becoming a practicing veterinarian?

Veterinarians must complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. A veterinary medicine program generally takes four years to complete and includes classroom, laboratory and clinical components.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, veterinary medicine students "take courses on normal animal anatomy and physiology, as well as disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Most programs include three years of classroom, laboratory and clinical work. Students typically spend the final year doing clinical rotations in a veterinary medical center or hospital. In veterinary schools today, increasingly, courses also include general business management and career development classes to help new veterinarians learn how to effectively run a practice.

"Although graduates of a veterinary program can begin practicing once they receive their license, many veterinarians pursue further education and training. Some new veterinary graduates enter one-year internship programs to gain experience.

"All states and the District of Columbia require veterinarians to have a license. Licensing requirements vary by state, but all states require prospective veterinarians to complete an accredited veterinary program and to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. Most states require not only the national exam but also have a state exam that covers state laws and regulations. Few states accept licenses from other states, so veterinarians who want to be licensed in a new state must usually take that state's exam.

"The American Veterinary Medical Association offers certification in 40 different specialties, such as surgery, microbiology and internal medicine. Although certification is not required for veterinarians, it can show exceptional skill or expertise in a particular field. To sit for the certification exam, veterinarians must have a certain number of years of experience in the field, complete additional education or complete a residency program typically lasting three to 4 years. Requirements vary by specialty."

What is the employment outlook for veterinarians?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that "veterinarians held about 61,400 jobs in 2010, of which 81 percent were in the veterinary services industry. Others held positions at colleges or universities; in private industry, such as medical or research laboratories; or in federal, state or local government. About nine percent were self-employed. Although most veterinarians work in private clinics, others travel to farms, work outdoors or work in laboratories."

The BLS predicts that employment of veterinarians is expected to grow 36 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations.

According to the BLS, "Most veterinary graduates are attracted to companion animal care, so job opportunities in that field will be fewer than in other areas. Job opportunities in large animal practice, public health and government should be best. Although jobs in farm animal care are not growing as quickly as those in companion animal care, opportunities will be better because fewer veterinarians compete to work with large animals. There also will be excellent job opportunities for government veterinarians in food safety, animal health and public health."

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (www.aavmc.org) lists the following areas of opportunity for D.V.M.s:

  • Private practice, either general practice or (with advanced training and experience) a specialty field, such as ophthalmology, orthopedics, aquatic animal medicine, marine biology, wildlife animal medicine or emergency animal medicine;
  • Corporate veterinary medicine, for example, with corporations that provide veterinary care, test human drugs for safety or produce animal-related products;
  • Federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) working on biosecurity, environmental quality, public health, meat inspection, regulatory medicine and agricultural animal health, or the investigation of disease outbreaks;
  • Military branches, working in areas such food safety and military working dog veterinary medicine;
  • Research, either in a university setting or with companies that produce animal-related products or pharmaceuticals;
  • Teaching;
  • Public health, particularly with agencies such as the U.S. Public Health Service, which works to control the transmission of animal-to-human (zoonotic) diseases;
  • Food supply medicine, with either the government or a food-animal company;
  • Public policy, working for governments on animal and zoonotic diseases, animal welfare and public health issues, or as consultants with non-governmental agencies;
  • Shelter medicine, working to ensure the health and well being of animal populations housed in shelters; and
  • Comparative medicine, expanding biomedical knowledge and promoting human and animal health through the study of laboratory animal disease, animal models of disease and basic biologic mechanisms related to disease in people and animals.

Learn more about the major.