Equine Veterinarian Training Programs and Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

A bachelor's degree is not required to apply to veterinary school. However, applicants must take a certain amount of pre-veterinary science and math coursework to be considered for admission. Pre-veterinary coursework can be added to virtually any degree, but a major in animal science or biology is often helpful for aspiring equine veterinarians.

Veterinary schools have selective admissions criteria and generally require students to submit Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores. Although less common, some schools accept scores from the Veterinary College Admission Test (VCAT) or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

Prospective veterinarians may receive training in zoology, biological science and veterinary medicine and may begin their training through a bachelor's program, but a doctoral degree is required to obtain licensure.

Bachelor of Science in Zoology

Individuals interested in equine veterinary science may begin with a major in zoology, the study of animals. Students take labs and lectures in animal biology, anatomy and physiology, as well as chemistry and physics. Future equine veterinarians also learn about species evolution and animal behavior. Some course topics might include:

  • Cell and molecular biology
  • Intro to physics
  • Organic chemistry
  • Animal behavior
  • Cells and development
  • Principles of animal feeding and nutrition

Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences

A biological science program combines analytical and advanced mathematics, as well as chemistry, biology and physics. Students learn about:

  • Animal physiology
  • Genetics
  • Disease and immunology
  • Ecology
  • Plant biology

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM)

The first two years of a veterinary program focus primarily on lectures. The final two years allow for small and large animal labs, clinical practices and research. Veterinary students learn about animal nutrition and pharmacology. They also study animal anatomy, physiology and pathology. Some core foundation course topics might include:

  • Neuroanatomy
  • The animal body
  • Clinical rotations
  • Veterinary practice
  • General pathology
  • Function and dysfunction

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the BLS, veterinarians make a median annual wage of $99,250 as of May 2020. For this profession, employment is expected to grow 16% from 2019-2029, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education

State licensure is required of all veterinarians, and continuing education requirements are needed to maintain licensure. In order to qualify for licensure, applicants must have completed a doctoral degree program in veterinary science and passed the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination administered by the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (www.nbvme.org). Some state licensing boards may also require the completion of a practical skills exam. Additionally, equine veterinarians may pursue 3-4 year residency programs to earn voluntary certification in equine practice from the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (www.abvp.com).

Conferences lasting 3-5 days are hosted by veterinary organizations, such as the American Association of Equine Practitioners (www.aaep.org) and the American Veterinary Medical Association (www.avma.org). Attendees can network, attend lectures or participate in workshops on topics ranging from equine respiratory diseases to business development practices. Some colleges may also sponsor 1-2 daylong workshops with topics specific to the equine population. For everyday enrichment, equine veterinarians can look to equine reference books and veterinary journals. Veterinary websites also offer discussion boards, e-newsletters and informative articles.

Whether at the bachelor's or doctorate level, aspiring equine veterinarians should expect a predominantly scientific curriculum. At the doctorate level, students should expect to take a licensing exam, complete a residency program and regularly attend continuing education seminars and conferences to stay relevant within their field.

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