Overview of Profession

Veterinarians are medical professionals who provide health care for animals of all kinds. The veterinary profession offers a varied and satisfying career. A career in veterinary medicine provides a range of options besides private practice. For example, veterinarians may also conduct research, teach, and work for a company or the government. It is one of the most financially rewarding careers as well. As of June 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the average salary for a Veterinarian was $87,590. Most importantly, providing care for and relieving the suffering of animals can be a highly rewarding experience, especially for those who have an affinity toward animals. For more information about the veterinary profession, visit

Undergraduate Preparation

Although admission into a veterinary program does not require a bachelor’s degree, most applicants will have an undergraduate degree, and most veterinary schools require at least 75 credit hours in specific undergraduate courses. In this regard, DVM programs require 6 to 9 hours of English, 8 hours of biology, 16 hours of chemistry (8 in general and 8 in organic), 8 hours of physics, 3 hours of genetics, 4 hours of microbiology, and 4 hours of biochemistry. All programs require 6 to 9 hours of mathematics including courses in statistics and calculus. Many schools recommend electives in anatomy, comparative anatomy, microbiology, physiology, embryology, and immunology. Prerequisites vary among schools so students interested in specific programs should check those universities’ websites for their requirements. An overview of prerequisites may be found at A minimum GPA of 2.8 is required for admission into veterinary school, though the average GPA of accepted applicants is typically in the 3.6 range. Additionally, most programs require a grade of C or higher in the prerequisite classes to be considered for admission. Please refer to Appendix A for a list of requirements and Appendix H for a suggested preparation timeline.

In addition to course prerequisites, shadowing is an important requirement for admission into veterinary programs, with most schools recommending between 400 to 600 hours of shadowing, both with small and large animals. Some schools require shadowing in 3 different areas. Applicants also will need to request letters of recommendation from three or four of their professors, and at least one letter of recommendation should be completed by a veterinarian. It is the student’s responsibility to ask for these letters directly from professors and veterinarians. Veterinary programs require letters of recommendation to be sent electronically, so students should collect evaluators’ emails and the evaluators will submit their electronic letters through a link sent to them. It is proper etiquette to write a thank you note to the doctors and professors that write your evaluations. In addition, the ability to perform and familiarity with certain techniques may be expected, such as proficient cognitive, motor and observational skills. 

Application Process

Before beginning the application process, applicants must preregister and take the GRE. The GRE is composed of questions assessing verbal and quantitative reasoning as well as analytical writing. Verbal Reasoning is assessed in two, thirty minute sections consisting of approximately 20 questions. There are also two sections of Quantitative Reasoning with 20 questions with each section lasting approximately 35 minutes. The Analytical Writing component consists of two 30-minute essays. The average verbal and quantitative scores for the class of 2017 were the 68th and 61rst percentiles respectively. There are a number of print and online guides available for preparing to take the GRE. Additionally, there are in-person courses offered from time-to-time at area colleges/universities. 


Applications for most DVM programs are centralized into one common application called the Veterinary Medical College Application Service. The VMCAS collects admission information such as a personal statement, GRE scores, and electronic Letters of Recommendation (eLORs). Once received, these materials are verified and sent to each school of your choice. Many schools require secondary applications sent at the same time as the VMCAS. Other programs will send a secondary application after they receive the VMCAS to be completed and returned as soon as possible. Practices vary among schools, so it is important to check universities’ websites for their individual requirements. While the VMCAS accepts up to 10 eLORs, 3 or 4 are preferred. Another important component of the VMCAS is the personal statement. The VMCAS allows a 2000-character maximum statement detailing your reasons for applying to veterinary school. Because of the brief nature of the VMCAS personal statement, it is important to be clear and succinct. Some areas to include are personal experiences during job shadowing, special talents, and obstacles you have overcome and how they have influenced you to choose a veterinary career. The personal essay is a very important part of the application and should be carefully reviewed by your major advisor or pre-health committee member. A sample VMCAS application may be found at the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges Website:

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