How to become a veterinarian. |

How to become a veterinarian.

Stephen Sheldon

As we said last week, veterinarians don’t spend their days a back room petting cats and dogs. There’s a small business to run, which means dealing with employees, vendors and landlords for at least a part of your day. You won’t receive much business education in your veterinary school, so here is business 101 from the school of hard knocks: “Deceive me once, shame on you; deceive me twice, shame on me.” We all know ‘deceive’ is not the appropriate word, but this is a family column.I guess we should at least mention earnings. Median annual earnings of veterinarians were $63,090 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned between $49,050 and $85,770. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,000, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $123,370. The job outlook for veterinarians for the next 10 years is very good – except in the valley where there are more veterinarians than dogs.How do I get in vet school? By working very hard – and that’s not joke. There are only 28 veterinary schools in the United States and admission is very competitive. It is easier to get into medical school. The first step is to go work for a veterinarian who practices in the field you want to go into you. You will probably have to volunteer at first – we all did. That is one of the beauties of this profession: every veterinarian you know started at the bottom cleaning cages or stalls. It is important to work for a veterinarian for a number of reasons. First, you may not like the profession. I’ve had numerous students say, “Wow, this was not what I thought it was going to be like.” Or, you may just not like the sight of blood. Second, work experience is mandatory for admission to veterinary college. You may not see this mentioned on any application or pamphlet, but trust me, it is an unwritten requirement. Try to diversify your experiences too and get a mix of small and large animals as well as research experience. You can get research experience during your undergraduate years. Most veterinary schools require students to be a resident of the state where the school is or they have an agreement with another state school. For example, Wyoming has no veterinary school so their students attend Colorado State University. Tufts University in Boston, for example, is a private school but it is expensive and hard to get into. There are also foreign veterinary schools, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. To gain admission you must complete a core requirement of science courses, which takes an average of three years. Most schools prefer to accept applicants who have earned a four-year bachelor’s degree in a scientific field like biology, microbiology (my major and very useful at cocktail parties), chemistry or animal sciences. These degrees require only a few classes more than the core requirements and it is strongly recommended you finish your bachelor’s degree. You must also take a few graduate examinations prior to admission like the GRE and the VCAT or MCAT, but worry about those later. Most students admitted have above a 3.0 college grade point average although you can apply with a 2.5. Veterinary school itself takes four years and you will earn a doctorate of veterinary medicine and be eligible to sit for national and state licensing examinations. So far, six of our student interns have gone on to earn doctorates of veterinary medicine and we couldn’t be prouder.Stephen Sheldon, DVM owns Valley Veterinary Services and has hospital privileges at Alpine Meadows Animal Hospital In Edwards. He can be reached at 748-3062 and welcomes questions to

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