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Pre-Veterinary Studies

The Breakdown

They are cuddly and adorable.  They are our constant companions, a source of amusement and a source of comfort.  They play a vital role in the natural order of things.  And some of them taste delicious!  If you have a great appreciation for all things animal and desire a career centered around them, well, pre-veterinary studies might be the academic track for you. 

While most colleges and universities don’t actually offer pre-veterinary studies as a major, many do offer programs to advise vet school-bound students and ensure they fulfill all the necessary pre-requisites.  They also help to make sure that you’ll be ready to conquer the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), Veterinary Aptitude Test (VAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).  Depending on where you apply, one of these exams will certainly be a requirement.

Fortunately, though it’s common for pre-veterinary students to major in biology or chemistry, vet schools don’t require or favor any particular major.  As long as you fulfill the pre-requisites you are free to study anything from photography to theology.  Of course, you will be expected to have a strong foundation in the natural sciences.  And you’ll actually be required to have taken a few social science and humanities classes to boot.  Finally, it will be imperative for you to have intern, volunteer or work experience at a vet clinic or rescue organization.  After all, admissions committees want to see a continued interest in animals.      

Students who fancy themselves vet school-bound tend to have aptitude for science and very strong quantitative and analytical skills.  They are also focused and determined and know how to remain calm in even the most stressful situation.  Finally, they usually do not suffer from dog, cat or other animal allergies. 


Nuts and Bolts

To prepare for graduate study, pre-veterinary studies students take classes such as: Biology, Inorganic Chemistry, Genetics, Biochemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, Calculus, Microbiology, Introduction to Animal Science, Ornithology, Mammalogy, Biology and Management of Fishes, Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles, Principles of Animal Nutrition, Molecular Biology, Analytic Geometry, Basic Biology of Microorganisms and Genetic Improvement of Farm Animals.

Decisions, Decisions

Undergrads who declare themselves pre-vet are typically passionate about the sciences and nature.  Therefore, it’s common for them to study biology, chemistry, wildlife management, equine studies, biochemistry, environmental science, forestry, zoology, paleontology, entomology, marine biology, oceanography, conservation biology, biomedical engineering, pre-dentistry and pre-medicine. 

What's Next

If you have your sights set on pre-veterinary studies, chances are both vet school and a career as a veterinarian are in your future.  While earning a bachelor’s degree is an important and necessary first step, you’ll also have to take the aforementioned MCAT, VAT or GRE (vet schools differ on their application requirements).  And, because this cannot be stated enough, you’ll need to have proven experience in either a vet clinic or rescue organization.  

Vet school itself is a four-year commitment.  The first half of your education will involve classroom and laboratory work.  You’ll cover topics such as anatomy, physiology and pharmacology.  The latter half of your education will be more practical.  You’ll begin working directly with patients.  Like (human) medicine, you can also choose to focus on a specialty such as oncology or neurology.  And upon graduation you will need to become licensed in order to practice.

Of course, gaining admission to veterinary school is quite competitive, especially because there are so few programs in the country.  Additionally, there’s always the possibility that your professional goals will change.  Therefore, it’s important to recognize that students who complete a pre-veterinary track can also end up working in biomedical research, biotechnology, cancer research, public health, nutrition, animal management and even education (among other fields). 



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Don Munce