Vet Schools Degrees and Licenses

There are many types of degrees available for those interested in attending vet schools and for those just interested in working with animals. Many schools offer a “pre vet” degree that usually meets the requirements for academics set forth by veterinary schools. Some schools also offer degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels in animal sciences. Veterinary schools of medicine offer a doctoral program that leads to becoming licensed as a veterinarian.

Many of those interested in attending vet school first pursue an undergraduate bachelor’s degree. These degrees do not usually give the student any specific benefit or ability to do a particular job, but may make them more attractive to veterinary schools in general and may give them more skills to apply toward other jobs working with animals. These degrees are usually in “pre vet” or in animal sciences. Students pursuing these degrees take many of the same courses that those in pre-medical programs or biology programs take.

Graduate programs leading to a master’s degree are also available in animal sciences. While these degrees will not lead to becoming a veterinarian directly, some students choose to pursue graduate study while waiting to get into veterinary school. These students are often able to teach undergraduate courses or lead undergraduate lab training.

Doctoral degrees in veterinary medicine lead to licensure as a veterinarian after graduation. Most students pursuing their dream of becoming an animal doctor choose this path, often after first pursuing one of the aforementioned degree paths.

There are many options available to students interested in becoming veterinarians. While only the doctoral program leads to becoming a fully qualified veterinarian, many students will first choose to pursue one of the other paths while waiting to gain admission to vet schools.

Bachelor’s Degree

Some students may choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree when first applying to vet schools. Bachelor’s programs are available at many universities, and students may study animal science, zoology, or pre-vet programs on their way to becoming a veterinarian.

Students who complete bachelor’s programs alone are not eligible to become licensed veterinary doctors. If the goal of the student is to eventually become a vet, obtaining a bachelor’s degree first is often a good course of action, however. Many universities have programs in animal science, and students may find that they enjoy the research aspect of animal medicine more than primary care, eventually deciding to pursue animal science instead of veterinary medicine. These programs are usually very science-oriented, with emphasis on biology and zoology. Students may later decide to enter into a master’s program or apply to veterinary school.

Other students pursue a pre-vet route, with particular courses required for the bachelor’s degree that will also help the student gain admission to a doctoral program in veterinary medicine. This path of study will usually give the student more than the minimum amounts of biology, chemistry, physics, and math courses that are required when applying to any veterinary school of medicine. Students who complete a bachelor’s program in pre-veterinary study are usually also eligible to pursue a master’s degree in science should they change their minds about veterinary medicine.

The bachelor’s degree is not the final degree needed to become a veterinarian. Students with a bachelor’s degree may be qualified to work with animals in other areas of care, but they will not be veterinary doctors. An advantage to pursuing a bachelor’s degree first is that it exposes the student to many areas of science, including animal science and zoology, which allows them to determine which area of animal study is right for them. Some students will decide not to pursue vet school after completing their bachelor’s degree, and may choose instead to pursue other graduate options in science or medicine.

The bachelor’s degree is a good choice for those determined to become a veterinarian. Most veterinary schools will require the student to first have a bachelor’s degree, and students may learn more about their own career goals in the process of obtaining their degree. They will also learn enough about animal science to determine if it is the right career path for them.

Master’s Degree

The master’s degree option is another possibility for those students interested in pursuing a career in animal medicine. Though it does not generally lead to becoming a vet directly, some students choose this career path in the process of applying to vet schools. Master’s programs are available in a large number of areas of animal science, including animal behaviorism and zoology. Students may be able to find their passion in the course of obtaining their master’s degree.

Many universities offer graduate programs in animal science at the master’s level. This can be a good option for those students who have already obtained a bachelor’s degree and need further education to be eligible to attend veterinary school. It may also be an option for those who have not been accepted to vet school on the first try and would like to continue to pursue admission.

Master’s degree programs are available in many areas of animal science. Zoology and animal behaviorism are popular master’s level programs and may prepare the student to pursue other careers in animal science besides becoming a veterinarian. These courses of study will also give the student some of the biology education they need as a prerequisite to applying to vet school. Though they do not lead directly to a veterinary career, these graduate courses can prepare students well for the rigors of vet school.

A master’s degree is not enough to become licensed as a veterinary medicine doctor. States now require doctoral programs in veterinary medicine to obtain the title of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and students must continue their studies at an accredited veterinary medicine program to be able to obtain licensure. The master’s route to a degree in animal studies can be a good option for those students still trying to gain admission to vet school.

There are many options available to students who wish to pursue a master’s degree in animal studies. Students may choose to study one species or class of animals and pursue a career based on these studies outside of veterinary medicine. Other students may use graduate education as a stepping stone to obtaining admission to veterinary school.

Doctoral Degree

The doctoral degree in veterinary medicine is the terminal degree to becoming a fully licensed doctor of veterinary medicine. These degrees are conferred by vet schools, and students must study a minimum of four years after being admitted to obtain such a degree. Doctoral programs in other areas of animal science are also often available and may be better for students who are interested in animal research.

All 28 of the veterinary schools in the United States confer the doctoral degree. When graduating after four years of study, the student is then eligible for licensure as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, or DVM. The course of study is rigorous and is not for everyone.

Veterinary school is equivalent to medical school in its degree of difficulty for students and should not be entered into lightly. Students must be prepared for the difficult classes and for graduate school before deciding to attend. After graduation, Doctors of Veterinary Medicine are fully qualified to care for the animals of their field of specialty. They may choose to join an existing practice or to start a practice of their own. They may also decide to pursue careers in research, teaching, or any number of other possible career fields in veterinary medicine.

Other doctoral degrees are available from universities in many areas of animal studies. These courses of study range from animal nutrition to zoology. Students studying animal science at the doctoral level can expect to study for a minimum of three to four years to complete their degrees. The cornerstone of these degrees is research, and students are often required to write full dissertations on their field of study before graduating from their doctoral program. After graduation, these animal scientists are qualified to perform research, often in a government, university, or private company setting, and are also qualified to teach both graduate and undergraduate science courses. The choice of careers for those with doctoral degrees outside the field of veterinary medicine is widely varied.


Doctors of Veterinary Medicine are required to pass a difficult board examination after graduation from vet schools before being eligible for licensure. Licenses are awarded at the state level, but the examination given is the same for all veterinarians. Certifications for particular species of animals are also available and may be required for some careers in animal medicine.

After graduating from an accredited school of veterinary medicine, the newly graduated veterinarian is eligible to sit for board examinations. One of the required tests is given by the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners; though the requirements for the test vary by state, the testing process is the same no matter where the candidate might live. This part of the board testing procedure consists of two sections of multiple-choice questions, taken via computer. This test covers the first three years of material taught in veterinary school and assesses the candidate’s knowledge of basic animal science and medicine.

The clinical portion of the examination is given through the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination, or NAVLE. This part of the exam tests the candidate’s ability to make clinical diagnoses, take clinical histories, and manage specific cases. Those wishing to pursue licensure as a veterinarian must pass both parts of the examination to be eligible.

Testing centers are available across the United States so that candidates can take the examination at the testing center nearest to where they live. Testing periods are twice per year, in April and November; candidates are notified when they are eligible for testing and may test on any available convenient date. Testing requires a fee, and the school where the candidate graduated must submit paperwork to ensure that the student is actually eligible for licensure.

Licenses are granted for new Doctors of Veterinary Medicine by the state in which they wish to practice. All states have different requirements, though most require a minimum of graduation from an accredited program of veterinary medicine and passing both parts of the licensing examination. There are no specific national requirements to be called a DVM, though some companies that employ veterinarians may have their own specific requests, such as specialization testing.

After four years of veterinary school, newly graduated veterinarian candidates must face the hurdle of the state boards of examination. Both portions of the testing are difficult and will test all of the knowledge and clinical skills that the student has obtained while in school. Candidates should make sure that they have fulfilled all of the requirements for their state before applying for licensure.

Vet Schools Articles – Main