How to Become a Veterinarian in the United States

By Angela Beal, DVM

Veterinarians in the United States have truly rewarding careers. Most veterinarians work in clinical practice that provides care for dogs and cats, exotics, large animals, or various species. However, many industry, government, and academic veterinary positions are also available. Veterinarians work long, stressful hours, but they find joy and deep meaning in helping animals and the people who love them. 

Preparing for veterinary school

To increase the likelihood that you will be accepted into veterinary school, you’ll need to work diligently during your high school and undergraduate studies to meet the academic prerequisites. Most pre-veterinary students obtain a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field, and some obtain graduate degrees before applying to veterinary school. To determine whether the profession is right for you and to appeal to admissions faculty, you should also work or volunteer at a veterinary clinic before applying for veterinary school admission.

Because admission is so competitive, many students aren’t accepted the first time they apply. If this happens to you, don’t become discouraged. Before you reapply to a veterinary school, further your education in a related field or continue working and volunteering in the profession. Even work outside the veterinary field is helpful, because veterinary schools seek well-rounded individuals who have critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The more education and experience you obtain, the better your likelihood of admission. If you are older than the average veterinary school student, don’t despair! Many schools are happy to admit older, wiser students. No matter your age or other circumstances, when applying to veterinary schools, consider our recommendations.

Option 1: Attend an American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited veterinary school

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council on Education (COE) is the accrediting body for veterinary schools in the United States and Canada. When you graduate in good standing from an AVMA-accredited school, you automatically qualify to sit for the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) to obtain a license to practice veterinary medicine in the United States. Most COE-accredited schools are located in North America, but several are located in countries such as the West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, and France. If you plan to practice in the United States, the most reliable path to licensure is by attending an AVMA-accredited school. please speak to one of our advisors for an update on which schools are accredited.

Option 2: Attend an American Veterinary Medical Association-listed, nonaccredited veterinary school

The second option is to attend an AVMA-listed, nonaccredited veterinary school. Because the AVMA has not accredited these programs, the organization cannot determine whether a graduate has the necessary skills and competencies. If you attend an AVMA-listed, nonaccredited veterinary school, you cannot automatically sit for the NAVLE. You’ll have to complete an equivalency program and obtain a certificate that ensures your education meets the AVMA’s requirements. The Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECVFG) conducts the most widely accepted certificate program for veterinarians who have graduated from AVMA-listed, nonaccredited veterinary schools outside the United States or Canada. For full details of what the program consists just contact us at any time (link in a contact) 

Taking and passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination

To take the NAVLE, you must have graduated from an AVMA COE-accredited veterinary school. If you have graduated from an AVMA-listed, nonaccredited school outside the United States or Canada, you must have obtained an equivalency-program certificate that ensures your education meets the AVMA’s requirements before sitting for the NAVLE. Once you’ve passed the NAVLE you may apply for licensure from the states in which you’d like to practice veterinary medicine.

Meeting state licensure requirements

No nationwide standardized licensing is available in the United States. Each U.S. state has its own veterinary licensing process with different fees and timelines. Some states also require that you take state-administered exams in addition to the NAVLE. If you will be residing in a multistate area, you may want to obtain licenses for each of the nearby states. To learn each state’s licensing requirements speak to our advisors. 

Internship, residency, and specialization

The majority of U.S. veterinarians are general practitioners, but a licensed veterinarian can also become a veterinary specialist by completing additional training. Through the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians (AAVC) Veterinary Internship & Residency Match Program (VIRMP), you can apply to complete a one-year rotating internship or three-year specialty residency. After completing a program, you must sit for the board examination in your chosen specialty to become a diplomate of the specialty college. Most specialists work in large multidisciplinary veterinary hospitals or teach residents.

Check out our blog on, ‘20 Interesting Facts about Veterinarians in the USA.’ To find out employment, industry, and ownership facts in the USA.

Finding a veterinary job and moving to the United States

The United States is currently experiencing a veterinarian and credentialed veterinary technician shortage. Therefore, if you meet U.S. requirements, you’ll have many professional options throughout the country. Here at  The Vet Service, we can help you find employment in the United States, help you make the move, and guide you when exploring visas that allows you to work in the country. 

Find your next veterinary job globally including Vet jobs in the USA, Vet Jobs in Canada, Vet Jobs in Australia, Vet Jobs in New Zealand, Vet Jobs in the UK, and Vet Jobs in Ireland. 

Are you ready to experience life as a veterinarian in the United States? Register at The Vet Service for additional information and assistance on becoming a veterinarian and working in the country.

Would you like to know what it is like to work as a veterinarian in the United States? Then check out our blog, “What is Like to Work as a Veterinarian in the United States?

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