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Pre-Professional Health Fields

Pre-Veterinary

The decision to go to veterinary school is a very important one and requires a good deal of thought and research on the student’s part. Attending a professional school is neither easy nor cheap, so students should take their preparation seriously. TJC offers students the necessary coursework they need and can prepare them for admission into veterinary school.

Becoming a Veterinarian

Veterinarians, or doctors of veterinary medicine (D.V.M.), protect the health and welfare of all animals and therefore society as a whole. They diagnose and control animal diseases, treat sick animals, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to people, and advise owners on proper care of their pets. Veterinarians also ensure a safe food supply by maintaining the health of livestock. They protect the public from residues of herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics that may be found in livestock. They use their knowledge to increase food production through genetics, animal feed production, and preventative medicine. Veterinarians are also involved in wildlife preservation and conservation. Many veterinarians are self-employed, but increasingly they are being employed by businesses and companies where animal care occurs.

Although veterinary medicine programs require only two years of pre-vet study emphasizing physical and biological sciences, almost all successful applicants complete four years of college before being accepted. Majors in a scientific field are common, especially biology, since a student needs to demonstrate the ability to master upper-level sciences. At the same time, applicants must acquire documented experience working with animals and a practicing veterinarian; the more varied this experience, the better. During or after the junior year of college, students take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as further validation of their readiness for professional school. With only one veterinary school in Texas and with more applicants than there are class positions, admission is highly competitive. The best candidates have high grades and good GRE scores. In recent years the average applicant admitted to the School of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M has had a GPA near 3.65, with scores around 155 on both the verbal and quantitative sections of the GRE, and with a score of 4 on the analytical section.

Although veterinary medicine programs require only two years of pre-vet study emphasizing physical and biological sciences, almost all successful applicants complete four years of college before being accepted. Majors in a scientific field are common, especially biology, since a student needs to demonstrate the ability to master upper-level sciences. At the same time, applicants must acquire documented experience working with animals and a practicing veterinarian; the more varied this experience, the better. During or after the junior year of college, students take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as further validation of their readiness for professional school. With only one veterinary school in Texas and with more applicants than there are class positions, admission is highly competitive. The best candidates have high grades and good GRE scores. In recent years the average applicant admitted to the School of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M has had a GPA near 3.65, with scores around 155 on both the verbal and quantitative sections of the GRE, and with a score of 4 on the analytical section.

Besides high intellectual ability and a strong record of academic achievement, the professional schools are looking for applicants who demonstrate motivation for their chosen field, communicate well with people, and exhibit important characteristics like compassion, maturity and integrity. Getting good grades while participating in extracurricular organization and gaining experience with animals demonstrates the ability to manage time and set priorities, traits the professional schools look for in applicants.

The doctor of veterinary medicine itself is composed of three years of classroom study followed by a year of clinical rotations. Texas requires that veterinarians be licensed to practice private clinical medicine. Upon graduation, they must pass one or more national examinations and a state examination for licensure. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, the average annual salary for a veterinarian in Texas is around $90,000.

Required Coursework

Specific science and mathematics requirements for each veterinary school in the United States vary. The following information pertains to the pre-requisites of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine. Science courses must be taught at the level required for a science major, not majors in nursing or allied health fields.  Many of the required courses are available at TJC, with the exception of animal nutrition and courses that are specified as upper-division:

  • BIOL 1406 - Majors Biology I

  • BIOL 2421 – Majors Microbiology

  • CHEM 1411/1412 General Chemistry I and II

  • CHEM 2423/2425 Organic Chemistry I and II

  • PHYS 1401/1402 College Physics I and II

  • ENGL 1301 Composition I

  • ENGL 2311 Technical Writing

  • PSYC 2301 Introduction to Psychology

  • SPCH 1315 or 1321 Speech Communication

  • 3 hrs of Statistics (upper division)

  • 3 hrs of Biochemistry (upper division)

  • 3 hrs of Genetics (upper division)

  • 3 hrs of Animal Nutrition

Experience with Animals

Knowledge of animal behavior and experience working with them is critical preparation for a successful veterinarian. General agriculture knowledge is encouraged for those interested in farm animal veterinary medicine. Appropriate preparation includes formal training under the direction of a veterinarian as well as informal contact with and handling of animals. In all cases this experience must be documented for application to the veterinary school. Applicants should work or volunteer in an appropriate setting which provides exposure to animals by contacting a veterinarian clinic, a zoo, a pet shop, etc.

 

Undergraduate Major

There is no such thing as a degree in pre-vet! While obtaining the prerequisite courses for veterinary school, students are also completing the requirements of their majors. Although many students earn a bachelor’s in biology because they have completed so much of the coursework for that degree, professional schools do not require any one particular major. Instead of asking "What should I major in?" the better question is "What are professional schools looking for in an applicant?" Professional programs seek intelligent, highly motivated, well-rounded and articulate students who can demonstrate academic success in the prerequisite science courses and in their majors. Typically students will have greater success doing something they truly enjoy. Trying to force yourself into a certain academic major that you don’t like will probably result in a low GPA, one that essentially prevents you from being a competitive applicant. The choice of a major should also be made with a sense of opportunity. Rarely do individuals have the opportunity to learn more about the world and the people around them than when they are undergraduates. Students should take advantage of the opportunity to broaden their horizons and their intellect. This might also enhance a student’s uniqueness and diversity to admissions committees.  Another practical question that must be asked is "What would you do if you didn't get into veterinary school?". This is not an uncommon question in a professional school interview. Typically, the interviewer is seeking insight into your level of maturity to see if you have alternate plans for your life or if you have put all your eggs in one basket. It just makes sense for all students to prepare a "plan B". A college degree is far too difficult and expensive to earn to go unused. So the best major is one you enjoy, one that sharpens your critical thinking skills, one that broadens your perspective and one that may help you have a great career should veterinary school not be possible.

Veterinary School Application Schedule

The application process typically begins around the end of the junior year of college by taking theGraduate Record Exam (GRE).  Starting in May and continuing through the summer, candidates submit their application materials. The process for the Texas A&M veterinary school starts online through the Texas Medical and Dental Schools Application Service (TMDSAS). Candidates considering out-of-state schools may be required to use the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS) instead. Most schools require a separate supplemental application be completed on their own websites. For Texas A&M, applications are reviewed in the fall and some of the candidates are invited for an interview in the winter. Offers of admission are made in March.

Helpful Links

Links to Texas Veterinary Schools