How to Become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

If you have a passion for helping animals and have the capacity to obtain a doctoral degree, you may be interested in becoming a doctor of veterinary medicine. Veterinarians are in the top 10 most in demand jobs for the year 2022. 

Veterinarians are experts in pet health; they perform checkups and surgeries, teach pet owners important skills (like how to properly brush their pet’s teeth and how to introduce a new dog to the family), inform them about toxic plants for pets, and provide pet travel and puppy training tips.

If you’re considering becoming a veterinarian, here’s what you need to know about the process.

Graduate From a Four-Year University

One option is to obtain an undergraduate degree in a related field, such as animal sciences, wildlife biology, biology, zoology, or chemistry. During your undergraduate years, we recommend volunteering at an animal shelter or working at a vet clinic to enhance your vet school application.

You can apply to vet school when you are scheduled to complete your undergraduate prerequisite courses. While a bachelor degree might boost your application, it is not, in fact, a requirement for vet school. 

Obtain Your Veterinary Degree

Veterinary programs are typically four years long. The first two years of school are mainly spent in the classroom. When the third year of school comes around, gaining practical experience in the field is important. The final year of veterinary school is spent completing clinical rotations that will equip you with the skills and knowledge to work in a clinic or animal hospital.

Pass the NAVLE

During your fourth year of schooling, you will want to take the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE). Many students decide to take this important test in the fall so they have time to retake it in the spring if they fail. Either way, passing this examination is necessary to practice as a veterinarian and obtain a job in the field. Keep in mind that preparing for this exam takes the entirety of your time in veterinary school, and there may be other exams you need to take depending on where you’d like to practice and/or become certified.

Internships 

A one-year internship is required before a residency can be obtained. Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center offers one-year internships for recent doctors of veterinary medicine (DVM). You can find our internships here. The internship includes rotations in ophthalmology, oncology, internal medicine, surgery, dentistry, and emergency. Other ways to obtain internships is by job postings via linkedin, glassdoor, or other hiring websites. You can go to job fairs organized by your university. You can also visit your local veterinary hospitals and clinics and talk to a vet there about intern opportunities. 

Consider a Residency

Just like medical doctors (MD), many doctors of veterinary medicine (DVM) choose to apply for residencies to further their education and specialize in a particular field. For example, you may be interested in learning more about toxins, such as toxic plants for pets and other foods and drinks that can affect the health of an animal. Your particular curiosity may be the topic of a residency program.

Residency programs for veterinary students include specialization in anesthesia, critical care, small animal medicine and surgery, theriogenology, and animal behavior, among others. Completing a residency provides more veterinary options in terms of finding a job.

Apply for Jobs

Once you’ve obtained your degree and license to practice veterinary medicine, you can apply for jobs in the field. Vets can work in animal medical centers, animal clinics, animal hospitals, zoos, laboratories, farms, and even classrooms. It’s important to continuously network within the veterinary field to make connections with others in the industry, as this will help you obtain a job you love.

With nearly 39 million households owning cats, veterinarians will always be needed professionals. Vets help owners ensure safety by teaching them about toxic plants for pets, dog behavior training, pet allergies, pet poison control, and more! If you’re passionate about keeping animals safe and healthy, a veterinary school may be for you. Consider these steps you’ll need to complete to take on this professional role. We currently have a few roles open at our hospital. You can find them and apply through this link. 


At Southern Arizona Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center we are happy to provide a wide range of veterinary specialty and emergency services. It is important to have a “primary care” veterinarian to keep your new family member healthy and happy with routine vaccinations and health checks. But if you find yourself in the midst of a veterinary emergency, our team of experienced veterinarians is here to help. When it comes to visiting animal hospitals, we understand that the experience can be full of stress and worry, so we aim to make things as simple as possible. For more information, get in touch with one of our experts today.