How to Become a Veterinarian

Do you wonder how to become a veterinarian? Becoming a veterinarian is a dream of many young men and women across the globe.

But did you know that it takes more than a fondness for animals and an aptitude for science to be called a veterinarian? A lot of effort and perseverance are put into pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. Entrance to a program is competitive and tough. And when you do get accepted, you have to be prepared to study long and hard before you earn your much-anticipated degree. But those who are truly dedicated and take a real interest in the veterinary career can find fulfillment and joy in pursuing their passion.

So what does it take to become a veterinarian?


Here are 3 simple steps you will need to take to earn that exciting degree:

Kids with their pet at the veterinary doctor - fluffy dog receiving medication

1. You are required to study for two (2) years in college before applying to a veterinary medicine program. During these two years, you should be able to complete the prerequisite courses of your chosen program.

2. Successfully complete the course curriculum in the veterinary program of your choice (4 years) and obtain your DVM.

3. You must sit and pass the national veterinary examination, and depending on the state you are currently in, your respective state’s examination. This exam gives you the credentials you need to legally practice in a clinic.

To be able to understand how to become a veterinarian, let’s take a more in-depth look at these steps and formulate an action plan in the end.


Step 1:

The first step states that you are required to study for two years, preferably in applicable classes, before applying for a veterinary medicine program. During these two years, you should be able to complete the prerequisite classes for the program you intend on entering. While it is preferable that you complete these two years of college studying relevant resources, it is not necessary. Earning a degree is not required, though many students opt to earn an associate’s degree, or even complete an additional two years of study to earn a bachelor’s degree before applying to their program. As long as the prerequisite course requirements are met and you have completed the mandatory two years of study, you are eligible to be accepted into your chosen veterinary medicine program.


Step 2:

The second step on how to become a veterinarian is to apply and complete a veterinary medicine program. These programs are typically four years in length, depending on the degree you earn. There are programs that allow students to obtain their DVM and master’s degrees, or a DVM and a PhD simultaneously, but these programs could take longer than the typical four years.

To become a veterinarian, you should build a strong foundation of knowledge in the field and gradually learn how to apply this knowledge in practice. This is the way veterinary medicine programs are organized.

Typically, the first two years are used for building solid foundational knowledge; the third year is studying procedures used in practices, and the fourth year requires that students practice in hospitals under licensed veterinarians to solidify their understanding.


Step 3:

The third and final step on how to become a veterinarian is to take the national examination and, depending on the state, the state examination.

While you might have completed all the requirements for the veterinary program at this point, you must still complete the required tests so you may become a licensed veterinarian. The examination will test your competency as a veterinarian and continuing education is generally essential for license renewal.


How to become a veterinarian: Final Words

how to become a veterinarianWhile not necessary, the vast majority of veterinary medicine programs prefer students who have veterinary or animal experience. Any experience with animals will help you gain acceptance into a veterinary medicine program. Working as a veterinary assistant while completing the first two years of study for step one, and volunteering at animal shelters, the zoo or in a pet shop are great options. If you have the opportunity, it is highly recommended that you gain animal and veterinary experience.

To help you put all of the steps together, here is a sample plan on how to become a veterinarian:

A student has decided to pursue his veterinary dreams, and wants to begin the journey to accomplish them. For step one, he chooses to obtain a two year associates degree in veterinary science to earn his RVT (registered veterinary technician). In doing so, he not only completed step one, but obtained veterinary experience as well. He took an extra semester of courses at the community college to obtain the prerequisites for the veterinary medicine program he chose. He then applies, gets accepted to, and graduates from the program in four years. All that is left to do now is pass the national and possibly state exams, to complete step three.

Understanding how to become a veterinarian can be quite challenging. But by organizing goals and requirements into these three easy steps, becoming a veterinarian may actually be just a few steps away.

So don’t give up. Keep your eye on the prize and you’ll obtain that coveted degree in no time!