If you love animals and want to take care of them as a profession, then vet school is for you. Veterinarians are experts in treating animals. You analyze pets’ health, offer treating for their ailments, and give recommendations to pet owners on how to maximize the pet’s welfare.
However, you might be looking for something a little more exciting than attending to dogs, cats, and parrots. Perhaps you are interested in cattle, or you have a burning passion for bigger animals.
There are career options for you in both cases. You can specialize in treating farm animals like cows, horses, and sheep. Or you can specialize in treating the animals that live in zoos.
Veterinarians’ jobs are expected to grow by 16 percent by 2029 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s also economically rewarding, with a veterinarian’s median salary to be around $99.000 per year. Just shy of 6 figures.
But can you go to vet school right after high school? In most cases no, you can’t. You must complete an undergraduate program before getting admitted into vet school.
However, there are programs called direct-entry that let high school students with outstanding grades and a demonstrable commitment to the field skip getting an undergraduate degree.
Many vet schools don’t require a full undergraduate degree to consider your application. You’ll just need to have completed specific courses. This could save you a couple of years, which means spending less money on things like tuition and housing, while wasting less time.
In this article, you are going to learn what it takes to become a veterinary. It’s a grueling path, full of difficulties, with cutthroat competition. On the other hand, it is extremely rewarding, so it’s worth to pursue it if you’re interested in taking care of animals.
Direct-Entry Veterinary Programs
We’re going to start with direct-entry veterinary programs, because they are the only way to go straight to vet school after high school.
If you’re an outstanding student with amazing grades, and you are 100% committed to becoming a veterinary, these are the perfect programs for you.
They are still not technically a direct admission into veterinary school. You don’t get started right away with your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program. You just get an advantage in coursework: you don’t need to attend school for the typical 8 years needed (4 for the undergraduate degree plus 4 for vet school).
While spending less time sounds like a potential issue, it’s a blessing. You can focus on the courses that matter to get into vet school, and avoid studying for a lot of courses that are uninteresting and don’t get you any closer to your goal.
And here’s what it takes to get admitted to a direct-entry vet program.
Outstanding Grades and Test Scores
Great high school grades are the starting point. You must work hard and get the highest GPA. Schools want only to work with the best of the best, and this is doubly true for direct-entry vet programs. The competition is sky-high.
Additionally, you need to take the SAT or the ACT and get a high score. These are standardized tests that are required by most colleges in the application process.
Study hard and ace these tests! Even if you don’t end up getting accepted into a direct-entry program, they’ll make your application much stronger, and increase your chances of getting admitted to any program you apply to.
Editor’s note: Acing tests isn’t just about proving you studied hard. If you start working hard early, you’ll find it much easier to complete your school program. Slacking early makes school challenging.
Prove Your Commitment to the Field
This is another necessity for your application. Plus, just like grades and test scores, they give your application a great boost even if you end up not getting accepted right away.
There are many ways to prove you’re committed to the cause. Any experience is fine, be it paid, volunteer, or even research projects. An example could be a paid summer job in a farm where you attend to the cattle. Or you could volunteer in an animal shelter.
Another idea could be to shadow your local veterinarian. Get in touch with them, and ask if they are ok with letting you follow them while they work. You’ll get valuable first-hand experience, and will also see what a veterinarian actually does in their daily lives.
Editor’s note: first-hand experience teaches you a lot about animal behavior. It’ll be necessary regardless of your path.
Vet Schools that don’t Require an Undergraduate Degree
This is another option if you are sure about becoming a veterinarian. You’ll be able to focus your attention on the courses that matter, and ignore everything that doesn’t get you closer to your goals.
Check the vet school’s admission requirements. Does it specifically mention you need an undergraduate degree? If not, it’s likely you don’t need to complete a full 4-years degree program to apply. Many vet schools are fine if you just attend the courses that are relevant to their teachings.
This is a great option, because it lets you skip a couple of years of school that aren’t needed in the slightest. You’ll focus on what really matters, and save a lot of tuition and housing money. Additionally, you’ll have more time to get relevant work experience, instead of spending time studying for subjects you don’t need or care about.
What Courses Matter the Most for Vet Schools?
While every school is different, most programs have similar prerequisites, especially when it comes to courses.
Think about what vets do. They treat animals. They work in the field of medicine. Medicine is a science. It follows that science is the foundation of the veterinary profession.
Pardon me for the philosophical excursus.
Every single vet school will ask you to prove you have completed various science courses with a certain grade, and that you have your Science GPA in order. Science GPA is, as the name suggests, the GPA derived from your grades in vet school prerequisites classes like biology, chemistry, physics, and math.
For example, Iowa State University’s pre requires for a cumulative GPA of at least 2.5, but a science GPA of at least 2.8 for residents and 3.0 for non-residents.
Courses on Scientific Subjects
Here is a list of courses you must complete before applying to any vet school:
- General Chemistry I & II
- Organic Chemistry I
- Physics I
- General Biology I & II
Courses in English Communication
Science isn’t the only thing that matters in life, especially when you consider that you aren’t just treating pets, but also interacting with their owners and instructing them.
Strong communication skills are a must for any veterinary. Expect vet schools to require courses in English Composition and Oral Communication. GRE is another popular test among these schools to make sure its students are great communicators.
Last, some arts, humanities and social science courses might also be required by the vet school.
English communication is crucial not only in interacting with pet owners, but also when you apply to vet school. Crafting an outstanding application requires good writing skills. Writing will serve you well in life, even outside of your job.
Becoming a veterinarian is hard. The competition is ferocious, and there are few spots compared to the number of applicants each year.
However, if you are dedicated to the cause, you’ll put in the required effort to become a great veterinarian.
You’ve now learned that you can’t go straight to vet school after high school. But you can cut a couple of years from your academic path to get there faster.
Remember: you are young, you don’t necessarily need to decide now. It is true that you can accelerate your academic career by taking a decision now, but please consider that it’s something you need to be absolutely sure about.
Vet school isn’t cheap. It is true that veterinarians tend to earn a lot of money, but consider the fact that you won’t start with a big salary. You’ll have to work your way up through experience and excellence.
Regardless, we need more veterinarians. Animals deserve as much of a good like as humans. It’ll be your job to ensure they can enjoy themselves and not suffer.