If you are a scientific thinker, have A+ communication skills, experience as a leader and an obvious love of living creatures, veterinary medicine -- according to the American Veterinary Medical Association -- is a career possibility for you to consider. That said, if you make it past the rigorous application process and get your acceptance letter to vet school, you'll find yourself taking an array of science and animal-focused courses during your first two years of classes.
Considerations and Accreditation
While not every vet school has an identical curriculum, choosing a program with an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council of Education accreditation is key. AVMA accredited schools must submit to routine evaluations by the Council of Education to assess their quality. The classes that an accredited vet school requires must meet the Council's standards for curriculum. These standards include providing courses that focus on biological principles, animal health at the cellular level, the theory and practice of medical and surgical veterinary medicine, mechanisms of animal diseases, disease prevention, therapeutic intervention, epidemiology, safety processes and working with both domestic and foreign animals. With 28 accredited schools in the U.S. at the time of publication, you can consult the AVMA to ensure that your potential program meets the Council's quality standards.
Although the first two years of vet school include basic, or lower level courses, you'll have to take some prerequisites either before application or at the beginning of your animal education. These are typically classes that you would take in the course of your undergraduate career, such as chemistry, biology, physics and English. Some schools, such as the University of Minnesota, require beginning veterinary medicine students to take specific science classes such as zoology, genetics and microbiology prior to starting graduate-level course curriculum.
While you might have an itch to get out into the field or start your hands-on surgical training, the first few years of your veterinary schooling are traditionally spent in the classroom. With an overall full-time time frame of four years, the clinical components of veterinary medicine don't start until the third or fourth years. During your first two years, you'll take classes in normal animal biology and behavior as well as the pathogensis of disease. For example, the Ohio State University's College of Veterinary Medicine's first two years include classes such as introduction to animal behaviors, clinical pathology, structure and function of cells, anatomy of specific animals such as dogs, pigs, cats, cows and horses, biology of disease, veterinary pharmacology, preventive medicine and parasitology. Additionally, lower-level vet students must take classes on animal body systems, like the reproductive, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.
Learning how to diagnose and teat animals is only part of a veterinarian's job. As a medical professional, vets often have to function in a leadership role -- directing a team of surgical staff or managing a medical practice -- and interact with their clients' human owners. During the first two years of vet school, you will have to complete coursework in professional development and other related titles that introduce the leadership and communication skills necessary to your future career.
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.