Veterinarians are doctors who specialize in treating animals such as mammals, amphibians and birds. Veterinarians work in a variety of environments, including hospitals, clinics, zoos and research laboratories. Students who are interested in becoming veterinarians pursue either a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, or both a D.V.M. and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in veterinary medicine.

Veterinary Schools

Veterinary schools are graduate institutions that require students to have a bachelor's degree prior to submitting their applications. Students interested in applying to veterinary school have to complete a number of prerequisites as undergraduates to ensure that they have a good understanding of the natural sciences required to succeed in veterinary school. Veterinary schools typically require prospective applicants to take a year of biology, chemistry, physics and organic chemistry, and a semester of microbiology and/or biochemistry and calculus, and/or statistics. Students who graduate from veterinary schools leave with D.V.M. degrees, which allow them to practice veterinary medicine.

Veterinary School Curriculum

D.V.M. degrees require four years of coursework and come with extensive clinical experience. During the first two years of veterinary school students typically take foundational courses in pharmacology, anatomy, physiology, pathology and clinical pathology. In their last two years, students take some general courses in different kinds of veterinary medicine such as small animals, large animals, exotic animals and livestock, and then take additional courses in the type of veterinary medicine in which they are interested. Examples of possible courses are large animal ambulatory, advanced equine reproduction and small animal clinical nutrition.


Doctoral programs require students to have a bachelor's degree prior to applying. Doctoral programs are available in a variety of fields and many lead to a Doctor of Philosophy, or a Ph.D. degree. Many universities with veterinary schools offer students the option to get a Ph.D. degree in addition to their D.V.M. degree. These degrees focus on the research aspects of veterinary medicine and are intended for students interested in pushing the field forward by doing veterinary-related research.

PhD Curriculum

Many universities offer students combined D.V.M.-Ph.D. programs so they do not have to apply to the doctoral program separately and can complete a number of requirements at the same time. Students typically complete all their D.V.M. course work first, and then fulfill their Ph.D. requirements. All Ph.D. programs require students to complete an independent research project in an area of veterinary medicine that is of interest to them. After developing a research proposal with the help of their faculty committee, students collect, analyze and interpret their data, and write up their findings in a dissertation. At the end of the program, students present their dissertation findings in an oral defense to their committee and the public.

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