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How to Become a Veterinarian: Step-by-step Guide (2022)

26 Sep, 2022
How to Become a Veterinarian: Step-by-step Guide (2022)

A career as a veterinary surgeon is highly sought after and very rewarding, but there’s no doubt that it takes commitment.

Becoming a vet requires a veterinary medicine/veterinary science university degree plus some further learning. However, once you’ve qualified there’s a range of career options open to you, including treating wild animals or working animals, working in a veterinary surgery, working for the government in the realm of public health, working for a laboratory to make sure the animals there have good welfare, or working for animal welfare charities such as PDSA.

Animal medicine has the added benefit of being is a profession which can truly take you to all corners of the world.

It’s important to make informed and careful choices about your education early on to ensure you have the right qualifications to become a vet, but it’s not just about academics - you also need to like animals, be passionate about animal care, and have good communication skills. These will be key when it comes to dealing with pet owners, farmers or anyone else whose animals you’ll be treating.

In this article, we look at the entry requirements for a veterinary degree, the application process, and what to look for when you are making your final university choices. Plus, some of the many specialisms that exist within the field.

Table of Contents

Step #1: Make Sure you Have the Entry Requirements

Step #2: Choose an RCVS Qualified School to Study in the UK

Step #3: Choose a Vet Specialty

Step #4: Become a Vet Volunteer

Step #5: Prepare Your Application to Become a Vet

FAQs

Step #1: Make Sure you Have the Entry Requirements

You'll need to complete a veterinary degree to become a fully qualified vet. Full-time veterinary degrees usually take 5 to 6 years. If you already have a degree in a related subject, you may be able to take a 4-year graduate entry veterinary degree course.

Entry requirements

To be considered for a place at vet school, you will need to have a strong science background in high school. It’s important that you enjoy and are good at subjects such as Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Typically, you will be expected to achieve grades 9-6 in these subjects at GCSE.

When it comes to taking A Levels, all veterinary schools will require you to choose Biology as one of your subjects and to achieve an A/A* grade in it. Typically, most veterinary schools will ask for additional science subjects such as Chemistry and Physics, or Mathematics. Some universities may accept a third A level in a non-science subject.

Step #2: Choose an RCVS qualified school to study in the UK

The aim of the RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) is to enhance society through improved animal health and welfare. They do this by setting, upholding and advancing the educational, ethical and clinical standards of veterinary surgeons and veterinary nurses.

Setting and monitoring the standards for veterinary education is a key responsibility of the RCVS, and they undertake formal visitations to higher education establishments to ensure that veterinary degree standards are being maintained.

To register with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and practice as a vet, you will need a degree in veterinary medicine from an accredited university. These courses are typically very competitive and very academically challenging so have some of the highest entry requirements. Some universities may have different entry requirements for students with certain circumstances.

In the United Kingdom, the following universities currently have full RCVS accreditation:

  1. Royal Veterinary College, University of London
  2. The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh
  3. University of Glasgow
  4. University of Cambridge
  5. University of Liverpool
  6. University of Nottingham
  7. University of Surrey
  8. University of Bristol

Harper and Keele Veterinary School has also recently opened. The school’s veterinary degree is not currently approved, however, the school and the RCVS are working closely together to ensure that the new degree meets RCVS requirements and that graduates will be eligible for registration. The RCVS plans to undertake a visit in 2023, when the first cohort of students have reached their third year, and again in 2025, just before the first cohort finishes. At this time a decision will be made as to whether or not the degree is granted RCVS approval.

1. Royal Veterinary College, University of London

The Royal Veterinary College is the UK's largest and longest-established independent vet school and is a Member Institution of the University of London. The College offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in veterinary medicine, veterinary nursing, and biological sciences, and CPD programmes in veterinary medicine and veterinary nursing.

The RVC provides animal owners and the veterinary profession with access to expert veterinary care and advice through its teaching hospitals and first opinion practices in London and Hertfordshire. RVC produces world-class research and provides support for the veterinary profession through its referral hospitals, including the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals, Europe's largest small animal hospital The RVC is ranked as the top veterinary school in the world in line with the QS World University Rankings by subject, 2021.

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide currently ranks it 5th for Veterinary Medicine in the UK.

Courses offered include:

  • Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine
  • Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine Accelerated Programme
  • Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine with Intercalated Year
  • Bachelor of Veterinary Science

Location: London

Website: https://www.rvc.ac.uk/

2. The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is one of the oldest veterinary schools in the world, founded in 1823 by William Dick. It is a unique centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Its purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than eight hundred staff and almost fourteen hundred students, all of whom contribute to the school's exceptional community ethos.

The School comprises: The Roslin Institute The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security The Roslin Innovation Centre The Hospital for Small Animals Equine Veterinary Services Farm Animal Services Easter Bush Pathology The Jameel Observatory The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education. It represents the largest concentration of animal science related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge.

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide currently ranks Edinburgh 1st for Veterinary Medicine in the UK.

Courses offered include:

  • Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery (BVM&S)

Location: Edinburgh Website: https://www.ed.ac.uk/vet

3. University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow's Vet School is located on the beautiful Garscube campus, just four miles from the University’s Gilmorehill campus. The Garscube estate spans 80 hectares at the north-west boundary of the city and is home to the School of Veterinary Medicine, the School of Cancer Sciences and the MRC Centre for Virus Research.

With over 150 years of veterinary excellence, the School of Veterinary Medicine is pre-eminent in teaching, research and clinical provision, and attracts students, researchers and clinicians from around the world.

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide currently ranks Glasgow 2nd for Veterinary Medicine in the UK.

Courses offered include:

  • Veterinary Medicine and Surgery BVMS
  • Veterinary Biosciences [BSc/MSci]
  • Zoology [BSc/MSci]

Location: Glasgow

Website: https://www.gla.ac.uk/subjects/veterinary/

4. University of Cambridge

Cambridge Veterinary School was founded in 1949 with eight undergraduate students, but its origins go back to 1909 when the University Department of Pathology set up an outstation to study diseases of large animals. The six year Veterinary Medicine course at Cambridge provides a unique training in basic medical sciences followed by a clinical course which applies students’ scientific knowledge practically as they study and work in the Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital.

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide currently ranks Cambridge 3rd for Veterinary Medicine in the UK.

Courses offered include:

  • Veterinary Medicine

Location: Cambridge

Website: https://www.vet.cam.ac.uk/

5. University of Liverpool

The University of Liverpool’s School of Veterinary Science is based in the Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences. Its mission is to be a centre of regional, national and international excellence in animal health and welfare through research and learning.

It has two campuses; the Leahurst campus is located in the heart of rural Cheshire, and is home to two farms, two referral hospitals, and two of the Institute's three first-opinion practices. The Liverpool Campus provides teaching for the first three years of the undergraduate course around themes of normal animal structure and function, animal husbandry, disease processes, public health, epidemiology and welfare, management of disease, research, clinical and professional studies.

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide currently ranks Liverpool 6th for Veterinary Medicine in the UK.

Courses offered include:

  • Veterinary Science BSCv
  • Veterinary conservation medicine intercalated honours BSc

Location: Liverpool

Website: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/veterinary-science/

6. University of Nottingham

The University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science delivers a range of innovative courses, world-class research and services for veterinary professionals. The courses, which integrate clinical medicine and surgery with pathology and basic sciences, ensure that Nottingham graduates gain the best possible foundation on which to build any future career in the veterinary profession.

Students benefit from state-of-the-art, purpose-built facilities on Sutton Bonnington Campus and with the department’s many clinical associates.

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide currently ranks Nottingham 4th for Veterinary Medicine in the UK.

Courses offered include:

  • Veterinary Medicine and Surgery BVM BVS with BVMedSci

Location: Nottingham

Website: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/vet

7. University of Surrey

The Veterinary Medicine and Science BVMSci course, created in collaboration with a partnership of veterinary practices and scientific research institutes, including Marwell Zoo, you’ll learn about different body systems, covering all common companion, equine and production animal species, in addition to wildlife and exotic species.

Students have access to multi-million-pound facilities, including a Veterinary Clinical Skills Centre and Veterinary Pathology Centre, to practise anaesthesia, catheterisation, dissection, perform a necropsy and more.

The University of Surrey's veterinary courses are ranked 3rd in the UK by the Complete University Guide 2023 and 7th in the UK by The Guardian University Guide 2022.

Courses offered include:

  1. Veterinary Medicine and Science BVMSci (Hons)

Location: Guildford

Website: https://www.surrey.ac.uk/undergraduate/veterinary-...

8. University of Bristol

The Bristol Veterinary School is situated at a dedicated site on the edge of the rural Mendips in the village of Langford, 14 miles south of Bristol. The 105-hectare estate is home to state-of-the-art facilities that are ideal for conducting a large variety of research activity.

The site caters for the whole student experience and includes a new student common room and café, a new gym, and on-site accommodation.

The University currently offers three undergraduate degrees and one taught Masters programme, with postgraduate research opportunities and certificate-level courses also available.

The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide currently ranks Bristol 7th for Veterinary Medicine in the UK.

Courses offered include:

  • Veterinary Science BVSc
  • Veterinary Nursing and Companion Animal Behaviour BSc

Location: Bristol

Website: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/vet-school/

Step #3: Choose from a range of veterinary specialties

Once at vet school, you will learn treat all kinds of animals. After graduation, some vets continue to work with a mix of animals, from farm animals and horses, to pets.

However, many vets also choose to move into one specific career path, where they treat a certain type of animal. For example, small animal vets work with pets. They generally work in private practice to assess, diagnose and treat people’s sick cats, dogs, rabbits and other small animals and perform surgery on them. if required. They may work in a veterinary clinic, an animal hospital or even large animal shelters.

Other vets choose solely to work with farm animals. This job involves a lot of farm visits, driving around the countryside, and can mean working unsociable hours to cover night time emergencies.

Another specialism is being an equine vet, and working uniquely with horses.

There are also some vets who prefer to treat ‘exotic’ pets, such as small pets, birds or reptiles, who can also work in zoo environments.

To work in any of the above kind of general practice, a veterinary degree is usually enough.

Step #4: Become a vet volunteer

The more animal-related experience you can gain before applying for a veterinary degree, the more successful you are likely to be.

Most universities will ask for significant experience volunteering in a veterinary practice, but many universities will expect even more. Ideally, along with experience within a veterinary setting, you should also show that you have lots of experience working with animals in general. This could be work, shadowing or voluntary placements at a cattery, kennels, rehoming centre, farm, stables or any other relevant experience (e.g. at a zoo or wildlife park).

Step #5: Prepare your application to become a vet

Places on a bachelor’s degree at RCVS accredited universities are notoriously competitive. As well as ensuring you can meet their high academic standards, you will need to ensure your application stands out from the crowd.

The selection process is very thorough. You can expect to be interviewed and to take screening tests at most universities. Interviews can cover topics such as:

  • your work experience and procedures you’ve observed
  • your attitudes to animal welfare and the ethics of veterinary work
  • your knowledge of the veterinary profession
  • science topics related to veterinary medicine.

There might also be case studies to consider, role plays to act out or numeracy (maths-based) questions to answer.

At Kings, our experienced UCAS advisors and tutors will make sure you submit the best possible application, have relevant veterinary experience, are well prepared for prospective interviews, and that your final university choices are the best fit for your goals.

All applications for places on veterinary degree courses at UK universities must be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications must be received by UCAS by 15 October in the year before admission.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. How long does it take to become a vet in the UK?

Full-time veterinary degrees usually take 5 to 6 years. If you already have a degree in a related subject, you may be able to take a 4-year graduate entry veterinary degree course.

Q2. What qualifications do I need to become a vet in the UK?

To train to be a veterinary surgeon you will need to go to university and take a veterinary degree.

Q3. What are some of the fields a vet can specialize in?

Vets can choose from dozens of disciplines – ranging from small animal care to farm animal work, equine health or even zoo and wildlife specialisms. Aside from the type and size of animal/s to care for, there are further choices to make about the kind of medical specialization to focus on - surgery, anaesthesia, cardiology, ophthalmology and neurology, to name a few.

Next steps

We hope that this article has helped you understand more about the routes to a career as a vet and some of the best universities to train as a nurse in the UK.

You can find more detailed information about Kings’ A-level and Foundation courses, and applying to university on the Kings website. If you would like receive more detailed information about the Kings and our programmes, please get in touch with us at enquiries@kingseducation.com.