3 Steps to Becoming a Vet - Simply For Dogs
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3 Steps to Becoming a Vet

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Have you ever thought to yourself “Man, I love dogs; I’d really love to work with dogs all day long.”? Those are exactly the thoughts that I had when I was busy selling my soul to the call center I used to work in. I just wanted to spend all my time with my dogs, and eventually, I made that happen by becoming a Boxer breeder and sharing my dog knowledge with you here on the blog. But for many people, especially kids and teens, the first job they think of when they want to work with dogs is becoming a veterinarian.

Being a vet is hard work. Just ask Stephen, the vet I go to whenever I need advice for Janice and Leroy. Steve and I go way back, and I’ve watched him go through all the education and training it took to be a vet. There are a lot of other dog jobs he could have chosen – groomer, pet sitter, kennel owner, dog show competitor. But he chose to be the dog world’s version of a doctor, and that meant a long road.

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He’d probably tell you it was wroth all the time and hard work. But in the interest of encouraging anyone who loves dogs to check into all the many ways you can work with dogs, I just wanted to write this post about what it takes to become a vet.

Education

The first thing that you need to consider if you want to become a vet is the education that you’ll need. Becoming a veterinarian does mean going through medical school, just for animal care rather than human care. And because there are not that many accredited veterinarian schools in the United States – fewer than 30 as of this year – competition to get into these schools is fierce. In fact, in 2013, there were 2,700 openings for the entire United States for veterinary school, and over 6,800 people trying to get in.

That means that in truth, your education requirements for becoming a vet must start before you ever go to a college or university. In high school, it’s important to do well in math, chemistry, physics, and biology. Your undergraduate program in college will also need to be something based on biology and physical science. Most of the time, if you tell your advisor that you want to go into veterinary school, they can point you to the right undergraduate program – the colleges that have veterinary programs usually have undergraduate to graduate programs as well.

While you are in your undergraduate program you’ll have to keep your grade point average high. Because there is such steep competition for spots in veterinary programs, a 3.5 or higher GPA is usually required. Then, you’ll want to have some volunteer work with animals to show on your application. Volunteer with a shelter, do weekend work at a local kennel, get a side job with the local vet’s office, anything that shows that you’re taking the role seriously. You’ll also need to take what is called the GRE, kind of like the SAT or ACT you took in high school. It’s also a very good idea to get involved in some clubs or activities that show you can be a leader. Vets have to be people who can handle pressure and taking charge in bad situations – leadership and good communication are always musts.

Related Content:

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Finally, you’ll need to have letters of recommendation suggesting that you would be a good candidate for vet school, from someone in the know. Another vet is always a good choice. Your course instructors usually provide one or two good candidates. You may have to have a specific number of vets recommend you for certain schools.

There are a lot of ways to work with animals including being a vet that also require college degrees. For example, aquatic biologists work with dolphins. If your child has expressed interested in working with animals, you may want to introduce them to the many ways they could consider this with a book on animal-based professions.

Getting Licensed

Did you think going through graduate school was going to be all it took? The next thing you have to do after you graduate is to get a veterinarian’s license. This usually requires getting a one-year internship after you graduate, similar to the way a real doctor must do a stint as a learning doctor. This helps you get the practical experience you need to prove you can be trusted to care for animals, but it also helps you to narrow down your specialty.

Did you know that there are more than 40 special types of veterinarians? The general veterinarian is the one you go to for things like shots, microchips, and daily health care needs. But if your dog needs surgery, a veterinary surgeon may be called in. There are vets that specialize in skin care, vets that specialize in canine eyesight, vets that specialize in internal medicine, and so much more. Of course, one vet could have many of these specialties. My vet Stephen is both a general veterinarian and a veterinary surgeon.

However, it’s important to know that which specific type of veterinary practice you choose does have specific requirements in order to get licensed. For example, surgeons have to have a specific number of hours of surgery performed during their internship – no matter how many years it takes you to get those hours. Additionally, be aware that if you ever move to a new state, you may have to go through all the exams and internship processes again to get licensed in a new state.

Once your internship is up, you can take the state licensing exam and get your veterinary license.

Training, Certifying in New Specialties, and More

Once you get your state license to practice veterinary medicine, you can start working as a vet. It’s at this time when you can be hired on as a vet, start your own practice, or do whatever it is you wanted to do as a vet.

But the job training and certifying isn’t over.  If you ever want to work in another field of vet medicine that you didn’t get certified for when you were interning, you’ll have to go through some training. Let’s say you start off as a veterinary surgeon, and later realize that you do your best work with eye surgery, specifically. You can get certified to become the equivalent of a veterinary ophthalmologist. Why? In part because this means you’ll have more expertise, and in part because it means you’ll be able to market yourself as a true expert for specific situations.

Vet

Plan B

I’ve said it a couple times already, but in case it hasn’t hit home yet – getting into vet school is a competition. You are competing for a few open slots, that thousands of other students want. So it’s always a good idea to have a Plan B for your career. Here are some other great ways to work with dogs:

  • Did you really enjoy those leadership extra-curricular activities you got involved with? Consider becoming an animal right’s lawyer.
  • Were you fascinated by behavioral science when studying animals? Consider becoming a service dog trainer, or a therapy dog handler.
  • Did you not do so well with the science portion of your study, but still love everything about dogs? Consider becoming a dog show handler, a groomer, or a dog photographer.
  • Not really sure what you want to do with your life for Plan B? You can always walk dogs for some extra cash while you figure it out.

Tips for Plan A

If you are determined that vet school is where you belong, I talked to Stephen and a few other vets and gathered up some tips for you.

  1. Don’t just focus on dogs. Vets have to train to care for all animals. Cats are the other big one, but you may also be faced with horses and cattle if you live in a rural area, exotic pets like lizards and birds, or even wildlife if you work near a zoo. Some vets even become employed by zoos, so it pays to get varied experience.
  1. Apply to in-state schools first. If there is a vet program at a college in your state, apply there first and make your application amazing. In-state students are given the preference by in-state colleges. If your state doesn’t have a veterinary program, ask your undergraduate advisor about any quota agreements the state may have with the nearest program.
  1. Just get used to working. Being a vet is akin to being a human doctor. The workload is enormous, and it never ends. In school, you’ll be under a lot of pressure to take on more and more, because in your career, you’ll have to manage more and more. So make sure your application shows that you are a hard worker who is passionate about staying dedicated.
  1. Be well-rounded and interesting. When you are applying to go to vet school, you will likely have to go through an admissions interview. The interviewing parties see thousands of applicants every year, and they all have similar backgrounds. They all did well in science and math, they all love animals. What do you have that makes you stand out? Your extra curricular volunteer work will help, but be sure to have other interests to talk about as well. Consider choosing interests that still paint you as a hard-working leader, such as being involved with the Student Council.

Doing Your Research

Finally, if you want to be a vet, it pays to do a little bit of research into the career. Find out if you can interview a local vet, or even shadow them for a day. Being a vet isn’t all about petting dogs all day. You’ll be dealing with animals at their worst in many cases. They’ll be frightened, injured, angry, and often not feeling up to letting you pet them. That’s not always how it is of course – but many animals find the vet to be very stressful.

You should also research the practicalities of the job. For example, what is the salary of a vet like in your state? The average vet salary in the U.S. is $88,700, but broken down by state, the numbers are vastly different. In Hawaii, for example, the average vet makes $216,840 per year. So be sure you look into what living as a vet may be like where you live specifically. The student loans for vet programs can be very expensive, don’t forget!

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So, You Want to Work with Animals?: Discover Fantastic Ways to Work with Animals, from Veterinary Science to Aquatic Biology (Be What You Want)
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$12.99
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Last update on 2018-11-18 at 07:45 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Final Word

Becoming a vet is a rewarding career path that I think many children and teens often dream about. I had a few dreams about that when I was a kid. Unfortunately for me, and fortunately for all the animals in the area, I was bad at math. I know now that I don’t think I have the people skills to be a vet.

That’s the last thing I wanted to mention. Being a vet is all about saving animal lives, yes. But you also have to deal with the owners. Even when those owners think they know better than you do, or flat out refuse to take your advice for their pet. It can be tough to nicely teach people how to take care of a dog properly – my regular escapades at the dog park have taught me that I’m not very nice about it!

But if you believe that you have the people skills, the science skills, the math skills, the leadership skills, and the love of animals that all combine to make a great vet? Don’t let the competition hold you back from applying. There are so many other options out there that you may end up in, but you’ll never have to wonder “what if”. And in the meantime, you’ll be setting yourself up for a bright future working with animals in any way.

Related Content:

7 Tips for Choosing a Great Vet
23 Things Your Vet Wants You to Know (But Might Not Tell You)
Creating a Fear-Free Vet Experience for Your Dog
Veterinarians, Vet Techs, and Job Burnout

Sources:

http://work.chron.com/education-training-need-become-veterinarian-6828.html

https://vbs.psu.edu/majors/vbs/steps-to-becoming-a-veterinarian

https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/courses/veterinary-medicine/getting-into-veterinary-medicine-top-tips-for-applicants/?entry=6

 

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