Pre-Vet Requirements: Courses You Need for Vet School

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If you’re an animal lover, becoming a veterinarian might be a good career path for you. Veterinarians care for animals in the same way that doctors care for humans. They treat, diagnose, and assess an animal’s overall health. There are many focuses you can pursue as a veterinarian, such as companion animals (dogs, cats, etc), food animals (those that commonly live on farms), and zoo animals.

 

The path to becoming a veterinarian starts in high school, but most of your preparation will be done in college as you get ready to apply for veterinary school. In this post, we share what courses can help you get on the right track for veterinary school, as well as other factors to consider in college.

 

Studying Pre-Veterinary in College

 

Similar to pre-med, pre-vet is not a major but an aggregate of required courses, activities, and experiences. Typically pre-vet students pursue a four-year bachelor’s degree in order to fulfill the requirements needed to apply to veterinary school. However, some veterinary schools don’t require a bachelor’s degree as long as applicants have completed the requirements for entry. 

 

There’s no specific major for veterinarians in college, you just need to complete the courses required to apply to veterinary school. With that said, veterinary schools do look at your overall GPA, especially your GPA for your science courses. It’s important to do well in your science classes and, because of this, students who want to become veterinarians tend to major in a science-focused subject.

 

What Are the Pre-Veterinary Course Requirements?  

 

Every veterinarian school is different, so it’s important to check pre-requisites at the schools you’re applying to. In general, most schools require:

 

  • Biology – 2 semesters with lab
  • General Chemistry – 2 semesters with lab
  • Organic Chemistry – 2 semesters with lab
  • Physics – 2 semesters with lab
  • Biochemistry or Molecular Biology – 1 or 2 semesters with lab
  • Mathematics – Minimum requirement is different at each school
  • General education – Most schools require one to two semesters of English, history, humanities, etc.
  • Genetics – some schools require 1 semester

 

As mentioned before, there can be some variation at each school. For example, University of California Davis has very similar prerequisites to those listed above and no general education requirements, whereas Auburn University has more than one science elective requirement and an animal nutrition requirement, as well as many general education requirements. 

 

Make sure to reach out to your advisor and career coaches if your college has them. They can help guide you on the right path for the veterinary schools you’re interested in.

 

 

Besides the standard prerequisites most veterinary schools require, there are a couple of other courses that the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends to give your application a boost:

 

  • Upper-level anatomy and physiology
  • Zoology
  • Animal science
  • Animal production
  • Nutrition
  • Histology

 

Don’t stress if your undergraduate program doesn’t offer these classes! However, if your program does offer some or all of these classes, they can be helpful in exposing you to these subjects before you head to veterinary school.

 

 

Biology: Since there are so many science prerequisites for veterinary school, many students choose to major in science since it will make completing the prerequisites easier. Biology, or the study of living organisms, can help complete your biology prerequisites, and possibly a molecular biology or genetics prerequisite (if the school requires it).

 

Chemistry: Chemistry is the study of properties and the behavior of matter. As a chemistry major, you’d be able to complete both of your general and organic chemistry prerequisites.

 

Animal Sciences: If the college you attend offers animal science focused majors, then this can be very beneficial for paving the way to veterinary school. Animal science includes the study of a variety of life sciences to better understand animal physiology, breeding, and management across a range of species. Animal sciences often include science classes, like biology and chemistry, and some math classes, which would help you complete many prerequisites.

 

Zoology/Animal Biology: Zoology includes the study of both domesticated and wild animals and how they’re shaped by their environment and relationships with other animals. Zoology or animal biology often includes math and science classes, like biology, chemistry, physics, and statistics.

 

Remember that it’s perfectly okay to major in something not science related. Whether it’s English, a foreign language, or another major of your choosing, as long as you’re completing the prerequisites you’ll be in good shape for veterinary school applications.

 

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What Are the Other Veterinary School Requirements? 

 

GRE Score

 

The GRE, or Graduate Record Examination, is required by most veterinary schools. Some also require the Biology GRE. Each school’s requirements will differ, so you can double check each school’s testing requirements on the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges website. 

 

Letters of Recommendation

 

Most veterinary schools require 2 to 3 letters of recommendation. It’s good to establish connections with your professors or anyone you worked with in internships or extracurriculars related to the field. The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, for example, requires three recommendations from very specific people: 

 

  • Faculty member who taught you a course in your major or who taught you in a science course
  • Pre-veterinary, pre-medical, or pre-health professions committee representative
  • Veterinarian or research scientist with whom you have had considerable experience

 

Just like applying to college, you’ll want to follow the same steps for asking and submitting recommendations for veterinary school.

 

Personal Statement/Essays

 

For each veterinary school application, you’ll likely have to complete one or two essays. The topics will vary, but will likely include prompts that encourage you to explore the reasons you want to pursue veterinary school, the events that have shaped you, and your passions, experiences, achievements, and interests.

 

Extracurriculars

 

Experience in the field, building strong leadership skills, and being able to communicate with your peers and colleagues are all attributes that veterinary schools will look for in the students they admit. Extracurriculars can help demonstrate these qualities, so it’s important to get involved in veterinary-focused activities, clubs, organizations, and volunteer work.

 

What Is the Best Pre-Veterinary School For You?

 

Since most schools don’t have a specific pre-veterinary track, it’s important to look for schools that fit the major that interests you and other essential factors, such as size, location, extracurriculars, and more. 

 

In addition to these standard factors, there are some other more important things to consider.

 

Hands-On Animal Experience

 

Because most veterinary schools require recommendations from professors, vets, or bosses you worked with in an animal-focused setting and want to see animal-based extracurriculars, it’s important to make sure that the colleges you’re applying to offer this. Are there pre-vet or animal-focused extracurriculars? Research or volunteer opportunities? This will only help boost your application to veterinary school, so it should be strongly considered when selecting a college.

 

Faculty Connections

 

Does the college you’re applying to offer opportunities to connect with professors and faculty on campus? This is an important factor for developing relationships with people who can write recommendation letters and guide you on your career path. One thing that can play into faculty connections is the size of the classes. The smaller the classes, the easier it can be to make a connection.

 

Using our free school search tool, you can search for colleges based on preferences like majors, finances, class size, your personal chances of acceptance, and other options.

 

If you’re curious about your chances of acceptance at the schools on your college list, check out CollegeVine’s free chancing engine! This tool takes into account your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and more in order to calculate your odds of acceptance at various schools across the country. Plus, it will give you tips on how to improve your profile.

 

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Short Bio
Asia is a graduate of Tulane University where she studied English and Public Health. She's held multiple writing positions and has experience writing about everything from furniture to higher education to nutrition and exercise.

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