There are many different career paths that you can choose from with a veterinary degree, and some veterinarians even choose multiple paths. You may be surprised at just how versatile a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree is. By earning a DVM, you are signifying that you are prepared for entry into the practice of veterinary medicine with or without further postgraduate study. Regardless of your career path, there are specific skills needed to be a veterinarian you must be able to demonstrate.
Read on to learn more about the skills and competencies needed to be a veterinarian.
What Skills Do You Need To Be A Veterinarian?
For starters, to become a practicing veterinarian, you need to earn a DVM degree from a school accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) such as Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (Ross Vet)*. At Ross Ross Vet, our AVMA-COE accredited curriculum can provide you with the essential knowledge, veterinarian skills, technical expertise, and attitudes of a DVM. Our curriculum integrates basic sciences and clinical experiences, and engages you in active learning and immersive experiences. You will study such subjects as anatomy, physiology, immunology, parasitology, nutrition, virology, pharmacology, and anesthesiology. You will also learn to work with animals large and small.
As a veterinary student, your classroom learning will be supplemented by clinical experiences that teaches you hands-on experience treating animals and developing the skills needed to be a veterinarian in a real-world environment. Our students learn to function safely and effectively in multiple environments such as classrooms, laboratories, examinations, large and small animal clinics, and a variety of animal environments.
The AVMA-COE has developed a list of nine competencies every veterinary student should learn. You will acquire and demonstrate proficiency in those skills throughout your veterinary studies:
- Comprehensive patient diagnosis (problem solving skills), appropriate use of diagnostic testing, and record management
- Comprehensive treatment planning including patient referral when indicated
- Basic surgery skills and case management
- Basic medicine skills and case management
- Emergency and intensive care case management
- Understanding of health promotion, and biosecurity, prevention and control of disease including zoonoses and principles of food safety
- Ethical and professional conduct; communication skills including those that demonstrate an understanding and sensitivity to how clients' diversity and individual circumstance can impact health care
- Critical analysis of new information and research findings relevant to veterinary medicine
Students who master these skills required to be a vet,have a good foundation for a career in veterinary medicine.
Additional Veterinarian Skills and Abilities Needed
In addition to scientific and technical skills, veterinarians need to be able to work effectively with clients. Communication is one of the most important veterinarian skills you will need to develop. In addition to working with animals, veterinarians also work with people. You will need to develop your communications skills so that you are able to explain care plans to pet owners, work as part of a research team, help develop wildlife protection policies, educate caretakers on how to treat their animals, and otherwise help maintain and improve the health of animals.
If you plan to own a veterinary practice, you may also consider taking business courses in addition to your prerequisites or as electives as part of your DVM curriculum. This will give you an understanding of how to operate a business, manage employees, plan and budget, and otherwise prepare to run your own clinic.
Your Next Steps
Now you know some of the skills needed to be a veterinarian that you will learn in vet school. But before you get there, you will need to tailor your undergraduate course load to meet the necessary prerequisites. Your core coursework will need to include the study of chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, and English. These classes will give you the foundational knowledge needed to succeed as a veterinarian.
Most graduate schools, including many veterinary schools, require applicants to take the Graduate Record Examination® (GRE®). This standardized exam evaluates your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing skills. Training courses and practice exams can help you study for this rigorous test. Some veterinary schools require the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) or the Biology GRE—check your school’s admission requirements for specifics.
Vet schools require applicants to already have a wealth of experience working with animals. Working or interning at an animal hospital, shelter, or clinic can give you early hands-on experience and help you decide what you’d like to focus on when you study veterinary medicine. Aquariums, zoos, farms, and research institutions are other places you could look to get experience working with animals. These opportunities can also help you network with veterinary professionals who can give you career guidance, serve as mentors, and write crucial letters of recommendation. Getting an early start working with animals and veterinarians can give you a leg up on your path to becoming a veterinarian.
*Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine's (RUSVM) Veterinary Clinic is accredited by the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC, www.aaalac.org) as a school. The accreditation focuses on animals used in teaching and research environments.
RUSVM received full accreditation on July 16, 2019, from AAALAC International, an organization that promotes the humane treatment of animals in science through voluntary accreditation and assessment programs.