How to Become a Veterinarian

Veterinarian Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $105,660
Avg. Pay / hour $50.80
Education 3-4 Years
Job Outlook 18.8%

If you love animals, and are interested in health and science, then you might like to become a veterinarian.

Vets provide diagnosis, treatment, and care to animals who are unwell.

Many veterinarians work with domestic animals, others work on farms, while some may work in a laboratory completing research into animal’s health.

There can be stiff competition surrounding this occupation, so if you would like to become a veterinarian, you will need to be prepared to work hard and also to do a lot of studying.

Achieving good grades in high school and college will be integral in securing a career as a vet.

It’s also important to know that when you become a veterinarian, you are going to face some challenges.

You will often be exposed to cases of animal cruelty, as well as having to put down sick or unwell animals.

Education Requirements to Become a Veterinarian

If you’re in high school, it’s important that you do well in math and the sciences.

You may also like to get a volunteer job at a local branch of SPCA, or even at a pet store or animal shelter.

You’ll need to complete a four year bachelor degree that has a major in science.

Some schools offer a pre-veterinarian major that you could enter.

The American Veterinary Medicine Association, or AVMA, has information about accredited undergraduate courses, as well as veterinary schools.

After you complete college, you’ll need to gain entry to a veterinary school where you will complete a four year doctorate in veterinary medicine.

There are 27 schools across the country which offers this qualification.

After you finish your doctorate, you’ll need to take the North American Veterinarian License exam before you can practice.

You may also need to fill further requirements within your state for licensing purposes.

Veterinarian Job Description

When you become a veterinarian, you will be responsible for the medical care of all kinds of animals.

While many vets work with domestic animals like cats and dogs, there is also work out there for vets that work with farm animals like horses and sheep, and also vets who can take care of sick or injured wildlife.

Some vets work in research, where they may conduct medical trials involving animals.

They could also research various animal diseases, or develop new drugs.

Other vets may become academics, who research animals and publish papers on their findings.

They may also teach aspiring veterinarians.

Here are some of the duties of a veterinarian:

  • Examine an animal
  • Diagnose and treat disease and injury
  • Prescribe medicines for animals
  • Develop treatment plans for animals
  • Follow up to track progress
  • Keep accurate records on animals
  • Refer animals to other specialists
  • Encourage animals to feel safe
  • Communicate with animals and their owners

Veterinarian Salary and Career Path

Most veterinarians start their career working in practice, usually under the guidance of a more experienced vet.

They will go on to have more responsibility in their role and start taking on more cases.

Many young vets become inspectors at meat and poultry farms, research assistants, work in the armed forces, or for the US health department.

After a few years, many vets open their own practices.

They may also decide to enter research, or even become teachers.

Starting your own practice can be rather costly, as it takes a lot of money to purchase all of the equipment needed, along with supporting your own staff.

The median salary for a veterinarian is $80,000 a year.

Those just starting their career could expect to earn around $60,000 a year, while the top 10% of earners make more than $140,000 a year.

Those who work with domestic pets tend to make more money than those who work with farm animals.

Some similar jobs to a veterinarian include:

  • Biologist
  • Zoologist
  • Veterinary Technician
  • Animal Care Worker
  • Park Ranger

If you love animals and feel an affinity with them, and think you could handle speaking to their owners as well, then you might like to become a veterinarian.

There is excellent salary available for those who are interested in this career path.

Entry into college can be competitive, and the amount of study required is high, but those who put in the hard work will find this to be a very rewarding career path.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$137,170
New Hampshire$113,910
New Jersey$127,360
New Mexico$91,660
New York$129,210
North Carolina$113,160
North Dakota$98,990
Rhode Island$129,880
South Carolina$96,560
South Dakota$92,800
West Virginia$126,060
Puerto Rico$68,340

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $137,170.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $137,170
Connecticut - $134,050
Rhode Island - $129,880
New York - $129,210
New Jersey - $127,360
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Veterinarians, OCC Code 29-1131, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a veterinarian do?

Veterinarians are medical professionals whose main aim is to protect the well-being and health of animals and people.

Just like any other doctor, a veterinarian has to take the oath and swear to use his or her knowledge and skills for the benefit of society.

There is a wide range of establishments and spheres in which veterinarians can work – research, teaching, private practice, military service, public health, and so on.

The typical duties of a veterinarian usually include vaccinating against diseases; diagnosing animal health problems; treating and dressing wounds; medicating animals suffering from illnesses; setting fractures; advising owners about feeding, animal behavior, and breeding; euthanizing animals; performing minor to complex surgery; providing preventive care; performing diagnostic tests, etc.

There are small and large animal veterinarians; the latter often spend a lot of time traveling to see the patients.

How much do veterinarians make?

On average, a veterinarian can make a little less than $94.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to follow this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $57.000 and $162.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, the location and so on.

The veterinarians that work in Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, for example, have the highest average salaries.

An entry-level veterinarian can earn $27 per hour, while a specialist with plenty of experience will make $78 and more.

How much does it cost to become a veterinarian?

You would certainly need a bachelor’s degree in pre-veterinary science, animal science, general science, biology, zoology, or a related field, in order to become a veterinarian.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

To become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, you would have to enter a veterinary medicine program ($28.000-$66.000 per year).

Once you graduate, you would be required to pass the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam (around $670).

What is the demand for veterinarians?

Between 2016 and 2026, the veterinarian job market is expected to grow by 18.8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is a lot faster than the national average for all occupations in the United States.

Specialists in pathology, laboratory medicine, and toxicology will be in high demand in metropolitan areas.

The competition in the industry is high; bear in mind that candidates with specializations will have better job prospects.

The industry is mainly concentrated in Florida, Texas, and California.

How long does it take to become a veterinarian?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree.

Volunteering at various organizations and seeking internship opportunities will be extremely helpful for your future career.

The majority of U.S. veterinary schools require certain college courses; it will take you 4 years to graduate.

You are accredited to take the licensing exam (NAVLE), in case you are a student or a graduate of an AVMA-accredited school or college of veterinary medicine.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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