Have you dreamed of becoming a veterinarian?
You could care for animals at a wildlife sanctuary, run your own clinical practice, or work in a research laboratory. Some veterinarians go on to work in public health, steer government policy, or ensure our food supply.
With so many potential career paths, where do you even start?
Preparing to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine is very similar to being a pre-med student. In addition to excelling in college science courses, you’ll need to spend about 200 hours working with animals in a clinical setting.
In this article, we take a close look at ten amazing schools. We’ll cover their veterinary programs, some locational context, and each school’s prerequisites.
What makes a great veterinary school?
There are 33 veterinary colleges in the United States.
Every school on this list is an excellent option, and each one has its own unique strengths.
The best veterinary schools offer plenty of hands-on training — first with models or cadavers, and then with live animals. You’ll want to choose a school that can give you experience with the animals and specialties that most interest you. Seek out current students to learn more about the faculty and facilities.
You may also wish to consider the ethical standards of each school.
In the past, it was common for students to practice on live animals bred for that purpose. Some students may choose to avoid schools that still require “terminal procedures” — that’s vet school talk for procedures in which the animals are euthanized rather than recovered after surgery. Others may opt for a school that gives them as much surgical experience as possible.
What do you study at a veterinary program?
It takes four years to earn a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree.
Veterinary students begin with a strong foundation in scientific knowledge and dive right into veterinary science. You’ll study animal anatomy, physiology, and pathology. You’ll also learn professional and clinical skills.
After two to three years (depending on the school), you’ll begin clinical rotations. This is where you’ll gain experience with primary care practices, anesthesia, diagnostics, surgery, and more.
What kind of students thrive in veterinary schools?
You love animals and science, right? What else does it take?
Hard work and dedication.
It takes about eight years to become a veterinarian. Most schools require a bachelor’s degree, though some will accept students who have completed three years of coursework. You’ll also need to log about 200 veterinary experience hours before applying to a four-year veterinary school.
It’s never too early to start logging experience hours. You could find work on a farm, intern at a vet’s office, or volunteer at your local animal shelter. You’ll also need hands-on science experience through college laboratories.
You’ll need to hone your interpersonal skills as well. The best schools are looking for students who can communicate effectively, think critically, and solve complicated problems.
Prerequisites vary widely from one school to another. The organization Vet School Bound offers an interactive map that lets you enter the coursework you’ve completed (or plan to complete) to see which schools you’re eligible for. We’ve summarized the prerequisites for each school on this list to give you an idea of what you’ll need to accomplish.
College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Services at Colorado State University
The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program at Colorado State University begins with two years of lectures and labs. In the third and fourth years, students rotate through the clinical services in The James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Students can also pursue oncology specialty training at the Flint Animal Cancer Center.
Students choose from three tracks: small animal focus, large animal focus, or mixed. The curriculum emphasizes animal welfare and client communication. At the teaching hospital, there are 28 different specialties available to study.
The Pathways Program pairs students with faculty mentors to prepare for a career in industrial livestock medicine, veterinary diagnostics, wildlife care, and more. The school also offers special degree programs, including five combined-degree options.
Required certifications include the Companion Animal Euthanasia Training Academy Certification and Fear Free Veterinary Certification, which focuses on helping animals feel safe and calm.
Students also have the opportunity to study veterinary practice management, which prepares them to run their own clinic.
When evaluating applications, the Veterinary Admissions Committee considers:
- quality of the academic program
- number and quality of upper-level biomedical science courses
- course and degree variety
- academic trends
- employment during academic terms
The Veterinary Course Requirements are listed here.
Colorado State University
Colorado Agricultural College (as it was known then) opened in 1879. Today, Colorado State is one of the top public research universities. The main campus is 583 acres; over 100 acres are dedicated to the veterinary teaching hospital.
This school is located in Fort Collins, which has over 280 miles of trails to explore. If the charming college town isn’t enough for you, Denver is only one hour away.
College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida
Some colleges require their students to complete three years of coursework before working with animals in a clinical setting. At UF, students work with animals in year one and begin their clinical rotations in the Small and Large Animal Hospitals the summer after their second year.
Students who wish to specialize can choose from four certificate programs:
- Aquatic Animal Health
- Business Management
- Food Animal Medicine
- Shelter Medicine
UF offers a joint degree program in Veterinary Public Health. Students who begin the MPH coursework the summer before entering the DVM program can earn their joint degree in four years. There are six concentrations to choose from:
- Environmental Health
- Population Health Management
- Public Health Practice
- Social and Behavioral Sciences
The Admissions Committee looks for students with “the academic capability to manage a rigorous science-based curriculum while also demonstrating strong interpersonal and teamwork related communication skills.”
They don’t require a minimum number of experience hours, but recommend “clinical experience for a consistent period of 10 months or longer at one designated location, plus a variety of veterinary experiences to gain an understanding of the depth of the veterinary field.”
They require three letters of recommendation, and recommend that you submit four.
You’ll need to pass these math and science courses:
- Biology 1 and 2 with labs
- Chemistry 1 and 2 with labs
- Microbiology with Lab
- Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 with labs
- Physics 1 and 2 with labs
They also require applicants to meet requirements for English, humanities, social sciences, and “a minimum of 9 credits of challenging courses that go beyond the pre-professional requirements.” See their detailed list here.
University of Florida
Both the veterinary college and the main campus are located in Gainesville, a college town with about 125,000 residents. With winter temperatures in the high 60s, you’ll be able to enjoy Gainesvilles state parks and freshwater springs year-round.
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
At Cornell, your work with live animals begins your first week!
You’ll study physical exams and clinical communications your first year and begin clinical rotations in year three.
Cornell has a number of animal hospitals on campus, including a farm animal hospital, an equine hospital, and a wildlife hospital. The Companion Animal Hospital treats over 22,000 animals each year.
Cornell stresses cooperation over competition and provides an environment in which “learning for understanding is emphasized over rote memorization.” The following Foundation Courses are required for all students:
- The Animal Body
- General Pathology
- Cell Biology and Genetics
- Function and Dysfunction
- Host, Agent, and Defense
- Animal Health and Disease
- Clinical Rotations
- Veterinary Practice
After that, you’ll complete 12 Clinical Rotations:
- Ambulatory & Production Medicine
- Community Practice Medicine
- Small Animal Medicine
- Small Animal Surgery: Soft Tissue
- Large Animal Medicine
- Large Animal Surgery
- Small or Large Animal Emergency and Critical Care
- Small Animal Orthopedics
Once those are completed, you will choose one of these six Clinical Pathways:
- Small Animal
- General (Mixed)
- Exotics (Pets)
- Zoo and Wildlife
- Production Animals
Each of these six Clinical Pathways includes seven unique clinical rotations.
Cornell requires at least two evaluations (an academic evaluation and an evaluation from a veterinarian) that describe your interpersonal skills and commitment to veterinary medicine.
The GRE is not required.
You must complete one or more semesters of the following:
- English Composition or Technical Writing
- Biological Science
- General (Inorganic) Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Advanced Life Science Course
(microbiology, immunology, genetics, or physiology)
Science classes should include labs.
Cornell is a privately endowed research university that partners with the State University of New York for a unique blend of public engagement and Ivy League education. It has many beautiful places to study, including the Sibley Dome and Cornell Botanical Gardens.
The main campus is located in Ithaca, New York. A wonderful spot for nature lovers, Ithaca boasts over 150 waterfalls in its gorgeous woodlands. You can hike to Taughannock Falls (it’s 215 feet tall — that’s three stories higher than Niagra Falls!) or cruise Cayuga Lake.
Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University
“By applying to Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine,” their website declares, “you are not only taking the first step to becoming a successful practicing veterinarian; you are affirming your commitment to healing animals, helping humans, and transforming global health.”
Cummings School was the first veterinary school in the country to transition away from terminal procedures.
The veterinary school campus covers 594 acres; over one-third of that space is dedicated to the Cummings School Farm. The farm grows corn and hay, and raises hens, goats, pigs, sheep, and cattle.
Students learn “basic handling and husbandry of large and small animal species” beginning their first year. By year four, students are beginning to assume responsibility for clients in their clinical rotations.
Cummings School offers several dual-degree programs that allow you to earn a Ph.D. or MA in conjunction with your doctorate. These programs prepare their students for careers in public health, laboratory animal medicine, or international policy.
The Cummings School admissions committee follows this formula:
- 34% grade-point average
- 33% interview
- 27% holistic application review
- 6% essays
Your interview with the committee or with the dean will evaluate your communication skills, integrity, resilience, commitment, leadership potential, and academic knowledge.
The holistic application review includes veterinary experience, letters of evaluation, extracurricular activities, and leadership roles.
This school does not require a bachelor’s degree. Their website states, “DVM applicants must have completed the equivalent of at least three full undergraduate academic years at an accredited college or university and fulfilled 90 semester hours of coursework before enrollment.”
Cummings School requires the following courses:
- General Biology with laboratory (two semesters)
- General Chemistry with laboratory (two semesters)
- Organic Chemistry with laboratory (two semesters)
- Physics (two semesters)
- Genetics (one semester, unless included in General Biology)
- Biochemistry (one semester)
- Mathematics (two semesters)
- English (two semesters of composition, reading, and/or speech communication)
- Social and Behavioral Sciences (two semesters)
- Humanities and Fine Arts (two semesters)
They also recommend completing cell biology, microbiology, physiology, and/or anatomy courses.
The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine is located in Grafton, Massachusetts. That’s about 40 miles away from the main Tufts campus, which is closer to Boston. Grafton is a quiet town, and Cummings School is supportive of students with families.
Tufts Wildlife Clinic in Grafton treats thousands of animals each year. They’ve helped bobcats, peregrine falcons, great horned owls, and more.
NC State Veterinary Medicine
The four-year program at North Carolina State University “consists of a gradual progression from basic science to clinical application.” The first three years are pre-clinical, with the fourth year focusing on clinical rotations. Fourth-year students will have the opportunity to work with lemurs, raptors, sea turtles, and more.
The NC State Dairy Research and Teaching Farm has over 300 cows on 389 acres, making this school a great choice for anyone who wants to work with cattle.
The DVM curriculum offers ten potential focus areas:
- Clinician Scientist
- Equine Practice
- Food Animal
- Laboratory Animal
- Mixed Animal Practice
- Small Animal Practice
- Small and Exotic Animal Practice
- Zoological Medicine
There are 18 DVM student organizations, including the NC State Turtle Rescue Team.
Starting this year, the veterinary college at NC State no longer requires the GRE. They do require three letters of recommendation and 200 veterinary experience hours. The minimum GPA is 3.0 for North Carolina residents and 3.4 for non-residents. Priority is given to applicants who have lived in North Carolina for at least 12 months.
The following courses are required for all applicants. Most require multiple semesters and some must include labs.
- Animal Nutrition
- Chemistry, General
- Chemistry, Organic
- Composition and Writing
- Public Speaking
- Social Sciences
If your college doesn’t offer a course in animal nutrition, you can complete a course online with one of these schools:
- North Carolina State University
- Kansas State University
- Oklahoma State University
- Purdue University
- Rutgers University
North Carolina State University
Founded in 1887, NC State added a secondary Centennial Campus in 1987. This campus includes Lake Raleigh Recreation Area — a beautiful lake and 96 acres of protected forest just three miles from downtown Raleigh. Both campuses boast beautiful architecture ranging from venerable brick buildings to the brand new Wellness and Recreation Center, which has a 48-foot climbing wall and bouldering caves.
The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine
Founded in 1885, the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine has approximately 620 students at a time — more than any other vet school in the country.
They offer 22 different residency programs ranging from Anesthesia to Theriogenology (that’s the branch of veterinary medicine concerned with reproduction).
Students spend their fourth year in training at one of the country’s largest veterinary teaching hospitals. They also work at satellite facilities such as the Large Animal Service and the Humane Society.
Applicants must have at least a 3.0 GPA. 3.6 or higher is preferred.
Like most vet schools, they require three letters of recommendation.
There is no set number of experience hours required, but they prefer applicants who have experience with a wide variety of animals and veterinary career paths. High involvement in additional extracurriculars is a plus; they prefer applicants who have demonstrated an ability to balance school with other commitments.
Admission to the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine requires these courses:
- Science electives (choice of biology, chemistry, anatomy, animal sciences, immunology, cell biology, molecular genetics, ecology, and environmental science)
- Humanities / Social Science electives
Please note that most of these each require multiple classes. See details here.
Ohio State University
This college is located in Columbus, the largest city in Ohio.
OSU was established over 150 years ago. The 1,764-acre campus is located just a couple of miles from Downtown Columbus. It contains 21 libraries with nearly six million books.
The School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis
The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program at UC Davis is often ranked #1 in the world.
Students can choose to focus on small animals or large, and further refine their focus to equine, livestock, zoologic, etc. The curriculum combines the latest technologies — software applications and models — with laboratory exercises involving live animals.
The School of Veterinary Medicine equips its students with skills in 8 domains:
- Basic science, paraclinical and clinical knowledge
- Communication skills
- Entry-level clinical skills
- Problem-solving, critical thinking, and life-long learning skills
- Public, environmental, and animal population health
Graduating students are expected to demonstrate knowledge of normal cellular function and disease. They also graduate knowing how to run a small business, use electronic databases, communicate effectively, and more.
The William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital is the primary clinical learning setting for students. Over 50,000 patients — both pets and livestock — visit the hospital each year.
Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and a GPA of 2.5 or higher. They also require at least 180 hours of veterinary experience and three professional recommendations. All applicants must take the GRE. Before being admitted, candidates will be invited to a series of short interviews to assess their communication skills, decision-making abilities, and values.
Their prerequisites include:
- College Physics
- General Biology
- General Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
- Biochemistry w/ Metabolism
- Systemic Physiology
Their website offers a prerequisites database of transferable courses.
The University of California, Davis began as an agricultural extension of UC Berkeley and eventually grew into a general campus. The School of Veterinary Medicine was established in 1946.
UC Davis is located in California’s Central Valley, 15 miles west of Sacramento. The campus is large and beautiful, with its own equestrian center and a 100-acre arboretum.
Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
Training at CVMBS begins with two years of the basics. In their third year, students can choose to focus on horses, companion animals, or food animals. The fourth-year is entirely clinical rotations.
CVMBS offers several training tracks, including:
- Diagnostics & Therapeutics
- Genomics & Bioinformatics
- Infection, Immunity & Epidemiology
- Physiology & Developmental Biology
Texas A&M has three animal hospitals. It also has centers devoted to horses, birds, and wildlife.
The CVMBS Selections Committee uses a point system, which is divided about half and half between academics and other skills and achievements. Selected applicants will go through a series of short interviews to assess their “communication skills, critical thinking, cultural competency, problem-solving, empathy, and ethics.”
Their professional preparation criteria evaluate:
- Veterinary experience (hours spent working under the direct supervision of a veterinarian, either at a clinic or in a research environment)
- Animal experience (FFA, 4-H, shelters, etc.)
- Honors courses
- Academic rigor and course loads (credits per semester, science courses per semester, and “the rigor of the institution where the student did the majority of his or her undergraduate work”)
Applicants must complete a class in Animal Nutrition (offered as a remote class from Kansas State, Oklahoma State, and Purdue).
You’ll find detailed lists of courses that meet the prerequisite requirements here.
This university favors applicants who are Texas residents. There are a limited number of spots for out-of-state students: “Applicants from other states who have superior credentials will also be considered for up to 10% of the positions in each DVM class.”
Texas A&M University
TAMU opened in 1876 as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas.
The campus spans over 5,000 acres. There are about 70,000 students; that’s the second-largest student body in the country. This university is so large that the city it’s located in is named College Station. There are over one thousand student organizations.
University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine
Penn Vet was founded in 1884. It’s the only veterinary school in the nation that originated within a medical school and still works closely with Penn Medical today.
Their mission is to “train the next generation of leaders who will advance well-being and healthcare outcomes in animals, ensure global health, bolster sustainable agriculture, and create and support new interdisciplinary career paths.”
Penn Vet is divided between two campuses, one urban and one rural. Each campus has its own teaching hospital.
The main campus is home to Ryan Hospital, which handles more than 31,000 patient visits a year. New Bolton Center and its Field Service treat over 40,000 patients each year.
Penn Vet is also a major research college with 10 research centers and over 30 laboratories. (The greater campus has more than 500 research laboratories.) Their four key focus areas are cancer, infectious disease, regenerative medicine, and neuroscience.
Students choose an academic major in their third year. The five options are:
- Small Animal
- Large Animal
- Food Animal
There are also five Dual Degree Program options.
You’ll need at least three letters of recommendation. At least one needs to be from a faculty member (ideally a science professor) and another needs to be from a veterinarian. Penn Vet will accept up to six letters, but emphasizes quality over quantity.
Unlike many vet schools, Penn Vet does still require the GRE. They want two sections: Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning.
They also require five essays.
Course requirements for matriculation can be found here.
University of Pennsylvania
Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740, The University of Pennsylvania is one of the oldest in the United States. Penn has 15 libraries with over six million books.
Penn Vet is located in Philadelphia. The 92-acre Morris Arboretum offers an escape from the city, and Philly itself has the largest urban trail system in the country. Student Life at Penn Vet includes Friday Socials, an annual talent show, and a wide variety of student organizations.
University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine
Like most veterinary colleges, the DVM curriculum consists of three years of coursework followed by one year of professional rotations based primarily in the teaching hospital.
Fourth-year students choose an area of emphasis:
- Food Animal Emphasis
- Equine Animal Emphasis
- Mixed Animal Emphasis
- Small Animal Emphasis
- Other (e.g. special species, aquatic medicine, regulatory veterinary medicine, lab animal medicine)
The Clinical Skills Training Center allows students to practice their clinical skills from year one. It’s equipped with life-size horse and cow models, IV catheter trainers, and equipment for practice suturing so that students can hone their skills on detailed models before moving on to live animals. Students can practice delivering calves, intubating dogs, and extracting teeth.
This university offers three DVM dual-degree options and a Certificate in Global Health.
Applying to this school is more or less the same as the schools listed above. Invited applicants have a mean GPA of 3.67. You can find the required undergraduate coursework listed here.
University of Wisconsin
This School of Veterinary Medicine is located in Madison, Wisconsin. An excellent choice for health enthusiasts, Madison boasts the nation’s largest producers-only farmer’s market. The city offers nature preserves, lakes, and a wide variety of outdoor activities.
Conclusion: Best Veterinary Schools
By now, you’ll have a good idea of what it takes to become a veterinarian.
For more information on applying to veterinary schools, see the official Applicant Guide from the Association of American Veterinary Colleges. Don’t forget to look into the schools that didn’t make this list. There are so many other wonderful options!
Here are all 33:
- Auburn University
- Colorado State University
- Cornell University
- Iowa State University
- Kansas State University
- Lincoln Memorial University
- Long Island University
- Louisiana State University
- Michigan State University
- Midwestern University
- Mississippi State University
- North Carolina State University
- Ohio State University
- Oklahoma State University
- Oregon State University
- Purdue University
- Texas A&M University
- Texas Tech University
- Tufts University
- Tuskegee University
- University of Arizona
- University of California
- University of Florida
- University of Georgia
- University of Illinois
- University of Minnesota
- University of Missouri – Columbia
- University of Pennsylvania
- University of Tennessee
- University of Wisconsin – Madison
- Virginia Tech
- Washington State University
- Western University of Health Sciences
There are also 21 accredited colleges outside of the United States! Australia, New Zealand, Scotland… You can find the full list here.
If you’re looking for more guidance on how to reach the veterinary program of your dreams, Transizion can pair you with the perfect college mentor to help you get there. Whether you’re planning your academic journey or ready to apply to veterinary schools, Transizion can help.