2 answers

How can I specialize as a veterinarian?

Asked Los Angeles, California

I am a high school senior who has always wanted to pursue a career in veterinary medicine, and I have been doing thorough research on the various aspects of the occupation. I am very interested in veterinary dentistry or surgery, and I would really like to specialize in these areas. Is there more schooling that I have to attend in addition to vet school to get certifications?
#veterinary #veterinary-medicine #veterinarian #animal-health

2 answers

Ken’s Answer

Updated Cleveland, Ohio

Congratulations on being interested in becoming a vet. It takes a special person to enter this field and meet the demands which this career area presents. The first step is to get to know yourself to see if you share the personality traits which make vets successful. The next step is doing networking to meet and talk to and possibly shadow vets to see if this is something that you really want to do, as a career area could look much different on the inside than it looks from the outside.  

Ken recommends the following next steps:

  • The first step is to take an interest and aptitude test and have it interpreted by your school counselor to see if you share the personality traits necessary to enter the field. You might want to do this again upon entry into college, as the interpretation might differ slightly due to the course offering of the school. However, do not wait until entering college, as the information from the test will help to determine the courses that you take in high school. Too many students, due to poor planning, end up paying for courses in college which they could have taken for free in high school.
  • Next, when you have the results of the testing, talk to the person at your high school and college who tracks and works with graduates to arrange to talk to, visit, and possibly shadow people doing what you think that you might want to do, so that you can get know what they are doing and how they got there. Here are some tips: ## http://www.wikihow.com/Network ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/nonawkward-ways-to-start-and-end-networking-conversations ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/4-questions-to-ask-your-network-besides-can-you-get-me-a-job?ref=carousel-slide-1 ##
  • Locate and attend meetings of professional associations to which people who are doing what you think that you want to do belong, so that you can get their advice. These associations may offer or know of intern, coop, shadowing, and scholarship opportunities. These associations are the means whereby the professionals keep abreast of their career area following college and advance in their career. You can locate them by asking your school academic advisor, favorite teachers, and the reference librarian at your local library. Here are some tips: ## https://www.careeronestop.org/BusinessCenter/Toolkit/find-professional-associations.aspx?&frd=true ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/9-tips-for-navigating-your-first-networking-event ##
  • It is very important to express your appreciation to those who help you along the way to be able to continue to receive helpful information and to create important networking contacts along the way. Here are some good tips: ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-informational-interview-thank-you-note-smart-people-know-to-send?ref=recently-published-2 ## ## https://www.themuse.com/advice/3-tips-for-writing-a-thank-you-note-thatll-make-you-look-like-the-best-candidate-alive?bsft_eid=7e230cba-a92f-4ec7-8ca3-2f50c8fc9c3c&bsft_pid=d08b95c2-bc8f-4eae-8618-d0826841a284&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_20171020&utm_source=blueshift&utm_content=daily_20171020&bsft_clkid=edfe52ae-9e40-4d90-8e6a-e0bb76116570&bsft_uid=54658fa1-0090-41fd-b88c-20a86c513a6c&bsft_mid=214115cb-cca2-4aec-aa86-92a31d371185&bsft_pp=2 ##

Tania’s Answer

Specializing as a veterinarian does take additional years of training. Obviously, you have to get accepted to and make it through veterinary school. This often requires a Bachelor's degree, completing the prerequisites for the specific vet school you would like to attend, getting experience in the field (like volunteering at a veterinary office, shelter, zoo or wildlife rehab) and getting good scores on your GREs.

Once you are in vet school you and as you complete your general veterinary education, you can start networking and getting acquainted with the specialties you are interested in and the doctors at your school and other institutions that also practice that discipline. Ways to do this are to: 1) talk to your clinical faculty or professors in the specialty, 2) participate in research for that specialty, 3) do an externship at a hospital that has a strong program with that specialty, 4) attend the annual meeting/conference for that discipline.

Once you have made it through vet school, to specialize you will need to complete a 1 year internship (called a rotating internship) and a 3-4 year residency in the discipline you're interested in. Some specialties are so competitive many candidates end up also doing a specialty internship in the discipline they are interested in prior to the residency. During you internship year you are a fully licensed veterinarian but you are practicing under the guidance and supervision of other veterinarians and specialists. During your rotating internship, you would rotate through the different specialties (i.e. internal medicine, surgery, emergency, cardiology). It is during this time, as well as in school, you would need to continue to network with specialist in the fields you are interested. Getting good letters of recommendation from specialists you work with will help you land a residency.

Here are some websites that may be helpful in finding more info and making connections with the specialties your interested in:

Tania recommends the following next steps:

  • https://www.acvs.org/
  • https://www.avdc.org/
  • https://www.avma.org/ProfessionalDevelopment/Education/Specialties/Documents/ABVS%20FAQs.pdf
  • https://www.veterinarydentistry.org/programs/student-chapters
  • Check out some of the specialty hospitals in your area. There are a few in Los Angeles: https://vcahospitals.com/west-los-angeles, https://asgvets.com/our-veterinarians-los-angeles, or https://vcahospitals.com/animal-specialty-emergency