Veterinary Medicine

Veterinarians care for the health of pets, livestock, and animals in zoos, racetracks, and laboratories. Some veterinarians use their skills to protect humans against diseases carried by animals and conduct clinical research on human and animal health problems. Others work in basic research, broadening our knowledge of animals and medical science, and in applied research, developing new ways to use knowledge.

Most veterinarians diagnose animal health problems; vaccinate against diseases, such as distemper and rabies; medicate animals suffering from infections or illnesses; treat and dress wounds; set fractures; perform surgery; and advise owners about animal feeding, behavior, and breeding.

Education and training. Prospective veterinarians must graduate with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) degree from a 4-year program at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. There are 28 colleges in 26 States that meet accreditation standards set by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

The prerequisites for admission to veterinary programs vary. Many programs do not require a bachelor’s degree for entrance, but all require a significant number of credit hours—ranging from 45 to 90 semester hours—at the undergraduate level. However, most of the students admitted have completed an undergraduate program and earned a bachelor’s degree. Applicants without a degree face a difficult task gaining admittance. ( 2008-05-08)

Students interested in pursuing a veterinary career should:

  • Spend time observing or volunteering in a vet clinic or hospital. If there is work available (paid or unpaid) in the clinic, use it as time to get to know the daily routine of the office and become familiar with the standard procedures. Exposure to the veterinary field is required or highly recommended by most veterinary schools.
  • Become familiar with the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS) site. Almost all vet schools require students to apply through this service to be considered for admission. The site offers links to veterinary schools and their admission requirements. Research several schools that you are interested in applying to and work toward meeting the pre-requisites to as many schools as possible.
  • Veterinary schools differ on the tests required for admission. Most schools want scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), but some will accept scores from the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT) or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Use the VMCAS site to determine which test is best for you. Tests should be taken prior to starting the last year of undergraduate work.
  • Consider who you will ask for letters of reference for your application. Most schools want representation from a professional as well as professors, instructors, or advisors who can speak to your potential in academics and your experience with hands-on practice.
  • Admission to vet school is competitive, so take advantage of any coursework or experience that may give you an advantage. A minimum GPA or test score may be required by some schools, but attaining the minimum does not guarantee admission (the stated minimum GPA and the average GPA of those actually admitted can be significantly different).
  • Pursue an undergraduate curriculum that includes many of the courses in the chart below. Most veterinary schools do not require that students have a specific major, only that they have completed at least 90 credits including the required pre-requisite courses. Preference is given to students who will have completed a bachelor's degree by the start of classes.

Courses required for admission by most veterinary schools**:

UAF Course(s)
Introductory chemistry


Chem 105X, 106X
Organic chemistry


Chem 321, 322 (Take 324 if lab required)
Introductory biology


Biol 115X, 116X


Phys 103X & 104X or Phys 211X & 212X (some schools only require one semester)


Biol 303 or Chem 451 and 452
English composition


Engl 111X, Engl 213X
Humanities/social sciences


UAF core courses; also see a list of UAF humanities and social sciences (PDF 37K)

Courses recommended by many schools (varies by school):



Biol 342


Biol 362
Mathematics3-10Statistics (Stat 200X), Functions for Calculus (Math 107X) or Calculus (Math 200X)
Public speaking


Comm 141X (preferable to 131X)
Additional biology courses such as physiology, embryology, evolution, comparitive anatomy and histology4-12Biol 310, 317, 417, 418, 425, 426, 441, 444, 445, 453, 458, 461, 465, 481
Additional chemistry courses4-8Chem 202, 212, 300, 313, 331, 332
Animal science/animal nutrition3-6

NRM 312, 320, 321, 420, 425, 431
WLF 201, 303, 304, 305, 410, 431, 460,

Suggested elective courses:

Accounting (Acct 261 and 262), business (BA 151), technical writing (Engl 314), economics (Econ 100X and/or 200), leadership, personal finance (ABUS courses) and computer skills (CIOS courses, CS 101).

**Admission requirements vary by school. This chart was compiled by researching a majority of veterinary schools. It is important to check for the admission requirements of the specific school that you are interested in to be sure that you will meet all of the pre-requisites required by that school. A course listed as recommended here may be required by your school of choice.

Generally, four years of graduate level study are required for completion of a professional program in veterinary medicine. Classroom instruction and laboratory work provide the student with a solid foundation during the first three years of study. The final year of professional study is comprised of clinical rotations. Specialization within veterinary medicine is possible after further study at the post-doctoral level.

Students can choose any major, but UAF degrees in Biological Sciences and Chemistry - Biochemistry incorporate all of the above courses. Students interested in pursuing a degree in Biological Sciences can review a recommended course sequence. Advising for students considering veterinary medicine as a career choice is available through the Academic Advising Center or the pre-vet advisor in the Biological Sciences department.

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