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General Overview

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).


Pre-Professional Health Advising has developed requirements for the Pre-Veterinary Medicine PRogram utilizing the American Veterinary Medical Association's Accredited Veterinary Colleges to identify accredited programs and subsequently review their websites for pre-requisite courses. The review of pre-requisite courses to develop the requirements for the Pre-Veterinary Medicine Program below was completed in spring semester 2017. You should look at individual veterinary medical schools' list of pre-requisites to assure completion of all pre-requisite coursework. Because these courses are pre-requisites to veterinary medical programs, veterinary medical school admissions committees will use your academic success in these courses as a metric of your ability to achieve success in veterinary medical school.

If you have credit for any of the following courses by earning Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge International Exam (CIE), community college credit, or departmental test credit, please read the Non-JMU Coursework for Pre-Requisite Coursework below.

Biology Coursework

Students are required to complete 8 credit hours of General Biology with labs. 87% of schools required General Biology I with lab. 70% of schools required General Biology II lecture; 67% required Gdneral Biology II lab.

  • BIO 140: Foundations of Biology I (4 credits)
  • BIO 150: Foundations of Biology II (4 credits)

Additionally, Pre-Veterinary Medicine students are required to complete Genetics, becuase 57% of schools required Genetics. An additional 10% recommended it, and another 23% listed it as a requirement option or example.

  • BIO 240: Genetics (4 credits)

Pre-Veterinary Medicine students are also required to complete Microbiology; 40% of schools required Microbiology. An additional 13% recommended it, and another 23% listed it as a requirement option or example.

  • BIO 245: Microbiology (4 credits)

At least 13 credits of advanced (300- and 400-level) Biology coursework is strongly recommended to be a competitive applicant; therefore, it is required for the Pre-Veterinary Medicine Program.

When choosing these 13 credits, it is important to know that 13% of schools recommended comparative anatomy, and 23% listed it as a requirement option. 13% of schools required animal physiology; 10% recommended it; and 27% listed it as a requirement example or option. 7% of schools required cell biology; 10% recommended it; 23% listed it as a requirement option. Therefore, when choosing 13 credit hours of advanced Biology coursework, Pre-Professional Health Advising strongly recommends:

  • BIO 304: Cell & Molecular Biology (3 credits)
  • BIO 320: Comparative Anatomy (4 credits)
  • BIO 370: Animal Physiology (4 credits)

Veterinary programs also mention additional coursework. For example, 3% of schools recommend immunology, and 17% listed it as a requirement example or option. 13% of schools listed parasitology as a requirement example or option. 3% of schools listed molecular biolgoy as a recommendation, and 10% listed it as a requirement example or option. 25% of schools listed histology as a requirement example or option. Therefore, Pre-Professioanl Health Advising also recommends:

  • BIO 343: Immunology
  • BIO 420: Medical Parasitology
  • BIO 480: Molecular Biology
  • BIO 482: Human Histology

Chemistry Coursework

Pre-Veterinary Medicine students are required to complete 8 credit hours of General Chemistry with labs. 90% of schools required General Chemistry I with lab, and 80% of schools required General Chemistry II with lab.

  • CHEM 131: General Chemistry I (3 credits)
  • CHEM 131L: General Chemistry Laboratory (1 credit) or CHEM 135L: Special General Chemistry Laboratory (1 credit; Chemistry majors only)
  • CHEM 132: General Chemistry II (3 credits)
  • CHEM 132L: General Chemistry Laboratory (1 credit) or CHEM 136L: Special General Chemistry
         Laboratory (1 credit; Chemistry majors only)

Students are also required to complete 8 credit hours of Organic Chemistry with lab. 87% of schools required Organic Chemistry I, and 50% of schools required Organic Chemistry II. 77% of schools required 1-credit of Organic Chemistry lab; 50% of schools required 2 credits of Organic Chemistry lab. Please notice, Pre-Veterinary Medicine students do not take CHEM 241L (1 credit), because CHEM 242L is a 2-credit laboratory that covers Organic Chemistry I and II laboratory learning outcomes.

  • CHEM 241: Organic Chemistry I (3 credits)
  • CHEM 242: Organic Chemistry II (3 credits)
  • CHEM 242L: Organic Chemistry Laboratory (2 credits) or CHEM 287L and 288L: Integrated Inorganic/Organic
          Laboratories (4 credits; Chemistry majors only)

Pre-Veterinary Medicine students are also required to complete 3 credits of Biochemistry. 93% of schools required 3 credits of Biochemistry lecture. While not a requirement for JMU's Pre-Veterinary Medicine minor, it is recommended because 10% of veterinary schools did require a Biochemistry lab, and 13% of schools recommended a Biochemistry lab.

  • CHEM 361: Biochemistry I (3 credits)
  • CHEM 366L: Biochemistry lab (2 credits)

Physics Coursework

Students are required to complete 8 credit hours of General Physics with labs. Physics I lecture was required by 97% of schools; 73% required Physics I lab. Physics II lecture was required by 77% of schools; 57% required Physics II lab.

  • PHYS 140*: College Physics I (3 credits) or PHYS 240: University Physics I (3 credits; Physics majors only)
  • PHYS 140L*: General Physics Laboratory I (1 credit) or PHYS 240L: University Physics I Lab (1 credit; Physics majors only)
  • PHYS 150*: College Physics II (3 credits) or PHYS 250: University Physics II (3 credits; Physics majors only)
  • PHYS 150L*: General Physics Laboratory II (1 credit) or PHYS 250L: University Physics II Lab (1 credit; Physics majors only)

* Pre-Professional Health Advising recommends that you take the PHYS 140-150/140L-150L sequence rather than the 240-250/240L-250L sequence, unless your major requires otherwise. The PHYS 140-150/140L-150L sequence is the non-calculus sequence in general physics. The 240-250/240L-250L sequence is the calculus sequence that requires MATH 235-236 as co-requisites, respectively. Because it is not the calculus sequence of Physics, PHYS 140-150/140L-150L is able to cover more breadth within Physics than the 240-250/240L-250L sequence.

Mathematics Coursework

Pre-Veterinary Medicine students are required to complete 3 credits of a 200-level Calculus class and 3 credits of a 200- or 300-level Statistics. Calculus is required by 7% of schools, and an additional 23% require pre-calculus or calculus. Statistics is required by 40% of schools. An additional 10% of schools have a flexible math requirement, requiring 6 credits of math without a specific topic; calculus and statistics will fulfill this requirement.

There are two considerations when choosing appropriate calculus and statistics courses.

  1. Double-Counting with Other RequirementsRefer to major and minor requirements in the Undergraduate Catalog to determine if there are specific calculus or statistics courses required for your major or minor requirements. Most of these classes will fulfill General Education: Cluster 3: Quantitative Reasoning, but this may also be a consideration.
  2. Your Math Placement Exam (MPE) ScoresUtilize the MPE Matrix to determine the appropriate calculus and statistics courses to take. You can find your MPE for calculus and statistics within the Student Center of MyMadison. You can watch a video to learn how to find your MPE scores.

Calculus: There are four 200-level Calculus options at James Madison University. There are two calculus "pathways"; the 231-232 sequence, 233-234 sequence, and 235 prepare you for more advanced calculus courses. MATH 205 does not prepare you for more advanced calculus courses. Your MPE - Calculus score may require that you take MATH 155 or 156: College Algebra beforehand, or that you take MATH 199: Algebra/Precalculus Gateway in conjunction with one of the following courses to be successful.

  • MATH 205: Introductory Calculus I (3 credits)
  • MATH 231: Calculus with Functions I (3 credits)
  • MATH 233E: A Modeling Approach to Calculus, Part A (3 credits)
  • MATH 235: Calculus I (4 credits)

Statistics: There are two statistics courses that Pre-Veterinary Medicine students are encouraged to take at James Madison University. Your MPE - Statistics score may require that you take MATH 105: Quantitative Literacy and Reasoning beforehand to be successful in these courses.

  • MATH 220: Elementary Statistics (3 credits)
  • MATH 318: Introduction to Probability and Statistics (4 credits)

English, Literature, and Writing Coursework

Pre-Veterinary Medicine students must complete 6 credits of English, literature, or writing. 67% of schools listed 6 credits as a pre-requisite; 13% lof schools listed 3 credits as a pre-requisite. Typically, students complete this requirement while completing General Education's Cluster 1: Writing and General Education's Cluster 2: Literature requirements. Courses that can fulfill the 6-credit pre-requisite that many medical schools require can include:

  • WRTC 103: (3 credits)
  • any ENG course (3 credits)
  • HUM 200: (3 credits)

Psychology Coursework

While not required for the Pre-Veterinary Medicine minor, students are encouraged to take PSYC 101: General Psychology (3 credits) with completing General Education's Cluster 5: Sociocultural Domain, because one school in Texas listed it as a requirement for admissions.

Admissions Criteria and Academic Record

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.

Preparation Timeline

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 Evaluation

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. 

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