Equine veterinarians specialize in working with members of the equine species such as horses and ponies. Their duties include things like medical care, assistance with reproduction and birthing, and vaccinations. Equine veterinarians have a range of working options including private practice, consulting, university research or animal hospitals. By learning what it takes to become an equine veterinarian, you can decide if it’s the right career path for you.
Part 1 of 4:
Preparing for College
1Start early. Take general science, biology and chemistry classes in junior high and high school to prepare for college. Classes like these will give you a framework for topics in college level science courses and give you an idea of what you’re getting into before you commit to a program of study.
2Get experience working with animals. Volunteering at animal shelters or human societies can give you hands-on experience working with animals and prepare you for your future career.
- Remember, any experience you plan on submitting to a college as evidence of your commitment and work ethic needs to be well documented. Be sure to obtain proof of your involvement in these activities, and request letters of reference. X Research source
- It may also be helpful to have experience interacting directly with horses, so try working, volunteering, or interning at a stable, or even participating in activities like horseback riding.
- Most veterinarians will hire high schoolers as kennel staff or even veterinary assistants. Even if it’s not a horse-only practice, any experience within a veterinary environment will look good on college applications.
3Apply to an undergraduate college or university. The college application process is lengthy and involved, so get started on it as early as you can. X Research source Expect to fill out information about extra-curricular activities and compose a personal essay. Keep track of any community service or volunteer work you may have done—many colleges will look specifically for evidence that you’re donating your time to worthy causes.
- Most high schools have guidance counselors who will walk you through the application and admissions process. Take advantage of this and any other resources your high school provides for prospective college students.
4Pursue a pre-veterinary degree in college. As an undergraduate, enroll in a pre-veterinary program of study to prepare for veterinary school. Expect the courses to be demanding and science-heavy with a heavy emphasis on biology. But beyond just being challenging, pre-veterinary programs will give you hands-on experience and allow you to make connections within your field. You can even join clubs within your program to get advice from older students and teachers. Graduating from a pre-veterinary program typically takes 4 years.
- Every veterinary school's expectations of an undergraduate's coursework are different. If your undergraduate college doesn't have a specific pre-veterinary track, consult with an academic adviser and take a science-heavy course load. This typically takes 4 years.
- Work or at least volunteer at a veterinary clinic during your undergraduate college years so that you’ll have good experience and letters of recommendation to include in your applications for graduate school.
Part 2 of 4:
Going to Veterinary School
1Apply to an accredited veterinary program. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is the main body of accreditation for veterinary schools. It represents more than 89,000 professionals in the veterinary field, and while it’s not a requirement that every veterinary school be accredited, the vast majority of well-respected schools have opted for AVMA accreditation. Accredited schools are held to higher standards of education and obtaining a certification from an accredited program can make it easier to find a job. X Research source
- Depending on your veterinary school of choice, you may need to take the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT) exam before applying. This is a standardized test designed to indicate an applicant's level of readiness for graduate level coursework and your scores may determine your eligibility or likelihood of acceptance.
2Complete veterinary school. Here, you will earn your Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree (DVM). You’ll learn about things like diagnostic procedures, radiology and imaging technology, and preventative techniques. This degree typically takes 4 years to complete.
3Take part in clinical rotations. In your last year of school, gain additional experience while completing your DVM degree by pursuing clinical rotations that focus solely on veterinary medicine for equines. Fourth year clinical rotations are a crucial preparation for your day to day work as an equine veterinarian. You should expect it to be challenging yet informative, as you’ll be working directly under a certified veterinarian. X Research source
- Most colleges, but not all, will allow you to “track” or specify what type of medicine you want to practice. You may be able to choose equine or large animal which will fast track you to specializing in just horses.
Part 3 of 4:
1Take your state's veterinary board exam. In order to legally practice equine medicine and be licensed, you’ll have to take and pass the board exam. Like many other professions, becoming a veterinarian means you have to be board certified. Passing the state veterinary board exam can be difficult, so be sure to study and take advantage of any preparatory classes that may be available. X Research source
2Complete an internship in equine veterinary practice. After finishing the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree and licensing, many graduates choose to pursue a one-year internship. While not necessary to begin practicing, doing an internship under a seasoned equine vet will teach you much about the equine industry that you may not have learned in school. Additionally, internships can hone your diagnostic and therapeutic skills and boost your chances of finding a job.
- These paid, hands-on opportunities can be found through networking or listings through the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) or the American Association of Veterinary Clinicians. X Research source
- You can do your internship in a variety of places including with a larger ambulatory practice, a referral hospital, a race track practice, a solo practitioner, or even within another college of veterinary medicine.
3Apply for certification to be an equine specialist. After completing an internship, some people choose to specialize even further within their discipline. The American Board of Veterinary Practitioners recognizes several subspecialties within equine veterinary including sports medicine, radiology, theriogenology, large animal surgery or equine internal medicine.
- Before you can apply for certification, you must complete a residency program that typically lasts 2-5 years and is best carried out at an accredited equine specialization facility. These programs are designed to familiarize you with large animal veterinary practice and to prepare you for certification within your specialty. Sometimes you’ll be required to work with other large animal species as well, but the majority of your residency will be spent working directly with horses.
- Certification will be complete once you have passed the 4-part exam. Upon passing, the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners will recognize you as an equine specialist.
Part 4 of 4:
Landing Your First Job
1Do your research. Most equine veterinarians work in private practice, but many others work for the government, in labs, or in classrooms as educators. Read testimonials by professionals working in these different work environments to find out which one is best suited to your talents.
- As of 2015, the median salary for equine veterinarians was about $88,000 dollars, but this salary can vary depending on which working environment you choose. It’s important to consider how much you’ll need per year to support your lifestyle before applying to jobs. X Research source
2Apply for a job. Once you’ve determined what type of job you’re interested in, gather the necessary paperwork documenting your various internships, residency, and applicable experience. Once you feel confident in your resume, seek out and apply for jobs in your area.
- If you like the people you worked with during your internship or residency, and you feel like you made a good impression, try applying there first.
3Interview well. Once you’ve landed your first interview, dress appropriately (when in doubt, business casual is usually a safe bet), and emphasize your strengths to your interviewer. Most employers end up hiring people who are inventive or offer solutions to problems, or who they believe will add value to their practice. X Research source Think back on your experiences and review your qualifications to communicate your worth to your would-be employer.
- If you don’t get a job right away, don’t take it personally. Be persistent in seeking out new opportunities and applying to jobs—perseverance is key!
QuestionI'm in high school and want to start preparing for school in the future. What can I do now to help?The best way to prepare for vet school is to start by volunteering in veterinary hospitals. Get as much experience as you can and do and learn as much as the veterinarians will let you.
QuestionI've been working with horses for a while, and I'd like to become an equine vet. What's the total number of years I will need to go to school for?You will need to be in school for 8 years (4 years of under grad, and 4 years of graduate school) plus usually a 1 year internship if you'd like to become an equine vet.
QuestionWhat college could I go to in Florida to become and equine vet?The University of Florida in Gainesville, FL is one college in Florida that has a veterinary program.
QuestionHow many years of college are required?Community AnswerAbout 8 total. You need an undergraduate degree, which is about 4 years, then actual vet school, which is another 4 years.
QuestionI'm 13 and I want to start working with animals now, how can I do this?Community AnswerI volunteered at three different animal shelters, and have shadowed at three different vet offices since I was nine. I've gained tons of experience this way!
QuestionDo you get to take care of other animals as well if you are an equine veterinarian?Community AnswerIt depends on the type of practice you end up working in, but your training as a veterinarian will prepare you to care for all sorts of animals.
QuestionI want to be an equine vet, but my dad doesn't want to have a pet in the house, and there is no animal shelter nearby. How will I ever get the experience I need?Community AnswerTry taking care of pets for friends and walking dogs for neighbors. Maybe set up a small neighborhood business. You don't absolutely need to have experience as a kid/teen to be an equine vet when you grow up, it's just helpful.
Can I apply for equine veterniary school after getting a bachelors degree in equine science?
- Make sure you have horse handling experience before you start vet school to be an equine vet. Many schools do not teach horsemanship because their focus is on veterinary medicine and expect you to already have the knowledge of how to handle a horse safely and humanely.
- Join your veterinary program or local area's chapter of the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) for networking and professional development opportunities. X Research source
- You can further specialize within equine veterinary medicine by focusing on internal medicine, surgery or another specialty. You’ll need to study an additional 3-to-4 years in a residency and then pass additional certification tests administered by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
- While most students are admitted to a veterinary program after obtaining a four year degree, some veterinary schools will admit students who have not completed a Bachelor's degree. Be sure to consult a specific program's prerequisites before leaving your undergraduate program.
- Before applying to veterinary school to be an equine vet, become a member of 4H or Pony Club to get as much horsemanship experience as possible.
- It is not easy to become a veterinarian of any specialty. There are only 34 colleges or schools of veterinary medicine in the United States, Canada and the West Indies and typically 1/3 of applicants are accepted. Working hard, keeping your grades up, and gaining experience through volunteering are all necessary steps to becoming a veterinarian.
- ↑ http://aavmc.org/prevetfaq.aspx
- ↑ https://www.universitylanguage.com/guides/applying-to-college/
- ↑ https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/Accreditation101.aspx
- ↑ http://www.veterinarypracticenews.com/April-2009/First-Impressions-Of-Fourth-Year-Rotations/
- ↑ https://www.vettechprep.com/study-tips.jsp
- ↑ http://learn.org/articles/Equine_Veterinarian_Career_Summary_Job_Outlook_and_Education_Requirements.html
- ↑ https://collegegrad.com/careers/veterinarians
- ↑ http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/opinion/friedman-how-to-get-a-job.html
- ↑ http://www.aaep.org/