How Many Years Does it Take to Become a Vet?

The process of becoming a veterinarian is one that involves extensive training and practice. The sheer nature of the work demands precision, which is something that cannot be learned overnight. Here is a closer look at how long it takes to become a veterinarian.

It may come as a surprise that gaining admittance into veterinary school does not technically require a college degree. However, in such a competitive field, it is a rarity that applicants can expect to gain admission without already holding a Bachelor’s Degree, preferably in animal science. Assuming that students attend college on a full-time basis, that initial step of the process counts as four years.

Once a Bachelor’s Degree is earned, the next step is getting accepted to a veterinary college. Since there are only 30 accredited veterinary colleges in the United States, competition is fierce. Many applicants get denied right out of college, particularly those who do not have some kind of experience working in the veterinary field. That is why a lot of applicants obtain some kind of job in the veterinary field the year after they graduate from college. Some veterinary colleges even require at least 1,000 hours of work experience. That work experience pushes the running total up to five years.

Not every state is home to a veterinary college and that is of particular importance because many veterinary colleges accept the majority of their applicants from within their own state. That means if you do not live in a state with a veterinary college, you have the option of moving to another state that is home to a veterinary college. However, it typically takes two years to establish residency and qualify for in-state status. That could add another two years to the process.

Once an applicant is accepted into a veterinary college, the grind of a rigorous educational experience begins. The first three years of veterinary college are comprised of mostly classroom and laboratory work, with some clinical work mixed in as well. The fourth year is then reserved for a clinical rotation in an animal hospital or veterinary practice. Once those four years of veterinary college are completed, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.) is awarded. That makes a total of roughly 9 years.

However, it is not a given that a job will be waiting for the majority of newly graduated veterinarians. Many graduates take on a paid internship over the course of the next year, although the pay is usually less than substantial and the hours are typically long. But what it offers is provides real-world experience working in a veterinary setting. These internships are very similar to the residencies that are taken on by doctors, who have just graduated from medical school.

Once that internship is completed, veterinarians become more appealing job candidates for open veterinarian positions. That would bring the total number of years it takes to become a veterinarian up to 10. Technically, it could be done in eight years, although that is not very common. The work experience factor holds great weight with veterinary college admissions. That experience could be attained while students are completing their undergraduate studies, although it would make for a very busy schedule. So, for college students looking to become a veterinarian, it would make a lot of sense to start working in the veterinary field while in college. That could even be as a volunteer or paid veterinary assistant.

Gaining that same experience while attending veterinary college would be rather difficult, given the rigorous demands that come with that kind of education. For most aspiring veterinarians, it is prudent to spend a year working in the veterinary field.

It is also quite common to expect a yearlong internship following graduation from a veterinary college. That makes for a 10-year journey for those who are looking to become a practicing veterinarian.

Veterinarians looking to attain a specialty in areas such as emergency care, pathology or internal medicine, are required to complete residency programs which usually last three years. For those looking to get into a specialization, the number of years could balloon up to 12.