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Getting Started

Have you decided to pursue a career in veterinary medicine? These resources will answer many of the questions you may have about pursuing a career in veterinary medicine and the process of applying to vet school.

One of the best places to begin learning about the process for becoming a veterinarian is the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).

There is only one vet school in Georgia:

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The Decision to Pursue a Career in Veterinary Medicine

Veterinary Medicine is ranked #10 in The 100 Best Jobs for 2020 by U.S. News and World Report and employment for veterinarians is projected to grow 18% from 2018-2028, much faster than the average for all occupations according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median annual wage for veterinarians was $100,370 in May 2021. In that period, an estimated 48,000 jobs should open up.

Veterinary Medicine is a vital profession that specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease as well as disease prevention in animals of all types, from companion, domestic, exotic, wildlife and production animals. Veterinary Science is vital to the study and protection of animal production practices, herd health and monitoring the spread of disease.

Veterinarians (DVM or VMD) work with the intersection of human and animal health. The DVM/VMD degree prepares graduates to diagnose, treat and prevent animal diseases as well as promote public health, conserve animal resources, and assist in ensuring the quality, quantity, and security of food supplies by working to maintain the health of livestock.

Veterinarians typically do the following:

  • Examine animals to diagnose their health problems
  • Treat and dress wounds
  • Perform surgery on animals
  • Test for and vaccinate against diseases
  • Operate medical equipment (e.g. x-ray)
  • Advise animal owners about general care, medical conditions and treatments
  • Prescribe medication
  • Euthanize animals

The following are examples of types of veterinarians:

  • Companion animal veterinarians treat pets and generally work in private clinics and hospitals. They most often care for cats and dogs, but they also treat other pets, such as birds, ferrets, and rabbits. These veterinarians diagnose and provide treatment for animal health problems; consult with animal owners about preventive healthcare; and carry out medical and surgical procedures, such as vaccinations, dental work, and setting fractures.
  • Food animal veterinarians work with farm animals such as pigs, cattle, and sheep, which are raised to be food sources. They spend their time visiting farms and ranches to treat ill and injured animals and to test for and vaccinate against disease. They may advise farm owners or managers about feeding, housing, and general health practices.
  • Food safety and inspection veterinarians inspect and test livestock and animal products for major animal diseases. They also provide vaccines to treat animals, enhance animal welfare, conduct research to improve animal health, and enforce government food safety regulations. They design and administer animal and public health programs to prevent and control diseases transmissible among animals and between animals and people.

Source: United States Department of Labor: Occupational Outlook Handbook. 26 April 2012. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 11 July 2013

Careers where graduates of veterinary medical schools can apply their DVM/VMD degrees:

  • Private practice
  • Corporate veterinary medicine
  • The Federal Government
  • The U.S Army Corps and U.S. Air Force
  • Research
  • Teaching, either in academic or non-professional schools
  • Public Health
  • Food supply medicine
  • Global Veterinary Medicine
  • Public Policy
  • Shelter medicine

**For more information on each career visit the AAVMC.

In the United States, accredited veterinary schools award veterinarians either a DVM or VMD degree at the end of their training. The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree and the Veterinariae Medicinae Doctoris (VMD) degree are essentially the same degree. The difference is that the VMD degree is only awarded to veterinarians by the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, in Philadelphia, PA. VMD’s and DVM’s receive similar training and must complete a rigorous four-year curriculum to practice veterinary medicine.

You MUST become a veterinarian before you can become a veterinary specialist. Some veterinarians elect to proceed with an optional residency, such as surgery, dermatology, internal medicine, ophthalmology, or a variety of other specialties. There are 22 AVMA-Recognized Veterinary Specialty Organizations comprising 46 distinct AVMA-Recognized Veterinary Specialties. More than 16,500 veterinarians have been awarded Diplomate status in one or more of these specialty organizations after completing rigorous postgraduate training, education, and examination requirements. Board-certified veterinary specialists serve animals and the public through collaboration and teamwork with primary care veterinarians, human medical professionals, research scientists, and public health officials. Visit the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine) or DACVS (Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Surgeons for more information.

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Building your credentials

To prepare for a career in veterinary medicine you will need to build credentials in scholarship, leadership, humanitarian/community service, and shadowing in the various settings of the profession. Many students do not get into vet school the first time that they apply. The traits that predict success in the profession include, high academic aptitude, hard work, the ability to work well with others, and good judgment.

What do vet schools look for when reviewing applicants?

Veterinary schools consider the following credentials when evaluating applicants for admission:

  • Academic record (both overall and science GPA)
  • GRE scores
  • Letters of Evaluation (including faculty and a veterinarian letter)
  • Veterinary Experience (under the direct supervision of a veterinarian)
  • Volunteering, as well as charitable/altruistic endeavors
  • Research experience (only if you are interested or pursuing a DVM-PhD)
  • Leadership abilities
  • Interpersonal communication skills

Note: Veterinary schools may also require background checks of applicants before matriculation.