Pre-Health Veterinary Advising

More career options than you might think


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Pre-Professional Advising

Pre-Health Veterinary Advising

Students who enjoy working with both animals and people may want to consider a career in veterinary medicine. Along with the traditional role of veterinarian there are also several career paths available with a population perspective that will enable DVM graduates to work throughout the world improving the lives of people as well as animals.

Such career options may be research in lab-animal medicine helping to identify and cure human disease; detect emerging diseases by working with such agencies as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention; work to conserve endangered species; teaching farmers in developing countries about animal production and health; work in the food animal industry; and as teachers and professors.

Several vet schools also offer a PhD program along with the DVM program that will open the door for more career opportunities.

  • Timeline - Students should refer to Alfred University's Pre-health Timeline and Checklist (below) to assist them in career planning.
  • College Major and Required Courses - There is no specific major that is required by veterinary schools; each school has its own set of prerequisite courses. It is best to check with the veterinary school you are interested in applying to and determine which classes are necessary. Students should complete the Checklist to assist them with program planning.
  • Grades - Most veterinary schools require a letter grade of C- or better, higher grades are needed for an Early Acceptance Program. Pass/fail is generally not considered.
  • The GRE Test - The GRE test is required for most veterinary schools (generally verbal and quantitative only) and practice tests are recommended. A free practice test is available.
  • Experience - It is imperative that candidates for veterinary school get some experience in working with animals and it is generally recommended that candidates have experience with at least 3 species of animals. Examples of relevant experience might include working with or shadowing a veterinarian, working on a farm, wildlife refuge, animal shelter, or zoo. The quantity and quality of the experience is supported by the letters of evaluations from supervisors.
  • Extracurricular Activities - The well-rounded candidate will have demonstrated achievement outside of academic and animal-oriented activities. Most admission committees value research experience, community involvement, and volunteer work as well as desirable personality traits such as honesty, integrity, dependability and dedication.

The application process is specific to each school. Interested candidates should contact the schools they are applying to. Most veterinary schools accept applications at the end of the junior year of undergraduate work, however, some schools have an Early Acceptance Program that enables applicants to apply at the end of their sophomore year. Additionally, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges provides information for applicants regarding the VMCAS.


Due to the number of science prerequisites required to apply to Veterinary schools, most applicants are science majors. Unlike most medical schools, many veterinary schools require more biology courses.

The minimum course requirements for most U.S. veterinary schools are listed below with their AU equivalent courses. Please check or specific vet schools for any additional specific courses requirements.

Liberal Arts
Checkbox Course AU Equivalent
English ENGL 101
English ENGL 102
Math/Statistics (requirements vary by school)
Checkbox Course AU Equivalent
Calculus I MATH 151
Statistics BIOL 226; POLS/SOCI 330; PSYC 220
Checkbox Course AU Equivalent
Physics I PHYS 111 or 125
Physics II PHYS 112 or 126
Checkbox Course AU Equivalent
General Chemistry I CHEM 105
General Chemistry II CHEM 106
Organic Chemistry I CHEM 315
Organic Chemistry II CHEM 316
Checkbox Course AU Equivalent
Biological Foundations (requirement for Biology sequence) BIOL 150
Cell Biology BIOL 211
Genetics BIOL 212
Structure and Function BIOL 213
Microbiology BIOL 302
Biochemistry BIOL 420

Additional Required or Relevant Coursework

Some schools require or highly recommended exposure to advanced science courses, particularly, comparative vertebrate anatomy and animal physiology, animal behavior and animal nutrition, as well as speech.

Animal/Veterinary Experience

Experience with animals, particularly in a veterinary practice or biomedical research, is crucial to your application. Competitive applicants normally have engaged in two or more areas of veterinary--or a combination of veterinary and animal experiences--(e.g. small animal, large animal, research, food animal, production, exotic, aquatic, wildlife, zoological medicine, etc.) with substantial depth of experience in at least one area. Successful applicants usually have 400 hours or more of veterinary experience. Animal experience can include working with livestock, breeding or showing various species, working at a zoo, aquarium or pet shop, or volunteering at an animal shelter.

Entrance Exam (GRE)

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required by most veterinary schools, and some also require the Biology GRE. The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is also accepted by some schools in place of the GRE.


The Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS) is sponsored by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). This common application simplifies the process of applying to veterinary school so applicants can apply to the vast majority of AVMA/COE accredited colleges in the US and abroad, including 29 of the 30 US veterinary institutions, two Canadian, two Scottish, one British, one Irish, one New Zealand, two Australian, and two Caribbean veterinary schools. The application requires a minimum of three (maximum of 6) letters of reference. One of these letters must be from a veterinarian who can describe and assess your relevant veterinary experience. Applicants are also required to have one academic letter of evaluation. Additional letters(s) may be from other significant experience(s) (veterinary, animal, and/or other experiences).

Submit application materials during the summer before your senior year on the VMCAS website. Applications are usually due in the middle of September. Late applications are NOT accepted. Therefore, the GRE will need to be taken before August. You may still complete some of your prerequisites, but most Veterinary colleges require that a majority of them be completed before applying.

Student Stories

Rachel Pera in the laboratory

APEX: Biology & Chemistry Research

"Before starting this [APEX] experience, I knew I wanted to be a veterinarian but was unsure of what path I would follow within the profession. Performing this research inspired me to pursue a more ..."

Rachel Pera, 2019
Find out more about Rachel
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