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A Career in the Veterinary Profession

Doctors of Veterinary Medicine are medical professionals, whose primary responsibility is protecting the health and welfare of animals and people. Veterinarians diagnose and control animal disease, treat sick and injured animals, prevent the transmission of zoonotic diseases between animals and people, and advise owners on proper care of pets, working animals and livestock. They ensure a safe food supply by maintaining the health of food animals and inspecting meat and poultry products. The practice of veterinary medicine is changing. In addition to applying new technology to the care of animals, veterinarians help to preserve endangered species, provide high standards of care for laboratory animals, and carry out high-quality research to solve problems of animal disease while contributing to the resolution of human health problems.

Career opportunities are available in a wide variety of settings and involve diverse activities. Most veterinarians are engaged in private practice. Others pursue careers in government, education, research and industry. Challenging careers are offered by government agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Army and Air Force, the Department of Energy, the Peace Corps and the Aeronautics and Space Administration. Careers in laboratory animal medicine, zoo animal practice, public health and food inspection are also available.

Private Clinical Practice

In the United States, approximately 74% of veterinarians are in private clinical practice. Of those, about 58% are engaged in exclusively small animal practice in which they treat only companion animals. Approximately 8% limit their practice to the care of farm animals or horses. Another 29% are involved in what is known as mixed animal practice. Their patients include all types of pets, horses and livestock.

Veterinarians in private clinical practice work to prevent disease and other health problems in their patients. They examine animal patients, vaccinate them against disease  between animal and people, and advise owners on ways to keeps pets, working animal and livestock well nourished and healthy. When health problems develop, practitioners must diagnose the problem and treat their patients. Accurate diagnosis frequently requires the use of laboratory tests, radiography (x-rays) and specialized equipment. Treatments may involve emergency lifesaving measures, prescribing medication, setting a fracture, delivering a calf, performing surgery, or advising the owner on feeding and care of the patient.

Teaching and Research

Many veterinarians are engaged in educating students, other medical professionals and scientists at schools and colleges of veterinary medicine. In addition to teaching, veterinary school faculty members conduct basic and clinical research, provide various services to the public, contribute to scientific publications, and develop continuing education programs to help graduate veterinarians acquire new knowledge and skills. Veterinarians in research seek better ways to prevent and solve animal and human health problems. Many problems, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease, are studied through the use of laboratory animals, which are carefully bred, raised and maintained under the supervision of veterinarians. Laboratory animal veterinarians help select the best animal models for particular research projects and ensure that the animals receive proper care.

In addition to developing ways to reduce or eliminate the threat of animal diseases, veterinarians involved in research have made many direct contributions to human health. Veterinarians first isolated filterable viruses, tumor-causing viruses, the Salmonella and Brucella species of bacteria and other pathogenic agents. Veterinarians also helped conquer malaria and yellow fever, solved the mystery of botulism, and produced an anticoagulant used to treat some people with heart disease.

Regulatory Medicine

Veterinarians in regulatory medicine have two major responsibilities; the control or elimination of certain diseases and protection of the public from animal diseases that can affect people. Veterinarians who work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and for state and municipal food inspection services protect the public from diseased livestock and unsafe meat and poultry. They ensure that food products are safe and wholesome.

To prevent the introduction of foreign diseases, veterinarians employed by state and federal regulatory agencies quarantine and inspect animals brought into the United States from other countries. They supervise shipments of animals, test for the presence of diseases, and manage campaigns to prevent and eradicate many diseases, such as tuberculosis, brucellosis and rabies that threaten animal and human health. Department of Agriculture veterinarians in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) monitor the development and testing of new vaccines to ensure their safety and effectiveness.

Public Health

Veterinarians also work in public health for city, county, state and federal agencies. They help to prevent and control animal and human diseases and promote good health. As epidemiologists they investigate animal and human disease outbreaks, such as food borne illness, influenza, plague, rabies, AIDS, and encephalitis. They evaluate the safety of food processing plants, restaurants and water supplies. Veterinarians in environmental health programs study and evaluate the effects of various pesticides industrial pollutants and other contaminants on people as well as animals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) employs veterinarians to determine the safety and efficacy of medicines and food additives. Veterinarians in government and private laboratories provide diagnostic and testing services. Some veterinarians serve as state epidemiologists, directors of environmental health, and directors of state or city public health departments. The agriculture Research Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency, National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health also employ veterinarians.

U.S. Military

Veterinarians serving as officers in the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps are responsible for food safety, veterinary care of government-owned animals, and biomedical research and development. Officers with special training in laboratory animal medicine, pathology, microbiology, or related disciplines are actively engaged in research programs with the military and other government agencies.

In the U.S. Air Force, veterinarians serve in the biochemical Science corps as public health officers. These officers manage communicable disease control programs at Air Force bases around the world that halt the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, encephalitis, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.

Private Industry

Veterinarians working in pharmaceutical and biomedical research firms develop, test and supervise the production of drugs, chemicals and biological products such as antibiotics and vaccines for human and animal use. These veterinarians usually have specialized training in pharmacology, virology, bacteriology, toxicology, pathology, parasitology, nutrition, endocrinology or laboratory animal medicine. Veterinarians are also employed in management, technical sales and service and marketing in agribusinesses, pet food companies and pharmaceutical companies. Veterinarians also are in demand for positions in the agricultural chemical industry, private testing laboratories and laboratory animal medicine.

Career Information Reprinted from "Today's Veterinarian", AVMA, 2001

Veterinary Medicine Education

There are currently 27 schools of veterinary medicine in the United States and four in Canada graduating approximately 2,100 new veterinarians every year. The 27 accredited veterinary colleges in the United States are the only schools in the U.S. at which a veterinary medical degree can be earned. Most veterinary colleges are located at state universities and give preference to applicants of that state. Many states without veterinary colleges contract with one or more colleges for the admission of a limited number of their residents each year. Many veterinary colleges accept a limited number of non-resident applicants to their program. During their final year of veterinary school, students take the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). Upon successfully passing the NAVLE, meeting state license requirements and completing their veterinary degree program successfully, students become licensed veterinarians eligible to practice veterinary medicine in the United States.

Students interested in a career in veterinary medicine should begin preparing by doing well in general science and biology courses in junior high school. Students need to take a strong biology, chemistry, physics and math background in high school. To be considered for admission to a college of veterinary medicine, students must first complete undergraduate pre-veterinary medical coursework which normally takes three to four years of college study. Pre-veterinary studies include required courses in chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, English composition and liberal education. Students may purse their pre-veterinary studies at any accredited college or university. Students may pursue any undergraduate major. Many community and junior colleges also offer the majority of courses required with the possible exception of some of the more advanced science courses such as genetics, microbiology and biochemistry. Although a Bachelor's degree is not required, 70 to 80% of students entering veterinary programs have completed their Bachelor's degree. The most common majors for students entering veterinary medicine are biology and animal science but include students with majors in many fields including engineering, business administration, education or any number of liberal education majors.

Veterinary Medical Education at the University of Minnesota

College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota was established in 1947 and endeavors to prepare veterinary students to enter a variety of careers. The College awards the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.) degree. The College also offers two graduate programs leading to a M.S. or Ph.D. in Molecular Veterinary Bioscience or in Veterinary Medicine.

The curriculum in the D.V.M. program focuses on providing a sound foundation in the basic biomedical sciences to enable you to understand the causes and control of animal diseases and the maintenance of animal health. A substantial portion of your training will take place in the veterinary teaching hospital of the University, where your knowledge of the basic sciences will be applied to solving clinical problems. Specialization in the D.V.M. program is possible but limited. During the fourth-year clinical rotations, students select 28 options in the large, mixed, small animal medicine or equine tracking system. This includes up to ten weeks of externship experience with area veterinary clinics. The College of Veterinary Medicine is located in a four-building complex on the St. Paul campus adjacent to the Minnesota State Fair grounds.

Admission Requirements

Enrollment in the professional curriculum is limited. A total of 80 students are admitted each Fall Semester. First priority is given to Minnesota residents and to students from states and provinces where reciprocity applies to the veterinary program (North Dakota, South Dakota & Manitoba, Canada). Minority and disadvantaged students are welcomed and should contact the Office of Student Affairs in the College of Veterinary Medicine for assistance.

To qualify for admission to the College of Veterinary Medicine, you must complete specific courses at an accredited U.S. college or university. Students may select any undergraduate major as a pre-veterinary major. Many students select majors in biology or agriculture because of substantial course overlap with requirements for admission to the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Students normally take the GRE fall of the year that they are submitting their application to veterinary school. Three letters of evaluation from people who know you well and who are in some position to evaluate your character and work habits (preferably a veterinarian who can document your veterinary work experience) also are required. The University of Minnesota is a part of the national application process through the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS). The VMCAS application is available as a web-based application at beginning June 1st each year. Students not having access to the web should contact the College of Veterinary Medicine for information on obtaining a paper copy version of the VMCAS application. The deadline for submitting your veterinary school application is October 1, nearly a year in advance of when you would begin the veterinary program.

Pre-Veterinary Course Requirements

High School students interested in Veterinary Medicine should include chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics as part of their high school program. College pre-veterinary courses must include English composition (6-9 semester hours), Mathematics (3-5 semester hours of algebra, pre-calculus or calculus), general chemistry (8-12 semester hours), organic chemistry (5-10 semester hours), biochemistry (3-5 semester hours), general biology (6-10 semester hours including animal biology or zoology), genetics (3-5 semester hours), microbiology (3-5 semester hours) and Physics (8-12 semester hours). Students must also include 12 to 16 semester hours of liberal education credits in the social sciences and humanities.

Entering Class Profile - Fall 2002

80 Students Admitted Resident Non-Resident
Applications Received 184 492
Seats in Class 61 19

Academic Averages of Successful Applicants

Required Course GPA Average 3.60
Range / Required Course GPA 2.96 to 4.00
Recent Course GPA (last 45 credits) 3.74
Range / Recent Course GPA 3.27 to 4.00
GRE Combined Score Mean 1870 (out of a possible score of 2400)
Range / GRE Scores 1490 to 2210

College Visits

The annual Open House for the College of Veterinary medicine is held in April each year. The date for spring 2003 is Sunday, April 6 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The Open House is sponsored by the Student Chapter of the American Veterinary Medical Association and is free of charge. The Open House includes exhibits, demonstrations, tours and fun for all ages including pre-school children. No reservation is necessary. Please call 612-624-4747 for more information.

Information seminars about admission to the veterinary medicine program (including tours of the teaching hospital) are held the second and fourth Monday of every month beginning at 1:30 p.m. Please call 612-624-4747 to schedule an appointment and for seminar location.

Contact Information

Office of Student Affairs and Admissions
College of Veterinary Medicine
460 Veterinary Teaching Hospital
1365 Gortner Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
Phone 612-624-4747

Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association
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