Office of Pre-Health Advising

Veterinary Medicine

General Information

Veterinary medicine encompasses a very diverse professional field. Although traditionally associated with treating and preventing animal disease, veterinarians are also directly involved in protecting public health. The veterinary field has become very specialized, with most modern veterinarians choosing to concentrate in areas such as small animal, large animal, food animal, or exotic animal species.

Following completion of pre-veterinary studies, veterinary school is a standard 4-year curriculum. After receiving the DVM (or VMD) degree, the graduate veterinarian is eligible to take national and state board exams, and apply for a license to practice. Licensing is controlled by the state board of veterinary medicine in each state where the veterinarian wants to practice. If a license is granted, the veterinarian may go directly into practice; internships and residencies are not required.

For those who want to become clinical specialists, internships and residencies are available at larger referral centers. Veterinary medical specialties exist in areas such as internal medicine, surgery, ophthalmology, anesthesiology, dentistry, dermatology, theriogenology (reproduction), radiology, toxicology, emergency/critical care, and zoological medicine, to name a few. Specialty boards grant board certification to candidates who successfully complete residencies and pass specialty board examinations.

Planning the Program of Study

“Pre-Vet” is not a degree, nor is it a major or a minor. It is a “plan of action” that is designed to prepare you to meet the requirements for admission into veterinary school, in addition to completing a 4-year Bachelor’s degree.

The majority of students accepted into veterinary school receive a BS or BSA degree in a science field (especially biology, chemistry, and animal science). Veterinary school admissions committees have no preference for any particular undergraduate major, and a science degree is not a prerequisite for veterinary school.

Pre-Veterinary Course Requirements

The requirements for admission to veterinary schools are determined by each individual veterinary school. There is no single “universal list” of prerequisite courses that applies to all veterinary schools. Although there is a similar core of classes, each school modifies the “core” to suit their own needs. For specific school-by-school requirements, the primary reference is the Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements (VMSAR). You may purchase a copy of the VMSAR directly at; a copy is also available in the Pre-Health Advising office. You should also visit individual veterinary schools’ websites for a listing of their current admissions requirements.

The minimum course requirements for most of the U.S. veterinary schools are:

General Biology-one year    BIO 166 & 167 (with labs)
General Chemistry-one year   CHE 166/167 & 168/169 (with labs)
General Physics-one year  PHY 166 & 167 (with labs)
Organic Chemistry-one year CHE 232/233 & 234/235 (with labs)
Calculus – at least one semester  MAT 175 /155 & 176/156 (with labs)
Statistics – at least one semester  
English – one year  ENG 110 & 120

In addition to the above courses:

  • Microbiology (with lab) is often required or highly recommended.
  • Biochemistry is often highly recommended.
  • Genetics is often required or highly recommended.
  • Public Speaking is sometimes required or highly recommended.
  • Animal Nutrition is sometimes required or highly recommended
  • Vertebrate Zoology or Anatomy is sometimes required or highly recommended

Other courses that are occasionally required and often recommended to help prepare for admissions tests and/or veterinary school include:

  • Cell Biology
  • Histology/Embryology
  • Vertebrate (Comparative) Anatomy
  • Animal (or Mammalian) Physiology
  • Immunology
  • Business (Accounting, Small Business Management, Economics)
  • Computer Science

Admissions Process

For most students, the application process will begin at the end of the junior year for entry into vet school in the fall of the following year (ie, apply in 2010 for entry into vet school in fall 2011). The end of the junior year is also when most students take the GRE; GRE scores are usually a required part of the formal application.

There are 3 basic steps in the admissions process:

1. Primary Application (VMCAS)

2. Secondary Application

3. Interview

Step 1: Primary Application

Nearly all of the US veterinary schools use a centralized application processing service known as VMCAS (Veterinary Medical College Application Service). Two Canadian, 2 Scottish, 1 English, 1 Irish, 1 Australian, and 1 New Zealand school also use VMCAS. If a school participates in the application service, you typically must apply through that service. To apply to a non-VMCAS school, you must contact the school’s admissions department or website to obtain an application.

The VMCAS application service uses an on-line application form that is downloaded and filed through their website:


The forms are made available in early June, which begins the official application period or “application season”. The application season ends with the final VMCAS deadline, which is usually in early October. The application is submitted electronically via the Internet. Three letters of evaluation and an application fee are also sent to VMCAS. VMCAS will not process an application until everything has been received; once received, it may take several weeks to process the application. After processing, VMCAS sends your completed application to each school that you are applying to . From that point on, VMCAS has completed their role; the student then communicates and deals directly with each vet school.

Step 2: Secondary Application

Supplemental or “secondary” applications, requesting additional information, letters of recommendation, additional essays or short statements, and an additional application fee, are obtained directly from the veterinary schools (not VMCAS). If a veterinary school requires a supplemental application, they will publish a deadline to submit the extra materials and fees.

Admissions test scores are usually due at this stage of the application process. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General Test is the most commonly required admissions test for veterinary schools. The GRE General Test is computer-based and is administered year-round at Prometric Test Centers. It consists of almost 3 hours of testing. The test is divided into 3 sections, and each section is scored and reported individually:

  • Analytical Writing
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning

There is complete information on the GRE at, which is the official GRE website. Registration for the test is available online at the GRE website.

Most veterinary schools have a minimum GRE score required for admission. Students are encouraged to take the GRE prior to submitting their applications to veterinary schools, usually late in the junior year or summer between junior and senior years. Time should be allowed for repeating the test if the first test score is not competitive; only 1 attempt per month is allowed, up to a maximum of 5 tests per 12-month period. Most veterinary schools require that GRE scores be current within several years of matriculation (not application).

A small number of veterinary schools require the GRE Biology Subject Test in addition to the GRE General Test. GRE Subject Tests are paper-based, and are given 3 times per year: November, December, and April. You may retest as often as the test is offered, but all test scores earned in the last 5 years will be reported. Since the GRE Biology Subject Test covers topics such as cell/molecular biology, genetics, organismal biology, ecology, and evolution, the test should not be attempted until the student has had sufficient coursework in these areas. More information is available at

Your official GRE scores are reported directly to the schools by GRE, not VMCAS. You identify the veterinary schools that you want your scores sent to when you register to take the GRE. You have the option to add additional schools at any time after the test is taken. It takes approximately 2 weeks after the test date for GRE General score reports to reach the vet schools; approximately 5 weeks are required to report GRE Subject (Biology) test scores.

Step 3: Interview

Following review of secondaries, a group of top applicants will be invited for personal interviews. This is the final step of the admissions process at most schools. Interviews are usually held in February and March. Currently, NCSU does not use interviews as part of the application process.

Factors in Applicant Selection by Veterinary Schools

There are several standard factors that all veterinary schools consider when selecting each year’s entering freshmen. Individual schools may vary, however, in how much weight that they give to each factor:

  • Academic Record (GPA, strength of schedule)
  • Admissions Test (GRE)
  • Recommendations
  • Extracurricular Activities / Veterinary-related Clinical Experience
  • Interview

What makes a “Competitive” Applicant?

Predicting which students will get accepted into veterinary school is not a simple task, because so many factors are involved. It is important to note, however, that admissions committees look beyond just GPAs and GREs; this is where recommendations, animal and veterinary-related experience, community service, well-roundedness, communication skills, etc, play an important role.


Extracurricular activities can be any activity that the student enjoys: sports, music, drama, etc. These activities help demonstrate a ‘well-rounded’ individual.

Volunteer community service is highly recommended. It is not necessary for the community service to be animal- or veterinary-oriented.

Research experience is not a requirement for veterinary school, but it is often a plus. Research experience also allows time to build relationships with faculty, which can provide good sources for letters of recommendation. Many faculty on campus have active research laboratories and utilize undergraduates to assist in their projects.

Veterinary-Related Experience

It is essential to obtain veterinary-related clinical/field experience in order to be competitive, and some vet schools even require a specific minimum number of hours of “veterinary experience”. You need to demonstrate, through actions, your motivation for a career in veterinary medicine. It is suggested that a student should observe several veterinary practitioners in a variety of practice settings. Many settings are available: private animal clinics and hospitals, referral hospitals, veterinary specialists, animal control agencies, humane societies, etc, may have opportunities for volunteer work, shadowing, mentoring, or even paid positions. Admissions committees are particularly concerned that applicants have a realistic view of the veterinary profession and what’s involved in a veterinary career.

“Animal experience” is highly recommended. Animal experience does not include pet ownership. Breeding, showing, training classes, field trials, volunteer work in emergency/disaster response and rescue, humane societies, animal shelters, working in a pet shop, etc, may all be acceptable activities.

Most applicants will go beyond the minimum requirements for both veterinary and animal experience; this is an important way to demonstrate your dedication and determination to become a veterinarian.

Resources & Links

Last modified: Nov 23, 2011

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