Veterinarians are committed to providing care through the diagnosis, treatment, and research of medical conditions that impact household pets, livestock, and other animals. They commonly work in private clinics and animals hospitals focused on the health and well-being of companion animals; but, opportunities also exist for working in agriculture, in laboratories and classrooms, and with various government agencies. Veterinarians are increasingly at the forefront of protecting the public’s health by working to ensure the nation’s food supply is safe and to control the spread of various diseases.
Majors and Coursework
Veterinary medical schools do not give preference to particular majors over others; nor do they give preference to students with multiple majors or minors. Likewise, they do not give preference to a Bachelor of Science degree over a Bachelor of Arts degree. Most veterinary schools seek to construct a class of students that is diverse in academic and experiential backgrounds. They look at the depth and richness of a student’s undergraduate experience rather than the quantity of titles and certifications earned. As such, pre-veterinary students should select their majors based on their interest in a subject and their passion for studying it.
Although veterinary schools do not give preference to certain types of majors over others, there is a common set of prerequisites that students must fulfill regardless of their area of study. Generally, the requirements for veterinary medical school include:
- 2 Semesters of General Chemistry with Lab
- 2 Semesters of Organic Chemistry with Lab
- 2-3 Semesters of Biology with Lab
- 2 Semesters of Physics with Lab
In addition to the core Biology-Chemistry-Physics sciences, many veterinary medical schools require courses in other subject areas. Due to the variation among the veterinary schools’ requirements, students are encouraged to identify what schools they plan to apply to early in their junior year in order to determine the specific requirements they need to complete over their last two years as an undergraduate student. The most common requirements include:
- 1-2 Semesters of Calculus and/or Statistics
- 1-2 Semesters of English Composition
- 1 Semester of Biochemistry
- 1 Semester of Genetics
- 1 Semester of Microbiology
Approximately one-fourth of veterinary medical schools require a course in Speech/Public Speaking. Full-time students may cross-register at Cuyahoga Community College to take SPCH 1010 in order to fulfill this requirement. Students interested in taking this course should submit the Cross-registration Form to the Office of Undergraduate Studies.
While slight differences exist (e.g. pre-veterinary students do not have to take introductory psychology or sociology), the recommended sequence of courses for pre-veterinary students is similar to pre-medical students and can be found on the Pre-Medicine page. The sequences cover the most common requirements.
Since veterinary medical schools require applicants to take the GRE, there are no course recommendations for test preparation.
Deciding to pursue a career in veterinary medicine is a significant commitment. Although the personal and professional rewards of the career can be great, so are the demands. As such, gaining formal exposure to handling animals and to the practice of veterinary medicine are essential components of a student’s exploration of the field. Most veterinary schools recommend between 100 and 200 hours of job shadowing/work; but, successful applicants often have more than 300 hours. Although there is no expectation that students obtain clinical exposure every semester and summer, they are expected to have experiences spread across each of their undergraduate years. Most pre-veterinary students commit at least one summer of full-time work to a veterinary practice or hospital during their college years.
The application cycle for veterinary schools is an extensive process that takes over a year (including preparation of application materials) and requires numerous, well-informed decisions and keen attention to details. Support for the application process is provided by Dr. Steven Scherger, Asst. Dean of Undergraduate Studies, to current undergraduate students and alumni. Students are encouraged to schedule an appointment to discuss any matter related to the application process. Individual appointments may be made by calling the Office of Undergraduate Studies at 216.368.2928, or in person in Sears 357.
Letters of Recommendation
Unlike most professional health science programs, veterinary medical schools prefer to receive individual letters of recommendations rather than a committee letter or a composite letter packet. Most important to veterinary medical schools are letters of recommendation from science faculty members and practicing veterinarians. Advice to students on selecting letter writers and on the letter writing process is provided by the Office of Undergraduate Studies.