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I hope to become a Zoo Veterinarian. Do you have any advice for me?

I will be majoring in Biology this fall. I'm in South Carolina, which doesn't have a Vet School. I'm hoping to attend the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia, which is one of three schools that accepts South Carolina students as "in-state". I also plan to minor in Music with a focus on piano--will that be a help to me at all? #veterinarian #veterinary #veterinary-medicine #animals #animal-health #biology #science

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Danika’s Answer

I highly suggest getting your foot in the door by interning at any zoo or wildlife rehab center that you can while you are in undergrad. If you can, you may want to see about spending a summer interning at the San Diego Zoo, as this is basically THE premier zoo. (you do need at least 1,000 hours of other zoo or wildlife experience before they will even consider you for a volunteer position). If your school has any zoo clubs, definitely consider joining those.

Your answer is great Danika, thanks so much for sharing your expertise! At this moment there are more than 800 unanswered questions so I wanted to encourage you to keep going! So many students will benefit tremendously from hearing from you. Keep up the great work! Jordan Rivera COACH

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Jane Elizabeth’s Answer

I am not a zoo veterinarian but I can give you some advice. If you feel I haven't answered something to your satisfaction, you can reply and I will track down the answer.

First, do whatever you can to limit your educational debt. The salaries in veterinary medicine are limited, regardless of your field, and excessive debt is causing a tremendous amount of stress among veterinarians. Most vets I know have side jobs to help pay down their loans and put off important things like starting a family, traveling, saving for retirement, buying a home because of their debt.

There are many scholarships you can get to pay for your education and you should look into them. The CDC, the army, and several other organizations have scholarships and then you owe them 3-5 years in return. This is a small price to pay if your loans will be more than $50k total when you finish. There are many others and you may find a zoo or wildlife program that will offer this as well.

As for zoo medicine, that particular aspect of veterinary medicine is harder to get into than other aspects. I don't know what kind of zoo experience you have now, but there are a few things you can do to make yourself a more attractive as a graduate.
First, getting a second degree such as a masters or PhD. I would google veterinarians who work at zoos and see what other degrees they have. I suspect microbiology, anesthesiology, nutrition and pathology are important.
If you live near a zoo, contact their vet and see if you can buy them lunch or brunch or shadow them for the day and ask them what specialties they think will be important in the next 10 years.

During school there will be electives for ultrasound and dentistry and you should make sure to take these because they will be very important as a zoo vet.

Also, start getting "zoo" experience now and continue throughout school. Volunteer at wildlife sanctuaries or here in Houston we have a wildlife rehab center. These are not actual zoos but will give you significant non-traditional animal experience. Also if you can find a summer internship working at the zoo or you can sometimes find them in other countries helping elephants or whatever animals you are most interested in such as primates, reptiles, etc.

I think music will help you because you will have a built in way to relieve stress and make the people around you happy.

I would also strongly consider a minor in a language. French is expected to overtake Spanish as the most widely spoken 1st or 2nd language. But since zoo animals frequently come from other countries, knowing other languages makes you very marketable as a vet.

I would also recommend applying to any vet school that will take you as an in state student.
I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck in school.