Veterinary Education Requirements by Profession Level
Two common positions in the veterinary field are those of veterinarian and veterinary technician. Veterinarians are animal doctors who take care of all types of animals, from house pets to large animals to exotic species. Veterinary technicians assist veterinarians. Educational requirements for a veterinarian usually include both an undergraduate and graduate degree related to animal science, while a technician's requirements include only an associate's degree.
Education Requirements for Veterinary Careers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), veterinarians are required to hold a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree to legally practice medicine on animals (www.bls.gov). This degree must come from a school accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA); as of December 2011, the AVMA listed 28 accredited schools in the United States (www.avma.org). Most DVM programs take four years to complete, although dual-degree programs, such as a combined DVM and master's degree program, can take longer to complete.
Coursework in a DVM program generally includes animal anatomy, veterinary physiology, systematic pathology and veterinary technologies. Students are also required to complete supervised clinical hours where they treat and diagnose animal patients. Prior to being accepted into a DVM program, applicants must meet prerequisite requirements, which can include completing undergraduate courses or earning a bachelor's degree. Some common prerequisite courses include genetics, chemistry, biochemistry and statistics.
Educational requirements for veterinary technicians usually include an undergraduate degree, such as an associate's degree in veterinary technology. Prerequisite courses for veterinary technology degree programs can include healthcare biology, chemistry and laboratory training. Coursework for the veterinary technology program covers veterinary medical terminology, animal behaviorisms, animal anatomy, veterinary office procedures and animal handling.
Licensing Requirements for Veterinary Careers
Upon completing an accredited DVM program, veterinarians must earn a license to practice medicine. Each state has different licensing procedures, but the BLS notes that all states require applicants to pass at least one licensing exam, such as the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam. To verify that veterinarians understand state laws concerning the medical treatment of animals, some states require veterinarians to pass a jurisprudence test as part of the licensing process. License renewal requirements vary and may require applicants to complete continuing education coursework.
Veterinary technicians, like veterinarians, must be credentialed by the state in which they work. This generally means becoming certified, licensed or registered, depending on the state. To obtain these credentials, veterinary technicians must meet education requirements and pass a credentialing examination, usually the National Veterinary Technician examination; however, both the education requirements and exam can vary by state as well.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2012, veterinarians earned an annual median salary of $84,460, while veterinary technicians and technologists earned $30,290. In 2010, the BLS predicted 36% employment growth for veterinarians through 2020 and expected even faster growth of 52% for veterinary technicians and technologists, during that same time.
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