Ask a College Advisor: What Undergraduate Major Should I Choose if I Want To Become a Veterinarian?
Hear from one of our education professionals on preparing for a career in veterinary medicine.
Question: What undergraduate major should I choose if I want to become a veterinarian?
Answer: Whether you've always wanted to become a veterinarian, or this is a profession that has recently piqued your interest, you've likely asked yourself what kind of college major you should choose to make that goal happen. The answer is: You have many options!
Veterinary schools welcome applicants from a variety of backgrounds. The American Veterinary Medical Association explains that you don't necessarily need to be a pre-veterinarian or science major to apply or get accepted into veterinary school. Students are encouraged to pick a college major they are passionate about.
However, veterinary schools do want to see that students have completed the prerequisite coursework required for admission. (These requirements are discussed below.) You should choose a major you'll enjoy, but make sure to work with an academic advisor to pick classes that will also prepare you for veterinary school.
High School Coursework
If you've had your heart set on being a vet since you were a kid, you can begin working toward your goal of becoming a veterinarian in high school. This is a great time to strengthen your knowledge in science and math, enroll in rigorous coursework that challenges you, involve yourself in extracurricular activities and clubs, and strive to maintain a high GPA. You can also begin to get experience with animals by participating in 4-H, volunteering at an animal shelter, or shadowing a local veterinarian.
Choosing a major is one of the first steps you'll take in college. Because veterinary schools require a variety of science and math course prerequisites, students might consider choosing a major related to animals, such as animal science, wildlife biology, or zoology. Other options include science-related majors, such as biology, chemistry, or biochemistry.
However, your options are not limited to the sciences. You can choose to major in whatever subject you'd like, as long as you still complete the required prerequisites for veterinary school. While the course prerequisite requirements might differ slightly from one veterinary school to another, they generally require coursework in some (or all) of the following subjects:
- General Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Mathematics (Statistics/Calculus)
- Behavioral Science
Meet with your academic advisor to plan your course sequence to ensure you can fit in the prerequisite classes needed for veterinary school. If you're not majoring in a science-related field, you may be able to incorporate prerequisite coursework by adding a pre-health or science minor to supplement your major. Your advisor can help you understand your degree requirements and how to be strategic when picking courses.
Gain Experience in the Field
If you haven't already started getting exposure to veterinary medicine, this is the time to start. You can get experience with animals by volunteering at an animal shelter, interning at a veterinarian's office, or working at a farm or zoo. You can also bolster your experience by joining student clubs and seeking out mentorship opportunities from a faculty member in a related discipline.
Veterinary School Admissions Process
Becoming a veterinarian does require education beyond an undergraduate degree. After getting their bachelor's degree, students must complete four years of veterinary medicine at an accredited veterinary school or college. As of 2022, there were 32 accredited veterinary schools in the U.S., and admission into veterinary school is competitive. To boost your chances of finding a good fit, you should consider researching and applying to 3-5 schools.
You don't have to choose a specific animal or science-related major just because you want to attend vet school. You can choose whichever college major is right for you, as long as you're still completing the necessary course prerequisites for veterinary school.
Strive to take challenging courses in high school and college and maintain a high GPA. Involve yourself in extracurricular activities and start gaining relevant experience working with animals. Start to research veterinary schools and the various admissions requirements early in your college career. Becoming a veterinarian is a rewarding career for many people, but it takes a lot of planning, dedication, and hard work!
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DISCLAIMER: The responses provided as part of the Ask a College Advisor series are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact a professional academic, career, or financial advisor before making decisions regarding individual situations.