about Veterinary Medicine
These questions have been answered by veterinary students
attending the Ohio State University's Veterinary Program.
Contact wth veterinary medical students was initiated
by Dr. Morse from the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association
and Irene Choi, a Ohio State veterinary medical student.
Question: Can you tell me about veterinary medicine
as a career option.
Answer: I am a senior veterinary
student at The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH.
I plan to work with exotic animals in private practice
when I graduate. However, I've spent a lot of time
volunteering at various zoos and talking to various zoo
veterinarians over the last 10 years.
First of all, it doesn't really matter what your undergraduate
degree is in as long as you take all the prerequisite
course work for admission into a college of veterinary
medicine. This often means that you end up taking
enough course credts for a major in biology/zoology/microbiology/ecology
or some such field. However, there are a number
of students in my class who majored in some totally different
field such as business, music, and computer engineering.
The amount of money you can earn in this profession
depends on what field you go into, on average the starting
salary of a veterinarian right out of school is $55,000-65,000.
Although, some people earn more if they are paid on
production. Being paid on production means that
whatever amount of money you generate for a practice,
you get a percentage of that amount in your paycheck.
Currently, Lab Animal Veterinarians are paid the most
right out of school, but Equine veterinarians often
end up making more after they've worked int he field
for over 5 years. Zoo Vets usually get paid less
since zoos often don't make much money and also most
people who are zoo vets do it because they love the
animals, not for the money.
If you want to pursue a career working in
a zoo, it is best to start out by volunteering at a
local zoo and getting your foot in the door by networking
with the keepers and curators. Also, when
you are picking out what veterinary college to
apply to; make sure the school you choose has an exotic
animal medicine department. Get well grounded
in the basics of both large animal medicine and companion
small animal medicine while in veterinary school. Pursue
internships at a zoo during your summer breaks
in Veterinary school. Lastly, get a good internship/residency
in zoo medicine after you graduate with your DVM.
If you do all that, you will probably be able to pursue
a career in zoo medicine. One other thing, If
you want to get a good residency, it helps if you can
get published while you are in college in a peer reviewed
Some things you can do before attending college and
veterinary school would be to contact zoos (zoo veterinarians
treat almost all exotic animal species), aquaria, and
local veterinarians (find out which local vets treat
exotic animal species) – the yellow pages or internet
are good resources for this. Some zoos and veterinary
hospitals even have special summer volunteer programs.
Once you make a list of some places that interest you,
find out which of these places you can work or volunteer
– this experience will help you make more contacts with
people to get you started and it will give you a first
hand look of what it is like. The opportunities in this
field are unlimited – you can work in animal hospitals,
zoos, aqauria, universities, safaris - the sky's the
Question: As a high school junior
what should I be doing to enhance my chances of being
accepted into a pre-vet program in college ? I recently
visited Ohio State and spoke with a student in the Animal
Science program and she indicated that I should be getting
exposure hours in the field as a volunteer or employee
because those who get accepted at Ohio State generally
have 500 - 800 hours of service before applying to the
program. Is this true in most programs ? I know it is
very difficult to get into a program and want to do anything
that I can to be better prepared. Any advice would be
Answer: While getting into veterinary
school is difficult, it is NOT impossible and it is
GREAT that you are already focused and interested in
the profession. :) Definitely the student
you spoke with when you visited Ohio State is correct.
The admissions committees at all of the veterinary schools
(including Ohio State) like to see and tend to accept
students who are very dedicated to the field.
So, I would definitely recommend getting as much hands
on veterinary experience that you can. Since you
will be applying to veterinary school in about 4-5 years,
having a record of animal and veterinary experience
for many years will definitely be beneficial.
When I was a junior in high school, I began by
working in a kennel that was attached to a veterinary
hospital. Eventually, I was offered a job in the
veterinary hospital working as a veterinary assistant.
My other recommendation to you is to try and seek out
a diverse range of animal and veterinary experiences.
For example, try to work for a small animal veterinarians,
a horse veterinarian, work with a researcher, etc.
Question: I want to know more about Zoo Medicine.
Answer : The best way to look for
a school that can help you become a zoo veterinarian
is to first check and find out if they have an active
exotic animal medicine program. Call the veterinary
school that you are interested in and ask them if they
have an exotic animal medicine department, how many
faculty members do they have in that department, do
they work with the nearby/local zoos, how many exotic
animal cases do they work with.
The best program for learning about zoo medicine would
probably be Kansas State University since that is where
Dr. James Carpenter is a faculty member and runs the
exotic animal medicine department. He wrote the textbook
on Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. Some other top schools
to consider are UC Davis, University of Florida, and
University of Tennessee. But this is just my opinion
based on a number of conversations I've had with various
Question: How hard is it to get into vet school?
Answer: Not hard, if it's what
you really want and are willing to work hard to get there.
There are only 27 veterinary schools in the United States,
but 2-3 X more than that in medical schools. So, yes,
you are competing with a lot of people to get into one
of those vet schools. But I truly feel that if you are
committed to veterinary medicine, have gotten good grades,
and have shown leadership potential and worked hard, then
you will get in. It takes some people more than one try
(more than one year of applying to get in) but I got in
the first year. I think what made me a great candidate
was the fact that I got a alot of experience in different
fields of veterinary medicine before I applied to vet
school. I gained experience by working as a technician,
vet assistant and research assistant.
Q: What qualities would impress these schools?
Answer: Unfortunately, most
schools select who they will interview based on their
applications. So looking good on paper is a good thing--
by that I mean having a good college GPA (minimum 3.4).
This also means being active in your community (clubs,
etc) having leadership potential (i.e. organizing events,
running for president/vice pres/treasurer of class or
clubs, or being more than just a "member"--be
active!) and volunteering (for example, I volunteered
at a local animal shelter). Most importantly, your experience
in the field (veterinary medicine or even human medicine)
is critical. Start now by shadowing vets in your community,
and not just one type of vet-- Large animal and small
animal. Once you are in college, start doing research
projects, and continue working for local vets to gain
experience. Don't be intimidated to ask vets for a position
(even if it's just volunteering)--they, too, once needed
a place to gain experience and most are happy to give
you the opportunity.
Question: How can I get financial assistance for
Answer : Good question! By the
time you start veterinary school, costs will probably
be about $200,000 for 4 years. But no worries--you are
making an investment that will more than pay for itself.
These costs are taken care of by Stafford loans, federal
grants, work-study money and scholarships. Much of this
has to be paid back, but over a very long time, AFTER
you graduate, in monthly payments. For now, you can check
out scholarship websites and start writing essays to win
scholarship money--that's money you don't have to pay
Question: Why are many of the
science prerequisites the same for veterinary schools,
but many of the humanities differ?
Answer: This was frustrating for
me, too, but I can only theorize. I think every vet
school wants the same sort of candidate-- smart, dedicated,
responsible, passionate about medicine, and well-rounded--
but every school has a different idea of what sorts
of classes need to be taken to be "well-rounded".
every School has its own reasons, and often good ones.
for example, several require business classes, which
is a good idea-- most veterinarians belong to private
practices and need to have some sort of idea what is