Let’s be honest here: Going through all of the rigorous training required of any occupation in a medical field of any kind is not something that you can do overnight, and becoming a veterinarian is no different. It is true that it doesn’t take quite as long to go through school as it does if you’re serving human beings instead of other animals, but being a veterinarian comes with its own hosts of responsibilities and requirements. Just as with human doctors, learning how to be a good veterinarian doesn’t stop at graduation, either, but is a skill that you will be honing for years, if not for the rest of your life.
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If you’re asking how long it takes to become a veterinarian, however, you’re probably interested in knowing what kind of degree and certification is required, how long it takes to get through all of that training, and when you can start your own practice. In that case, the answer is actually fairly straight forward:
It takes about 8 years total to become a veterinarian, in most cases if you are pursuing your education in the United States. In order to hold this position, you are usually required to have a standard 4-year undergraduate degree, as well as a degree from an accredited veterinary school. In some cases, you may be able to get into a veterinary school without a bachelor’s degree by taking only the courses required by that vet school, but this is not very common and graduating from a good University will probably increase your chances of getting accepted.
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Just as with med school, getting into a veterinary school can be an extremely competitive process, so you will have to have made exceptional grades, particularly in your math and biological science courses, in order to be accepted. It will help immensely if your undergraduate degree is in some field of science, such as biology, chemistry, or even pre-med.Most veterinary schools will require you to have taken certain prerequisite courses in college and to have passed them with a certain grade point average; if you are curious about this, call the specific veterinary school that you are interested in and inquire about it. Some school may also require you to come in for an interview or to submit essays (or both). You will normally want to apply to the veterinary school ahead of time, during your last year of University.
After you have been accepted into veterinary school (which is a process in and of itself), you will still need to pass your required classes, graduate from vet school, and then pass an exam that will license you to be a practicing veterinarian.
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From there, just as a regular doctor must do, you will probably be faced with the prospect of having to go through an internship with an already-established veterinarian before you can start working in your first real veterinary position. This is not always legally required, but it is a good idea to have real-world experience and to accumulate some connections in the industry before you start and this is one way to do it.
Becoming a veterinarian can be long and arduous, as with any other occupation in science, but it can certainly be worth it if you have a passion for biology and for helping animals get healthy.