How Do You Become a Veterinarian?

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An individual who wants to become a veterinarian may have excellent career opportunities because the field of veterinary medicine is growing and continues to grow every year. There is a lot of education and training involved for the individual who aspires to become a veterinarian. Despite the hard work and commitment involved, many feel this career is not only challenging but very rewarding as well. Here is an overview of what it takes to become a veterinarian.

Training Requirements to Become a Veterinarian

Before you can become a veterinarian, you must complete all training requirements, which includes earning the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) degree. You can expect to spend at least eight years in college. Most applicants to the vet program already have a bachelor's degree, which makes up four of the eight years. The veterinary program, which takes four years to complete, includes classroom courses, lab studies and clinical components.

In most veterinary programs, the first three years consist of didactic studies and clinical work, while the fourth year is spent completing an internship at an animal hospital or veterinary clinic. Veterinary students will complete courses in animal science, zoology, physiology, anatomy and microbiology, among others. There are currently 30 accredited schools offering veterinary programs in the U.S.

Licensure/Certification Requirements to Become a Veterinarian

All the states require candidates to be licensed before they can become veterinarians. The licensing requirement in most states is to complete an approved veterinary program and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). This exam, which is administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners, is a multiple-choice test consisting of 360 questions. It is given during the spring and again in the fall.

Once you've passed the exam, you must apply for a license with your state's veterinary board. All states are different with their licensing requirements. Depending on the state, you may need to pass both a national and a state exam to become a veterinarian. The license must be renewed every few years depending again on the state's requirements.

Some veterinarians choose to focus on a certain area of veterinary medicine. These individuals have the option of earning additional certifications through organizations like the American Board of Veterinarian Practitioners or the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) once they've completed the training for whatever area of specialization they've chosen.

Approximately 41 specialty certifications are offered through the AVMA. In order to remain certified and licensed, you'll need to complete continuing education credits. Each state may have different requirements regarding number and type of CE credits.

What is the Career Outlook for Veterinarians?

An increase in the number of people taking their pets to veterinarians, along with the new laws regarding animal welfare, has veterinarians very much in demand. They're expected to experience a job growth of up to 19 percent between 2016 and 2026 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of May 2017, veterinarians nationwide earned an average annual wage of $105,530.

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The veterinary medicine program is highly competitive and requires a lot of work and time. Graduates of veterinary medicine programs can generally expect excellent wages and many job opportunities. If you have a love for animals and the desire to help them, you may want to become a veterinarian.