Is my desire to become a vet for wildlife animals impractical?
I've been thinking of becoming a vet, and love wildlife, so have been thinking about becoming a wildlife vet. However, is this impractical? My family isn't exactly rolling in money either, so is it impractical schooling wise as well?
Asked By: Lowpool - 8/16/2012
It is possible to become a wildlife vet, but these jobs are hard to find. Don't let that discourage you though, if it is what you want to do! There are other jobs working with wildlife if you decide not to go the route of vet school. If you do go to vet school, you may find out that you like some other area of vet med even more than wildlife and end up doing something completely different, but something you love! That's the nice thing about vet med, there are so many opportunities and different ways to go! Vet school is expensive, but you will be considered independent from your parents and will be able to get loans to cover the cost, so if it is what you really want, don't let the money discourage you! Here's a little about becoming a vet:
Most people who go to vet school have a bachelor's degree, but it is not required to get into vet school. There are only 28 veterinary schools in the country (There are also several international schools that are AVMA accredited) and entrance to these is highly competitive, so not having a bachelor's can make it more difficult.
The schools' requirements vary slightly, so look into the specific school you are interested in first- I have included a link in my sources to a descriptor page with requirements for each school. Most require biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physics, math, and English. You can complete the courses you need at any college that offers them, including a community college if money is an issue. Schools also require a certain amount of experience with animals (having a pet does not count in this!) and experience working with a veterinarian. You will also need to take the GRE or MCAT before applying. This may seem like a lot, but the schools want to know you can handle the course load in vet school and know about the career. Tip: keep a record of your activities, hours, and honors- you can put things on your vet apps as far back as high school!
Where you apply depends a lot on where you live. Vet schools reserve a certain number of seats for students who are residents of the state the vet school is located in. This is where your best chance of being accepted is, but you can also apply to out of state schools. The Veterinary Medical College Application Service handles the main application. Most schools also have a supplemental application which you must get from the school itself. Most schools have interviews, but some do not.
Once you make it through the application process and are accepted, (yay!) the hard work begins. Veterinary school is four years. It is medical school, but for multiple species. Typically the structure is three years of classroom work and one year of clinical training. Each program is a little different, check into the individual schools' websites for more information. Making it through vet school is difficult. You will be in class for 8-9 hours each day during the week and will need to spend evenings and weekends studying. During clinical rotations you may be required to be at the hospital at all hours. You can also do an internship or residency after graduation to become more specialized.
Please also take cost into account when planning your undergraduate course work! The average vet student in 2010 graduated with about $130,000 in debt. Vet school tuition alone (this does not include books, room, board, and other expenses) ranges from the cheapest being $13,000 (North Carolina, in state students) to almost $60,000 (Ohio, out of state students) per year. The majority of financing is going to be in loans, which are all unsubsidized starting this year, so interest will be accruing while you are in school. There are not a lot of grants and scholarships for professional students the way there are for undergraduate students.
The average starting salary for a vet is between $43,000 and $71,000 depending on what area you are going in to. The median annual wage for veterinarians was $82,000 in 2010. Veterinarians have the worst debt to salary ratio of any of the professional school graduates (lawyers, physicians, dentists, pharmacists, etc,.) There are no veterinarians I know of who got into the career because they wanted to make lots of money. For more information on salary statistics and the career see the link to the Bureau of Labor information in my sources.
If you are still interested in becoming a veterinarian after reading all of this then fantastic! A good way to start getting a feel for the career is to call some local vets and ask if you could spend an afternoon shadowing them! There are also other careers with animals that you may not have considered that would be just as rewarding- I have put a link to a website about animal related careers in my sources, take a look at that!
Best of luck to you!!
Answered By: Jenn - 8/16/2012