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Undergraduate Programs for Pre-Veterinary Learning

written by: Ele Marie•edited by: Wendy Finn•updated: 12/8/2011

Students who want to become a veterinarian will need to major in Biology, Chemistry, Animal Science, or Zoology, as actual pre-veterinary undergraduate programs are hard pressed to find. Learn how you can still pursue a degree, where to go and what you will need to begin your veterinary career path.

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    Students wishing to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) will have to complete a minimum of seven years of higher education; four or five of those are at the undergraduate level, with the remaining three years in a graduate program. Admission into a Veterinary Medicine program is highly competitive as each program only has a small number of spots available. With this in mind, you want to be wise in selecting a Pre-Veterinary Medicine program. It is key to know that when looking for these types of programs, most schools will list Pre-Veterinary Medicine as the program of study on their application, but you will end up majoring in one of the fields of Science that applies to this type of study of medicine instead. Use this article to help learn what you will need to study and where to go for the best programs.

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    What to Major In

    You may find that colleges list a Pre-Veterinary Medicine program; however, you will not actually major in this area. Depending upon the college or university there are several majors to choose from. Larger state institutions have options such as Zoology, Animal Science, or Equine Science. Each of these is more tailored to working with animals. Each of these programs will also require taking courses in biology and chemistry; as well as, the core courses in animal science or zoology. You will also be required to take courses in humanities or sociology, anatomy and physiology, and other sciences to ensure that the veterinary medicine admissions requirements are met for graduate school in the future.

    If you choose to go to a private or liberal arts university that does not offer a specialized program, you will major in Biology and/or Chemistry. These are solid general majors that will also incorporate a statistics course, humanities or social sciences, organic chemistry, and physics. All Veterinary programs require a heavy science background for admission.

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    Where To Go

    Is it imperative to attend a large state school that offers a Veterinary Medicine program to get your undergraduate degree? No, certainly not. It may be favorable to do so, but it is not the only deciding factor for acceptance into an accredited Veterinary Medicine program. The admissions board is going to look more at what was studied than where. They want to see a complete package. A strong undergraduate institution will have the capability of assisting in finding internships during the school year or throughout the summers to ensure plenty of hands-on experience to add to a resume. Admission into any Veterinary Medicine program is very competitive, so you want experience and a strong academic undergraduate program under your belt.

    It is best to look at top colleges in your state or region, both small private colleges and the larger state institutions. Admission boards for Veterinary Medicine programs will look at students from their state or region first. If a state does not have an institution that offers Veterinary Medicine, they typically have contracted seats with a nearby institution in another state. For example, the state of New Jersey does not have a university that offers a Veterinary Medicine program. Nearby Cornell University will have seats reserved for New Jersey students interested in the program.

    Below you will find top colleges and universities by region including the pre-veterinary medicine programs they offer, tuition, and admission requirements.

    Northeast Region - The #1 Best Public College in the Northeast region according to US News and World Report is The College of New Jersey. Here students who want to become veterinarians would major in Biology, Chemistry, or Biochemistry. They have an early deadline for applications set in January. Since this is a public college, tuition differs for in-state and out-of-state students. In-state students will pay $6,774.50 in tuition and fees. Out-of-state students will pay $11,467.50 in tuition and fees. Room and board will vary depending upon the meal plan you choose and where you choose to live.

    Midwest Region - Creighton University tops the charts in the Midwest region. Creighton has a strong biology/chemistry program that students take in order to pursue further education in the Veterinary Medicine area. They have an early application deadline set in January. They do not have a set GPA for admission, but they look for students to be strong both in and out of the classroom. Tuition for the 2010-2011 school year is right at $29,226 and standard room and board costs $9,164.

    Southern Region - In the Southern region, Tuskegee University takes first place. Tuskegee does offer a Veterinary Science program at the undergraduate level. This program is set up to meet the application requirements for any accredited school of Veterinary Medicine. Students can also study Biology, Chemistry, or Biochemistry. Tuskegee does have an accredited Veterinary Medicine program that students could apply for once they have completed their undergraduate education. Each applicant is reviewed individually, but most students must have a high school GPA of at least a 3.0 and a composite SAT score of 1000 or ACT score of 21. Tuition for the 2010-2011 school year is $8,050 per semester. Room and board charges will vary depending upon which residence hall students live in.

    Western Region - In the Western Region, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California ranked #1. Students would need to study Biology, Chemistry, or Biochemistry at Santa Clara in order to meet the requirements for a Veterinary Medicine graduate program. They have an early decision deadline for applications in November and a regular decision deadline in January. Tuition at Santa Clara University for the 2010-2011 school year is $37,368 with room and board costing an additional $11,742.

    Other Options - There are other schools that offer strong programs. Large state schools such as Iowa State University, University of Missouri, and Colorado State University offer a degree in Animal Science or Zoology as an option in addition to Biology, Chemistry, or Biochemistry. Colorado State University also offers Equine Science as a major that will meet the requirements to gain entrance into future Veterinary Medicine graduate programs (including theirs). For undergraduate admission, Colorado State University requires a 3.25 GPA for acceptance and applications are due in February. They continue to review applications as long as there are still spaces available.

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    After Graduation

    Graduates of a DVM program usually decide between large animal (livestock such as cows or horses and zoos) or small animal (dogs, cats, other family pets, etc) practices. Practices in a rural community may combine both large and small animal practices to meet the needs of the community. There are also positions within the educational community working at the university level. Zoos and aquariums also hire Doctors of Veterinary Medicine. The Association of American Veterinary Medicine Colleges lists colleges and universities that offer Veterinary Medicine programs in addition to acting as a resource for job openings. Becoming a veterinarian may be a long and grueling process, but it will be a very rewarding career path. Enjoy the journey!

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