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what courses would i need in order to become an exotic veterinarian?

I am a Senior student at William J. Brennan High school looking for information on becoming a veterinarian. I specifically want to pursue becoming an Exotic Animal Vet and wouldn't mind traveling at the beginning of my career to do so but i would like to know my chances and what i must do to accomplish this. #veterinary #veterinarian #veterinary-medicine #animals #animal-health #courses #requirements #classes #needs #successful

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Courtney’s Answer

As many animal science courses as you can while getting your Bachelor's Degree. Also you'll want to do internships at places that have exotic animals....like a zoo. Once you get into the DVM program, the courses are pretty standard so it's your internships where you will get hands on experience with exotics. Since you're in Texas, Texas A&M is the college that offers the DVM program, although I Texas Tech is also in the process of adding DVM to their program. https://www.ttuvetmed.com/ Since Texas A&M is currently the only college in Texas with a DVM program, only about 25% of those that apply actually get in as they have limited capacity for the program.

Courtney recommends the following next steps:

Also check out Baylor's pre-vet program https://www.baylor.edu/admissions/index.php?id=872482
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much! I know it's really difficult to achieve the position I want but I will continue to persevere and take your advice until, hopefully, I get the opportunity to be in a DVM program. Jordan
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Tania’s Answer

Hi Jordan,

As someone who once pursued a career in wildlife, here are some things that I found helpful.

1) Courses that you should take in college: Obtaining a bachelor's of science will be important. If you are interested in exotic/wildlife species. Taking classes like zoology, evolution and ecology and wildlife science will be important. Taking animal science courses can be helpful too, but because these course focus on domestic species (cows, horses etc), it is ok to seek classes that give you a broader scope of species. You do not have to do your undergraduate degree at the same school you will eventually do your veterinary school degree, but find a school that has a strong biology, ecology or animal science degree. (I majored in evolution and ecology.) And maintain a high GPA; to be competitive with the thousands of other students applying to vet school you need to have an excellent GPA (3.5 and above).

2) Do research on the vet schools you think you would be interested in. Texas A&M does have a good vet school, and since you live in Texas you would qualify for in-state tuition. But UC Davis, University of Florida, North Carolina State and Cornell have stronger zoo and exotics programs. Figure out what each school requires as a prerequisite course. Most of the courses are similar but each school has slightly different requirements. https://www.aavmc.org/data/files/vmcas/prereqchart.pdf

3) While you are in college volunteer at places that care for exotic/zoo/wildlife species. This may mean volunteer at a zoo. But this could also be volunteer at a wildlife rehab/waystation. Or even working as a vet assistant in a clinic that treats pet exotic animals. Also, talk to your professors and find out if they are doing any research that explores some aspect of wild animal or zoo animal health. If you do end up attending undergrad at a school that also had a vet school, reach out to the vet school professors and clinicians to see if they need a lab or research assistant.

4) Make strong connections and relationships with your professors, and mentors in the field. You will need to have people who can write you strong letters of recommendations.

5) Do forget to have fun during your undergraduate career. Vet school want to see well-rounded candidates, and it is important to learn good work-life-balance strategies!!

6) So, you make it into vet school: Depending on the program you end up in, you may have the option to "track". Meaning you may be able to tailor your course work to learn primarily about the species you are most interested in. Not all vet school do this, so if you can't track in zoo/exotic, then take as many elective courses as you are allowed to take learning about exotic animal medicine and husbandry. Continue volunteering at places that care for zoo/exotic/wildlife species. And reach out to those vet school professors and clinicians who work with the species you want to work with. Do a research project and keep your grades up. Also, spend your vet school senior year externships at zoos or wildlife rehabilitation centers. Having excellent grades and excellent letters of reference will help you in the next phase of becoming a wildlife/zoo vet.

7) After vet school vet school you may have a few choices for the next step. If you are interest in wildlife research more that, say, treating animal at a zoo, you may want to pursue a phD in wildlife epidemiology or wildlife disease. If you want to say in the clinical realm then your next step would be to do a small animal/companion exotic rotating internship or a large animal internship. After the internship you would then pursue a residency in zoo medicine or wildlife medicine.

Tania recommends the following next steps:

More web research: https://www.avma.org/public/Careers/Pages/vet-school-admission-101.aspx, https://www.aavmc.org/students-applicants-and-advisors/prevetfaq.aspx
Get involve now: https://sazoo.org/get-involved, https://wildlife-rescue.org/get-involved/volunteer/
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