Animal Doctor: Requirements for Becoming a Veterinarian
To become an animal doctor, usually called a veterinarian, a person must complete years of schooling and pass a licensing exam. A person interested in this profession needs to have strong skills in mathematics and science. If an individual wishes to be board certified they will need to complete a residency in addition to these requirements.
Requirements for Becoming an Animal Doctor
Veterinarians are concerned with the health and well-being of animals. They perform checkups, diagnose illnesses and prescribe treatments. Veterinarians may work as generalists or concentrate on a type of animal, such as companion animals or farm animals, or a single species, such as horses or aquatic animals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), most states require the completion of veterinary school and a passing score on the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam to become an animal doctor (www.bls.gov).
Most students complete a bachelor's degree prior to attending veterinary school. Individuals may be admitted without completing a bachelor's degree but this is rare. Students have options for which major to select, but it is usually common to choose one with an emphasis on science. Some schools offer pre-veterinarian or veterinary science programs. These programs offer courses in microbiology, anatomy and immunology. Students may also consider general science and animal science programs.
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
After undergraduate study, individuals must attend veterinary medical school where they can graduate with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. Veterinary medical schools must be accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). These programs typically take four years to complete.
The first three years include sequences in the anatomy, physiology and immunology of animals and medical procedures, such as surgery and pharmacology. The fourth year is devoted to clinical rotations, which include core requirements and electives that allow students to pursue personal interests. After completing their DVM degree, vets may enroll in an optional 1-year residency program before beginning their practice.
Residency and Licensing
Veterinarian must obtain licensure to practice in all states. All states require applicants to earn a DVM degree and pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE). The NAVLE has 360 questions that must be completed in eight hours. The test covers all areas of veterinary medicine and information on data gathering, professional behavior and case management, as well as testing an applicant's diagnostic skills.
Veterinarians may practice after earning their DVM, but if they wish to become board certified, they will need to complete a residency program. According to the BLS, residencies last three or four years, and there are 39 AVMA-approved specialties that can be pursued. Residents spend a significant time in hospitals where they may consult on patient's cases and perform research. Residents may also instruct medical and pre-professional students. During residency, a stipend is paid to the resident, which is similar to a salary.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
In 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted 36% employment growth for veterinarians through 2020. The median annual salary for these professionals in 2012 was $84,460, according to the BLS.
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