By Clare Schinzel
It’s hard to find a person who hates animals. For any little critter out there – ranging from a rambunctious puppy to a tranquil hamster – there’s an animal lover out there waiting to take it into their home. However, adopting a pet and watching over its health come hand in hand, and most animal owners aren’t quite equipped with the tools or knowledge to be fully independent in that department.
Of course, this is where veterinarians come in. However, taking care of household pets is only one branch of veterinary medicine. Livestock, exotic or zoo animals, and even lab pets need care. And unlike traditional medicine, vets don’t get the luxury of directly asking their patients how they are feeling.
Because of the job's complicated nature, many years of study go into mastering it. The path starts all the way back to high school. Aspiring vets should take classes such as chemistry, environmental science, and biology. It’s important for the student to become well-versed in the sciences. It is also advised for students to take four years of math in high school to be prepared for more rigorous courses in college.
Above all, maintaining a comfortable attitude around animals is required to succeed in hands-on work. Volunteering to work with animals or even just taking an extra step forward in taking care of your own pet builds useful communication skills – even if your animal isn’t talking back.
Most veterinary schools don’t have an established major required to get in. However, it's best for future vets to stay in the sciences. In college, chemistry, biology, biochemistry, and genetics (all with lab components) are staple classes for anyone entering any medical field to be well versed in. Popular majors for aspiring vets include biology, zoology, microbiology, and animal sciences.
After college, students will apply to veterinary school. Veterinary schools will look at GPA and college classes you’ve taken as factors in the admission practice. Naturally, it's essential that students maintain a high GPA throughout college for an easy admission process.
Veterinary schools usually last from four to six years depending on the program. People specializing in a specific field – such as surgery or pathology – should expect extra training programs. Frequently, the way to participate in these programs is through internships and residency programs. That, and about a decade of studying, is necessary to reach the upper crust of veterinary education.
After graduating from veterinary school, students have to be licensed by the state. Getting a veterinary degree and passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination is the main requirement to obtain a license.
Despite the years of study, vets' salary doesn’t compare to normal physicians. The median salary for a veterinarian in the United States is $99,260, while human physicians average around $208,000. Student debt can rack up quickly for veterinary students, so being on the lower end of medical salaries isn’t ideal.
But because of the debt problem, it’s safe to say that most people strive for a veterinary career because of a love for both science and animals, which is, as most can argue, the noblest and most necessary requirement for any veterinarian.
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