What do veterinarians do? Fifty years ago this question would have been easy to answer as the James Herriot books attest: maintain healthy and productive commercial food animals and livestock, secure the public health of humans and commercial animals, and treat injury and disease in livestock, and sport and companion animals. Today, however, the breadth of veterinary medicine encompasses much more. The majority of veterinarians (DVM) are still in private small, large, or mixed animal clinical practice, but county, state, and federal governments, universities, private industry, zoos, wildlife organizations, racetracks, and circuses are also some of the diverse settings in which modern veterinarians work.
Choosing a Major
Most pre-veterinary students obtain a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree while completing the requirements for admission to veterinary school. Veterinary school admissions committees do not require or prefer a particular undergraduate major and welcome students whose intellectual curiosity leads them to a wide variety of disciplines. Veterinary schools recognize the importance of a strong foundation in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Applicants must complete course requirements and demonstrate proficiency in the sciences as evidenced by the science GPA and the scores on the required standardized test (see below).
It is not possible to make course requirement generalizations that apply to all 30 U.S. veterinary schools. In planning an academic program, students should be aware of their individual needs and wishes, and view their preparation from three perspectives: (1) major requirements, (2) graduation requirements, and (3) veterinary school requirements. Virtually every veterinary school requires the equivalent of one year of college level work in each of the following subjects: general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, general physics, English (composition), and mathematics. Students are encouraged to consult the Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements (VMSAR), and visit the website of the Association for American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC). You may also visit the website for the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Most schools require a balance of social science, humanities, and writing classes. Some require special courses such as animal nutrition or science, which may not be available at JMU. By planning to apply to a limited number of schools with similar requirements, a student can carefully plan a list of courses to meet each school’s requirements.
General requirements for admission to veterinary medical school can be met at JMU with the following coursework:
- BIO 140: Foundations of Biology I (4 credit hours)
- BIO 150: Foundations of Biology II (4 credit hours)
- BIO 240: Genetics (4 credit hours)
- BIO 245: General Microbiology (4 credit hours)
- BIO 370: Animal Physiology (4 credit hours)
- MATH 220: Statistics (3 credit hours)
- MATH 231 and 232 (8 credit hours) or MATH 235 (4 credit hours), depending on Math Placement Score
- CHEM 131/132 and 131L/132L: General Chemistry I & II (8 credit hours)
- CHEM 241/242 and 242L: Organic Chemistry I & II (8 credit hours)
- CHEM 361: Biochemistry (3 credit hours)
- PHYS 140/150 and 140L/150L: College Physics I & II (8 credit hours)
Students are strongly encouraged to complete three of the following: Comparative Anatomy (BIO 320), Medical Parasitology (BIO 420), Animal Development (BIO 316), Immunology (BIO 343), Molecular Biology (BIO 480), and Virology (BIO 444).
Students are also encouraged to complete coursework in communication (SCOM), psychology (PSYC 101 or 160), sociology (SOCI 110 or 140), or cultural anthropology (ANTH 195).
Admissions committees use your undergraduate transcript as the single most important indicator of your ability to handle the rigor of veterinary school coursework. At most schools, 30-50% of the evaluation is focused on the GPA, especially the GPA in required and recently completed courses.
Due to the small number of programs, admission to a vet school is highly competitive. Therefore as you plan, you may want to complete additional courses that will prepare you broadly as an educated professional considering alternative career. Most veterinary schools require a minimum of 60 credit hours for admission, but most applicants are strongly advised to plan on completing a baccalaureate degree before enrolling in a veterinary program. Course sequences are generally established with two objectives in mind: (1) completion of all courses that will help you prepare for the GRE/MCAT by spring semester of your third year (or the year you will be applying), and (2) completion of your degree within one year following your application to veterinary school. If you plan to attend vet school following graduation, application is usually made during the summer following the third year. It is imperative that you consult the VMSAR for school specific information and requirements throughout this entire process.
Successful applicants often have several years of experience working with veterinarians or in animal-related research and volunteer work.
Letters of Recommendation or Evlauation
All schools of veterinary medicine require letters of evaluation, including letters from veterinarians regarding their association with the applicant in veterinary work-related experience. The working relationships established with professional veterinarians and other animal care workers, described above, usually provide the basis for the most effective letters of recommendation.
The Madison Advising Peers will return to the Pre-Professional Health office to assist students in Fall semester 2016!
The Pre-Veterinary Medicine Advisor is Dr. Christopher Rose in the Department of Biology.
Additional support is provided by advisors in Pre-Professional Health (PPH) Advising. To schedule an appointment with an advisor in PPH Advising, calling 540-568-6652, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or visiting PPH Advising in Roop Hall, G24.