Step-by-Step Guide: How to Become a Vet in Canada

Dec 13, 2023

If you ask a group of people what they wanted to be when they grew up, chances are at least a few will say a veterinarian. Many people want to become vets, but where should they start? And what about student requirements: Do they differ between Canada and the United States?

If you’ve started researching already, you may have noticed that the process to become a vet in Canada or the United States is very similar, but it can also differ from one person to the next. 

Researching and applying to vet schools can be overwhelming, so we’ve enlisted a few experts to help guide you through the process: Suji Jeong, associate director of student and university partnerships at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (Ross Vet), and Canadian Ross Vet alumnae Dr. Jazmeen Suleman (DVM ’20) and Dr. Jessica Cusmariu (DVM ’14). Drs. Suleman and Cusmariu share their experiences of studying to become vets in the Caribbean and the United States and then working in Canada — Dr. Suleman at Montgomery Village Veterinary Clinic in Calgary and Dr. Cusmariu at Clarkson Village Animal Hospital in Mississauga, near Toronto. Jeong explains the Ross Vet advantage and how graduates can thrive in their career.


Step 1: Research your schools of choice.

When it comes to applying to vet schools in Canada, there are some unique challenges. The biggest one is the fact that there are only five veterinary medical colleges that turn out about 450 DVMs every year. According to Jeong, “Canadian veterinary schools receive way more applicants than there are seats in class. There is also a restriction in terms of which vet school they can apply to. Canadian students must apply to the veterinary school in their region of residency only. Therefore, the competition in Canada has always been very tough.”

This competition for seats could make Ross Vet attractive to aspiring vets from Canada. “At Ross Vet, we are accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association® (AVMA®)*,” Jeong says, “which means graduates with their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree are eligible to apply to practice anywhere in the United States or Canada. Canadian Ross Vet grads can return home and apply for jobs without having to take any additional exams or clinical practice beyond the clinical training they get through the university.” She adds, “We also offer an accelerated program of 3.25 years. Ross Vet operates three semesters per year with no summer break. Students can be ready to enter the job market in Canada or the United States, where veterinarian demand is robust.”

So, how did Dr. Cusmariu choose Ross Vet? “I heard about the school from a family friend when I was still an undergrad. I attended one of the Ross Vet information sessions, and besides wanting to be a vet, I had a lot of hours accumulated working with animals. As an undergrad, I worked at an animal clinic, and I’d also done a few years at zoo camp. The camp was a very special place. We had lions and tigers, lemurs, leopards, jaguars, rescue bears, their cubs, and smaller animals like spider monkeys.”

Step 2: Fulfill veterinary school admission requirements.

After you’ve researched where you want to apply, you need to know the requirements for acceptance. Says Jeong, “At Ross Vet, we require university courses in biology, physics, organic chemistry, biochemistry, either cellular biology or genetics, math, and English. Students must have either a bachelor’s degree or have successfully completed at least 48 credits of college work before applying. Other requirements include electives in such subjects as comparative anatomy, physiology, microbiology, introduction to business, medical terminology, and nutrition, as well as a language course.”

“The first thing we look for is a passion for the field of veterinary medicine and the drive to become a veterinarian,” she continues. “We have a holistic admissions process, which provides an opportunity to evaluate applicants based on their personal achievements and demonstrated potential, rather than relying solely on GPA. We look at the whole person.” 

“Veterinary medicine isn’t for everyone, but it is truly one of the most rewarding fields for people who love animals, communicate well with people, and are not intimidated by workdays that can be interrupted by emergencies and are as varied as the species you’re treating.”

Step 3: Complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program.

To become a vet in the United States or Canada, you must earn your DVM. Says Jeong, “Ross Vet is an AVMA-accredited school* located in St. Kitts. We have graduated more than 7,000 DVMs since our founding in 1982. The opportunities we offer on the island are unique. Our location provides close and personal interactions with domestic, native, terrestrial animals, and aquatic animals, too. We also offer more than 25 clubs that focus on everything from surgery, aquatics, and birds to research, pathology, veterinary business management, and more.”

Dr. Suleman says, “I thought about applying to schools in Canada, but it’s hard to even get an interview. I spoke with a young woman who went to Ross Vet, and she had great things to say about it. I loved that it provides the same accreditation I’d get from a Canadian vet college.

Dr. Suleman also notes the variety of training she received at Ross Vet. “Ross Vet has Ross University Veterinary Clinic (RUVC), so we get trained in clinical work, which is mostly small animals, farm animals, turtles, and other exotics. For those interested in working with zoo animals and other wildlife, Ross Vet offers a great pathway to those specialties through affiliate schools.”

Step 4: Complete your licensing requirements.

Passing the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination® (NAVLE®) is your next step to becoming a vet in Canada, and a requirement to practice veterinary medicine in both the United States and Canada. It is a multiple-choice exam administered by the International Council for Veterinary Assessment. The exam is offered throughout North America and at certain overseas testing centers. Says Dr. Suleman, “At Ross Vet, you sit for the NAVLE in your clinical year, you earn your DVM, and you’re ready to practice [with appropriate licensing].”

Step 5: Obtain additional training if you want to specialize.

If there is a specialty area of veterinary medicine you would like to pursue, you need to complete additional training through internships or residency programs. You can research your available opportunities through the Veterinary Internship & Residency Matching Program.

Dr. Cusmariu offers this advice on continuing your education journey: “Have a drive to learn and be able to study on your own. Learning never stops, even after you graduate. After a first job in one type of veterinary medicine, you may decide to switch to a specialty, so an always-learning mindset will serve you well.”

Step 6: Begin your career.

First, you may want to explore where you want to work. Spend time researching your different career options. Do you have a specific geographic location in mind? The average salary of a veterinarian in Canada or anywhere else depends on your specialty and where you practice. “Veterinarians in Canada are increasingly concerned with the current state of the veterinary profession and a severe shortage of veterinarians,” Jeong says. “This shortage represents a huge opportunity. Plus, there’s a growing demand for those with specialties. Do your research where veterinarians are most in demand and follow your journey for becoming a vet in Canada there. Then begin to reach out to your network. Contact your peers, instructors, and other vets you worked with while gaining school experience to get started. Or join a professional organization and connect.”


According to Dr. Cusmariu, there’s not much difference. “But diseases can be prominent in some areas and not even seen in others,” she says. “For instance, Florida is endemic for heartworm, and we rarely see it in Canada. But Lyme disease is prevalent in southern Ontario and the northern United States. However, it doesn’t exist in Alberta or Saskatoon. Veterinarians follow disease outbreaks closely, especially in light of the animal-to-human transfer of pathogens.”


The short answer is yes! In most cases, DVM graduates of AVMA-accredited vet schools can practice in Canada, regardless of their home country, after meeting additional requirements. After passing the NAVLE, internationally educated veterinarians — such as Ross Vet grads — petition for a Certificate of Qualification from the National Examining Board of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. If you’re not from an English-speaking nation, you’ll also need to prove your language proficiency. And, of course, you’ll need to obtain a visa to live and work in Canada. Qualified vets may be eligible for permanent residency through the Federal Skilled Worker Program.

Now that you have a better understanding of the steps to become a veterinarian in Canada, you may want to start getting your application ready. To strengthen your vet school application, have a look at our blog, How to Get Into Vet School. Also, check out the Ross Vet scholarships and financial options specific to Canadian students who apply and qualify, and read more about Dr. Suleman in her 2018 interview — when she was still a student at Ross Vet. And for Canadians and others from colder climates, take a minute to imagine living in St. Kitts for a couple years.

See yourself as a student at Ross Vet? Check out our DVM program and St. Kitts campus, or contact us for more information.

*Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine confers a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree, which is accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education (AVMA COE), 1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173, Tel: 800.248.2862. For more information, please visit 

The AVMA COE uses defined standards to evaluate veterinary medical education programs, including facilities, clinical resources, curriculum, faculty, student outcomes and research programs. The standards are interpreted and applied by the AVMA COE- accredited veterinary medical education programs in relation to its mission. 

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