What does a veterinarian do?

Veterinary medicine is a broad field and places its graduates in a wide variety of career paths. Approximately two-thirds of veterinarians are in a small animal practice that cares for pets or in large animal practice that visits the farm, focusing on the health of non-human patients and providing all of the services for animals that medical doctors provide for humans - diagnosis, drug prescription and surgical intervention. Veterinarians protect the food supply through work in federal and state departments of agriculture in which they monitor health of farm/ranch animals, animals brought into the U.S. to protect against foreign animal diseases entering the country, and the development and safety of vaccines. Other veterinarians specialize in public health as epidemiologists who investigate animal and human disease outbreaks such as food-borne illnesses, influenza and West Nile viral encephalitis. They also monitor food processing plants, restaurants and water supplies. Veterinarians also are in the military and serve as a front line defense against some forms of bioterrorism.

How long will it take to obtain my veterinary medicine degree, and what is a typical veterinary school curriculum like?

Students spend 4 years in veterinary school studying basic and animal science. In a typical veterinary school, the first two years are spent on basic science - comparative anatomy and physiology, histology, biochemistry, etc. In the third and fourth years, students complete clinical rotations in a veterinary hospital to get supervised hands-on work with their animal patients.

Pre-Health Advisor

Matthew Collier, Ph.D.
Professor of Biology
BDK Science Center 207
(937) 327-6395

If I desire, how do I specialize within veterinary medicine?

After completion of veterinary school, graduates can apply for internships at large referral centers. Upon completion of the internship, graduates may apply for a 2 to 3 year residency program in internal medicine, surgery, cardiology, dermatology, ophthalmology, exotic small animals, pathology, neurology, radiology, anesthesiology, or oncology. Residency is required for certification by any specialty board.

What courses should I take at Wittenberg to prepare for veterinary school?

Most veterinary schools require the following courses for admission:

  • 1 year of General Biology (170 and 180)
  • 1 year of General Chemistry (121 and 162)
  • 1 year of Organic Chemistry (201 and 302; sometimes Biochemistry can replace Organic Chemistry II)
  • 1 year of Physics (201 and 202 or 280)
  • 1 year English (101 and another English A course)
  • 1 year of Mathematics (one semester of calculus and another course)
  • 1 semester of Biochemistry

While the above prerequisites apply to most veterinary schools, some schools add their own requirements. Be sure to check the schools that you are interested in applying to for other required coursework, such as:

  • 1 semester of Genetics/Molecular Genetics (Ohio State)
  • 1 semester of Microbiology (Ohio State)
  • 1 semester of Animal Physiology (Ohio State)
  • 1 semester of Public Speaking and/or Reasoning and Communication (Ohio State)
  • 1 semester of Vertebrate Zoology
  • 1 semester of Psychology
  • 1-2 semesters of Behavioral or Social Science ( Wittenberg's S courses)
  • 1-2 semesters of Humanities ( Wittenberg's A or R courses)
  • 1 semester of Economics or Business

Additional requirements:

  • At least 80 hours of work with a veterinarian, although in practice the schools' expectations are much higher
  • Comprehensive veterinary medical/ animal work experience with large and small animals
  • Academic improvement
  • Financial responsibility

What major should I pursue at Wittenberg if I am interested in veterinary medicine?

You can choose any of Wittenberg's 20+ majors if you apply to a veterinary program upon graduation from Wittenbergas long as you take the prerequisite courses required by the schools to which you apply. Approximately 20% of those students accepted into veterinary schools did NOT major in one of the sciences, e.g., Biology, Biochemistry/Molecular Biology, or Chemistry, so you can major outside of science if you like. As far as the veterinary schools are concerned, they do not put much emphasis on whether you graduate with a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree - that choice is yours. Look at the prerequisite requirements for the schools that you are interested in and the degree requirements for your major to determine which degree is the best match for you.

Do I need to have medically related hours when applying to veterinary schools?

Yes. Most veterinary programs have specific minimum requirements for number of paid or volunteer hours spent with a veterinarian. The required minimum number of hours varies greatly from school to school. The schools usually prefer that you spend some time with veterinarians that work with large animals, and often ask the total number of species with which you have worked. It is best to broaden your veterinary experience as much as possible prior to applying. Volunteering for 2-3 hours each week during the semester demonstrates to the schools your loyalty and commitment to the profession at a time when they know you are already busy.

Is it important that I participate in extracurricular activities while at Wittenberg?

Yes. While the schools do not require a specific number of extracurricular activities or leadership positions, they look for both in your application materials. They consider how many years you spent with each organization and how involved you appear to be with each one (e.g., leadership roles). The schools use your experiences in this area to better understand your ability to socially interact with others, your leadership potential, and your time management skills. They seek to recruit well-rounded individuals who can successfully balance a heavy academic load with medically related experience and extracurricular activities. If successful, they infer that you will rise to the challenge of their academic program when you have fewer non-academic commitments.

How can I locate the veterinary medicine program that is best for me?

Start early. Identify 3-5 schools of potential interest before registering for classes in the spring of your SOPHOMORE YEAR. The courses listed above are common to many veterinary schools, but there may be additional requirements for the schools you are interested in. It is best to know about those requirements while you still have room in your schedule to fulfill them.

Do research. Go to the schools' websites and make a table of courses required, average GPA of their incoming class, and number of hours in a veterinary setting. These will give you some idea of where you need to be academically when you graduate from Wittenberg, and the courses you need to take inside your major and in the general education program to make you a good candidate for that particular set of schools. Schools consider both your science GPA and your cumulative GPA, so it is not wise to prioritize your grades in science courses over those taken for your general education requirements.

Summarize your findings.Create a sample table of school information assuming all require general biology and general chemistry. Add a column for each different course as you encounter them as prerequisites at your schools of interest.

Animal hours/
Vet hours
School 1X XX  
School 2 X X  
School 3XXXX  

Evaluate your findings. Match your cumulative GPA and GRE (or MCAT) scores with the averages for the last incoming class at each school. Read all web pages for hospitals/medical centers that have a specialty that interests you. Look for data that report on the percentage of students that have passed the board exams.

Always apply to the veterinary school in the state where your parents are living and paying taxes. You have the best chance to get into the public schools in that state, and the tuition at your in-state school is much less than at a private or out-of-state public school. Apply to the veterinary school in your home state, if possible. If your parents live in Indiana, you should definitely apply to Purdue's veterinary school. Indiana residents who lived in Ohio for 4 years while attending Wittenberg get no preference from Ohio State (Ohio's only veterinary school). When choosing to apply to schools outside of your home state, choose schools that accept at least 30% out-of-state students. These are usually private schools. This ensures that you at least have a chance to be interviewed. In most cases, it is difficult to get into a state school that is not located in your home state. Apply mainly to private schools outside of your home state. Consider applying to between 1 and 3 schools.

Check the Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements in the United States and Canada published by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges for specific requirements of particular veterinary schools.

Which schools are best for me to apply to outside of my home state?

Your best chance of getting into veterinary schools outside your state of residence is to apply to schools with relatively high out-of-state acceptance rates (>30%). These include:

  • Purdue University
  • Tufts University
  • Tuskegee University
  • University of Pennsylvania

How and when should I apply to veterinary schools?

  • Take the GRE (or MCAT) in the spring of your junior year or the summer between your junior and senior year if you plan to go directly from Wittenberg to veterinary school. If you plan to take a year off between college and veterinary school, you can wait until spring or summer of your senior year.
  • Apply to the veterinary schools of your choice using VMCAS during the summer you take your GRE. Applications preferably should be submitted in July. If you are a resident of the state of Ohio and choose to apply to Ohio State, they prefer direct application to their school via their website.
  • Wait to receive secondary applications from your target schools, and return your completed secondary application to the schools as quickly as possible.
  • Wait to receive interview invitations from your target veterinary schools.
  • Wait for the results of your application after the interview to find out if you have been accepted, wait listed, or rejected by that particular school.
  • You are at a disadvantage if you opt to take the GRE (or MCAT) late or submit your materials late in the cycle - applications are often considered as they arrive, not at the time of the deadline. Complete and send your materials in a timely manner.

Do I need to go through the Pre-Health Professions Committee when applying?

No. Veterinary schools do not require its applicants to have a composite letter of evaluation that is generated by Wittenberg's Pre-Health Professions committee. Instead, you will usually be required to have three letters of evaluation submitted directly to the schools on your behalf. When choosing your evaluators, consider asking at least one veterinarian and one faculty member, but be sure to follow the specific directions for each school to which you apply (Ohio State requires letters from two veterinarians).

What standardized tests are accepted by the veterinary schools?

Most veterinary schools accept a variety of standardized tests to be used in the admissions process, including the MCAT, GRE, and VCAT. Only one of these tests is necessary for admission, be sure to check which tests are accepted by the schools to which you wish to apply.

What is the General Record Exam (GRE)?

The General GRE is a test taken by students wishing to pursue a graduate degree in many professions including veterinary medicine and is typically taken at the end of your junior year. It is not a test based on specific courses that you have taken in college, but rather is a test of general knowledge and aptitude. While it is not linked with specific courses, the General GRE is difficult, and you should consider studying for it well in advance. The verbal section is particularly difficult as they assume that you have continued to learn new vocabulary throughout your college career. It may be taken as many times as you like, but has a mandatory wait period before it may be retaken. The General GRE is a computerized test that can be taken year round at testing centers in Athens, Centerville, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Stowe, and Toledo, Ohio.

The General GRE is approximately 3 hours in length and contains three sections:

  • Verbal Reasoning: Composed of analogies, antonyms, sentence completions, and reading comprehension, this section has students apply their knowledge of words, concepts, and sentence structure, and apply that knowledge to understanding complex passages.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Consisting of basic concepts of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis, this section tests logical reasoning and basic mathematical skills. You are not allowed to use a calculator for this section of the test.
  • Analytical Writing: This section is designed to assess your ability to communicate complex ideas effectively in writing. In the "issue" task, students choose one of two provided opinions and then construct and defend their own view of the issue. The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate sound thinking as you defend your position. In the "argument" task, students are given only one argument and critique the logic of that argument.

For more information on the GRE, visit the GRE Web site at or call 1-800-GRE-CALL.

What is the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)?

The MCAT is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to help admission committees predict which of their applicants will perform adequately in the medical school curriculum. The MCAT should be taken in April of your junior year if you plan to go directly to medical school after graduating from Wittenberg, or in April of your senior year if you plan to take a year off between graduation and matriculation into medical school. It can be taken three times before special permission is required. The MCAT assesses scientific problem solving, critical thinking, and writing skills. In addition, it explores the student's understanding of scientific concepts and principles that are necessary to the study of medicine. Because this is a content based test, you should have taken General Biology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Math, and Physics prior to taking this examination.

The four parts of the MCAT are:

  • Verbal Reasoning: You will be given a series of passages that test your ability to comprehend, reason, and think critically. The passages vary widely in their content, but are usually esoteric.
  • Physical Sciences: You will be given a series of passages related to Physics and General Chemistry which will require you to problem solve and apply your basic knowledge of these areas.
  • Writing Sample: You will be given two prompts (subject matter varies widely), each of which has a topic statement and directions for three writing tasks. You must explain or interpret the topic statement and then follow the directions provided for the second and third tasks according to prompt you received.
  • Biological Sciences: You will be given a series of passages related to General Biology and Organic Chemistry which require you to apply your general knowledge in these areas to the text.

Sample questions for the multiple choice sections and prompts for the writing sample are available on the MCAT website (, in addition to free access to the full-length version of this test (

What is the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT)?

The VCAT is used by some veterinary schools to identify quality applicants to professional studies in veterinary medicine by measuring general academic ability and scientific knowledge. This test is appropriate only for students who are in an agricultural college for their undergraduate experience (not Wittenberg students) and takes approximately 3.5 hours to complete. There are five content areas:

  • Verbal ability - general vocabulary and verbal reasoning
  • Biology - knowledge of principles and concepts from elementary college biology courses
  • Chemistry - knowledge of principles of general and organic chemistry
  • Quantitative Ability - reason through and understand quantitative concepts
  • Reading Comprehension - read and understand college level passages

Do I need to coordinate my application through a service?

Yes. The Veterinary Medical Colleges Application Service (VMCAS, is a nonprofit, centralized service to facilitate the process of applying to participating veterinary schools, and is required for application to most veterinary schools (the Texas veterinary school uses their own service - go to for details). VMCAS benefits the applicant by collecting, coordinating, and processing all transcripts and other application materials for the veterinary schools. The applicant completes the VMCAS application, and VMCAS will send copies of your application to the veterinary schools you specified on the application.

Do you have any tips for preparing an attractive application?

Filling out applications for these professional schools can be difficult and tedious, but require your best effort. Applications must be filled out completely and correctly or they will be returned to you. Having your application returned for further information delays contact with the admissions offices of your target schools. Pay particular attention to the required one page personal statement. Have someone assess your essay (i.e. Career Center staff, Writing Center, etc.). Remember that you are trying to sell yourself to an admissions committee. Irrelevant details, poor sentence and paragraph structure, incorrect grammar, misspelling, typographical errors, etc. detract from the image you wish to create as their ideal candidate.

Which veterinary schools have accepted Wittenberg students in the last 10 years?

  • Cornell
  • Kansas State University
  • Ohio State University
  • Purdue
  • St. George's University
  • Texas A&M
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Pennsylvania

What are some of the veterinary programs in the country?

Veterinary School Average General GRE
 Average GPAVerbalQuantitative
Auburn University3.53NANA
University of California3.45581690
Colorado State University3.59522636
Cornell University3.60616700
University of Florida3.561198V&Q
University of Georgia3.44574656
University of Illinois3.5772percentile
Iowa State University3.45NANA
Kansas State University3.60508654
Louisiana State University/td>3.551089V&Q
Michigan State University3.60487620<
University of Minnesota3.61510660
Mississippi State University3.62VCAT--
University of Missouri3.57VCAT--
North Carolina State UniversityNANANA
The Ohio State University3.56>950total
Oklahoma State University3.46466584
Oregon State University3.4860percentile
University of Pennsylvania3.52572682
Purdue University3.56NANA
University of Tennessee3.59VCAT--
Texas A & M University3.71530660
Tufts University3.46600680
Tuskegee University>2.7VCATor GRE
Virginia Polytechnic Institute3.54>1200total
Washington State University3.6070percentile
University of Wisconsin/td>3.64560670

Website for the American Veterinary Medicine Association:

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