Animal Doctor: How to Become an Animal Doctor

Published Aug 12, 2009

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Animal Doctors, commonly called veterinarians, provide medical care for large and small animals. Working in zoos, private veterinary clinics and laboratories, Animal Doctors treat sick animals, vaccinate animals against disease and carry out research on animal health.

Animal Doctor Career Summary

Animal Doctors, better known as veterinarians, care for our pets, livestock and zoo animals. Animal Doctors examine, prescribe medication and perform surgeries on animals. Their patients range from pets, such as dogs and cats, to larger animals, such as horses and even zoo animals. Animal Doctors work in many settings, but in the U.S. they mainly work in private veterinary clinics, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov. Some Doctors of Veterinary Medicine diagnose and treat sick animals, some research animal diseases and others work in food inspection for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Education Required to Become an Animal Doctor

Animal Doctors generally hold an undergraduate degree in biology or another field of life science before applying to graduate school in veterinary medicine. To become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.), one must complete a D.V.M. graduate program at an accredited veterinary school. Many schools offer veterinary courses or technology degree programs for the veterinary technologists who assist Animal Doctors, but only 28 colleges and universities in the United States offer the D.V.M. program. The D.V.M. degree program takes a minimum of four years to complete. Some programs combine the D.V.M. with a graduate research degree like a Ph.D. - these may take longer. During the D.V.M. degree program students may decide to specialize, which may require further study. Specializations include anesthesia, cardiology, food animal practice, lab animal medicine or zoological medicine, to name a few. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, www.avma.org, approximately 2,100 students graduate with a D.V.M. degree annually.

Job Training and Certifications Required to Become an Animal Doctor

Although each state has its own specific licensure requirements for Animal Doctors, all states require a passing grade on the comprehensive North American Veterinary Licensing Examination. All but four states require proof of successful completion of continuing education requirements for veterinary license renewal, says the American Association of Veterinary State Boards, www.aavsb.org. Veterinarians may become board certified in a veterinary specialty by organizations such as the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, www.abvp.com. Animal Doctors may need many years of experience before applying for a specialty board certification.

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