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Office of Pre-Health Advising


What Does a Veterinarian Do?

When most of us think of veterinarians, we think of the neighborhood vet who treats pet dogs and cats when they are sick, and helps them to stay well. But that's just one kind of vet. There are also vets who:

  • Work with farm animals
  • Work with wild animals at zoos
  • Study and make recommendations related to wild animals in their natural habitat; for example, may monitor and attempt to control rabies outbreaks among bats, raccoons etc..
  • Conduct research
  • Work with police departments and/or the armed forces

The Path to Becoming a Vet

First, a Bachelor's Degree

To become a vet, you must first complete a bachelor's degree. This is a separate step, requiring that you choose a major and complete general education requirements. This is different from the system in many other countries, in which health care professionals are on a professional track from the moment they graduate high school. The U.S. system values applicants who have gained a broad education, and who have successfully committed themselves to in-depth study of some particular topic, whether biology or history or music. The point is to show your ability to learn and excel, rather than to complete a narrow preparation for a specific profession.

You must also complete specific prerequisite courses.

Veterinary schools also like you to have a considerable amount of experience prior to applying; we suggest at least 500 hours. Vet schools classify your experience as research, veterinary (non-research work where your supervisor is a veterinarian), animal (other work with animals, such as in a kennel or on a farm), and general work experience. Veterinary experience is the most important.

After you receive your bachelor's, you will go on to a graduate program in veterinary medicine to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM).

To Gap or Not to Gap

A "gap year" is a year between completing your undergraduate degree and beginning veterinary school. Taking a gap year has the following benefits:

  • Allows more time to gain veterinary and animal experience
  • Usually results in a higher science G.P.A. at time of application
  • Full-time work during the gap year can allow money to be saved for use during veterinary school
  • Provides a break from schooling!

If you are not taking a gap year, you need to apply to veterinary school the summer after your junior year.

If you are taking a gap year, you will apply the summer after graduation.

The Application Process

The application process to a DVM program begins more than a year before you plan to enter veterinary school.

At some point in your junior or senior years of college, or early in the summer after graduation, you will take the GRE General Test. This test is similar to the SAT, in that it tests basic mathematical, verbal, and writing skills. It does not test the science topics you learn in the prerequisite courses, so you can take it before all your prerequisites are complete.

The summer after your senior year (if taking a gap year) or junior year (if not), you will apply through VMCAS, a centralized admissions system. Veterinary schools admit students on a rolling basis, so it's best to apply early in the cycle, perhaps in August.

After you apply to DVMCAS and specify the schools you are interested in, you will often be invited to complete "supplementary" applications for those schools. These supplementaries request more information, in part to make sure you are serious about that particular school.

Once your supplementaries are in, you will (hopefully!) be invited to some schools for interviews. Interviews typically take place in the fall or winter prior to when you'll start attending veterinary school.

After interviews, you finally get to find out who accepted you--hopefully you'll have the happy dilemma of choosing between acceptances!

Veterinary School

Once in veterinary school, it is very likely you'll end up being a vet. Most people accepted to veterinary school graduate, pass the NAVLE, and become practicing vets.

The first two years of veterinary school are usually "didactic," meaning that you'll take courses. The next two years are "clinical," involving working with vets and patients directly.

At the end of four years, you graduate as a veterinarian. In order to practice, you also need to pass a test called the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE).

Some vets go on to complete a residency or internship, particularly if they'd like to specialize in one particular aspect of veterinary medicine. Residencies and internships typically last a year, during which you are paid, but under the supervision of a more experienced vet.

Prerequisite Courses

Regardless of your major, there are certain courses you must complete in order to gain admission to most veterinary schools. These requirements vary considerably from school to school, so it's a good idea to check the particular requirements of schools you are considering appling to well before graduation.

Below is a list of some of the more commonly required prerequisite courses. For more detailed information, contact the pre-health advisor.

Required by Nearly all Veterinary Programs

Course Name Lehman Code Prerequisites
Gen. Chem. 1 CHE 166 + 167 MAT 171 or MAT 172 is corequisite
Gen. Chem. 2 CHE 168 + 169 Gen. Chem. 1
Organic Chem. 1 CHE 232 + 233 Gen. Chem. 2
Organic Chem. 2 CHE 234 + 235 Organic Chem. 1
Gen. Physics 1 PHY 166 or PHY 168 Either (MAT 171 and MAT 108) or MAT 172 is prerequisite
Biochemistry BIO 400 or CHE 444 Organic Chem. 2

Required by Most Veterinary Programs

Course Name Lehman Code Prerequisites
Gen. Bio. 1 BIO 166  
Gen. Bio. 2 BIO 167  
Genetics BIO 238 BIO 166 + BIO 167
Gen. Physics 2 PHY 167 or PHY 169 Gen. Physics 1
Statistics Multiple courses fulfill  

 Required by Some Veterinary Programs

Course Name Lehman Code Prerequisites
Microbiology BIO 331 or BIO 230 Depends on course
Calculus 1 MAT 175 + 155 Either (MAT 171 and MAT 108) or MAT 172 is prerequisite
Public Speaking    
Animal Nutrition    


Below is an example of a timeline for a hypothetical student, Maria. Maria is planning to take a gap year and decides to major in psychology. She entered without a strong math background. Your timeline will be somewhat different, because you're not Maria. (Or if your name is Maria, you're not this Maria.) You'll almost certainly take some different courses than Maria did. Be sure to consult with your pre-health advisor to decide what's right for you. Still, Maria's timeline should give you a sense of how it can all work out.

Semester Coursework Consult Pre-Health Advisor Regarding... Application Other
Freshman Fall MAT 104, BIO 166, ENG 111, LEH 100, Gen. Ed. Get to know each other    
Freshman Spring MAT 172, ENG 121, CHE 166+167, Gen .Ed. Choice of major, volunteering   Plan summer volunteering
Sophomore Fall CHE 168+169, MAT 175+155, PSY course, Gen. Ed. Progress   Volunteer
Sophomore Spring CHE 232+233, PSY course, BIO 167, Gen. ed. Gap or no gap? Begin investigating which vet schools to apply to


Declare major

Junior Fall CHE 234+235, PSY courses, BIO 238 Progress. Discuss additional courses for specific vet schools.   Volunteer/work
Junior Spring CHE 444, PSY courses, LEH Progress   Volunteer/work
Senior Fall PHY 166, LEH, PSY courses Letters of recommendation  


Plan gap year

Senior Spring PHY 167, BIO 331, PSY courses Personal statement Arrange for letters of recommendation; mock interviews Volunteer/work
June after graduation      



July after graduation     Application to VMCAS  
Fall after graduation     Supplementary applications Gap year activities
Winter after graduation   Interview preparation Interviews Gap year activities
Spring after graduation   Inform pre-health advisor of acceptance Accept admission to veterinary school of her choice Gap year activities
One year after graduation     Begin veterinary school!