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Veterinarian (Livestock): Educational Requirements

Livestock veterinarians are concerned with the health of horses or food animals such as cattle, pigs and sheep. They can be in private practice or employed with farms, industries or the government. Their duties include performing checkups, diagnosing illnesses, prescribing treatments and quarantining animals when necessary. They must complete extensive educational requirements that include undergraduate training, veterinary medical school, licensure and either an internship or residency program.

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Livestock Veterinarian Educational Requirements

Most students complete bachelor's degree programs before attending veterinary school. Some schools offer pre-veterinary programs but there isn't a specific major required for prospective livestock veterinarians. Students can consider pursuing programs in animal science or related subjects that include the required pre-veterinary courses, such as animal nutrition, chemistry, biology, zoology and microbiology. Individuals will need to take a standardized test, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT), depending on the school to which they apply.

Veterinary medical programs typically last four years and result in a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree. The first three years include sequences in animal anatomy, physiology and immunology, in addition to an introduction to medical procedures. The final year is devoted to clinical rotations, which include core requirements, as well as electives that allow students to pursue personal interests. Any prospective veterinary medical school should be accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In order to specialize as a livestock veterinarian, individuals need to complete a residency or internship program. Prospective livestock veterinarians can consider programs in food animals, large animals or programs about specific animals, such as cattle or horses. Both internships and residencies pay stipends and include supervised training, research opportunities and teaching experiences. Most internships last a year, while residencies can last three or four. Another difference between these program types is that upon completion of a residency, an individual can become board certified in his or her specialty.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 56,020 veterinarians employed in the U.S. in May 2012, with an average yearly income of $93,250 (www.bls.gov). Vets who work exclusively with food animals had the highest starting salaries. Veterinarians in general can expect employment opportunities to increase by 36% over the 2010-2020 decade. Among those vets working in private practice, about 6% were equine vets and about 8% were vets for food animals.

Licensing Requirements

The BLS also reports that all states require veterinarians to be licensed unless they work for exempted state and federal agencies. The requirements for licensure can vary by state, but usually include a DVM and passing grade on the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (NAVLE). The NAVLE, given by the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners, includes both multiple choice and visual questions that test a candidate's knowledge of veterinary medicine and diagnostic skills. Some states also require state jurisprudence or clinical competency exams.

Certification Option

The American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP) offers species-oriented certification for veterinarians. Among the certifications offered are: beef cattle practice, equine practice, dairy practice, swine health management and food animal practice. According to the ABVP, applicants for certification must have six years of experience in the category they wish to test for (www.abvp.com).

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