Veterinary Medicine

Note: Several academic majors at Missouri State University are available for the student who seeks admission into veterinary school. This advisement sheet has been prepared for cell and molecular biology majors who have an interest in veterinary medicine. Veterinary schools have different admission requirements and emphases within veterinary practice. It is important that students know the specific admission requirements of the veterinary schools to which they intend to apply as early in their undergraduate education as possible. Prior to deciding on any academic major, pre-vet students should investigate the various academic majors at Missouri State University; that way they can more readily determine which major is most suitable for reaching their veterinary school admission and career goals. Students should also consider the "early admission" programs offered by several veterinary schools including the University of Missouri - Columbia.

What is veterinary medicine?

Veterinarians help animals and people live longer, healthier lives. They serve society by preventing and treating animal diseases, improving the quality of the environment, ensuring the safety of food, controlling diseases transmitted from animals, and advancing medical knowledge. Career options for veterinarians include environmental problem-solving, local community health, food resource management, zoo animal care, space and marine biology, or wildlife preservation in addition to the more traditional small- or large-animal practice.

There are 27 schools of veterinary medicine in the US and the four in Canada. The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) coordinates the affairs of these schools and sponsors the Veterinary Medical College Application Service (VMCAS). Information about the VMCAS process can be found at the VMCAS link at VMCAS allows applicants to fill out one primary application specifying the schools to which the student is applying thus reducing the need to apply to each school separately. VMCAS is a data-processing service of the admissions cycle only; admission considerations remain the prerogative of the admission committees at the various veterinary schools.

Different veterinary schools have different ratios of applications to positions available. When multiple applications are considered, the application to acceptance ratio nationwide is about one acceptance for every three applicants. The average number of applications per applicant is four to five schools. About half of the veterinary schools have specific programs designed to facilitate entry into, and retention by, veterinary schools nationwide for minority and disadvantaged students.

The final phases of veterinary medicine preparation

The DVM or VMD (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) is awarded after four years of successful study at an accredited college of veterinary medicine. Graduate veterinarians are eligible to apply for a license to practice. Licensing is controlled by states and provinces, each having rules and procedures for legal practice within their own jurisdictions. In addition to specific requirements, all require passing the national board examination. One year, post-graduate internships provide opportunities to begin specialization. In the senior year of professional preparation, applicants apply for available internships. In this process, applicants and training hospitals rank each other in order of preference and matches are made using a computer system. Veterinary interns receive a nominal salary.

Residency training is more specialized than an internship. Entry into residency programs requires completion of an internship or two years of private practice experience. Board certification in any one of 20 specialties requires completion of a two- or three-year residency program and the passing of an examination offered by any of the veterinary medical specialty boards. Residency specialties include internal medicine, surgery, pathology, cardiology, dermatology, neurology, radiology, anesthesiology, ophthalmology, exotic small animal medicine and oncology.

Undergraduate preparation as a pre-vet student

Students enrolled in veterinary colleges come from a wide variety of educational and employment backgrounds. Students wishing to apply to veterinary college should earn good grades in their pre-professional studies, especially in math and science. It is not necessary that a student complete a program specifically labeled "pre-veterinary" or "pre-vet" to apply to veterinary school as long as the requirements for that school have been satisfied.

Missouri State University offers two formal options for students pursuing a pre-veterinary medicine curriculum and seeking admission into the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Missouri. These pre-veterinary options are described in the Missouri State University Undergraduate Catalog under the Department of Agriculture. Students considering either of these options are strongly urged to consult as early as possible with the pre-veterinary advisor in the Department of Agriculture.

Under option I referred to above, cell and molecular biology (CMB) students will meet or exceed the course requirements specified by fulfilling the requirements of the CMB major and the selection of recommended electives. Students in CMB should take BMS 307, Human Anatomy or BIO 280, Comparative Anatomy (preferred by some veterinary schools) as an outside elective. CMB students should also include BIO 310, Microbiology, as one of their CMB electives. Generally, the veterinary school requirements in English, humanities, and the social sciences are fulfilled by students completing the general education requirements at Missouri State University.

Calculus and full year of organic chemistry, also requirements in the CMB major, are required by many veterinary schools, but not the University of Missouri - Columbia. Other pre-admission requirements or recommended courses specified by veterinary schools include: statistics, genetics, animal science, animal or human nutrition, animal or human physiology, embryology, histology, business, and accounting. Those courses in the biological sciences are available either as a program requirement or as an available elective in the cell and molecular biology major. Although most of the course requirements are similar, veterinary schools do differ considerably in specific course requirements. Pre-vet students are urged to consult the most recent yearly edition of the Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements in the United States and Canada (VMSAR) for updated information on specific requirements for the schools that the student intends to apply. The book can also be purchased by calling Purdue University Press at 800-933-9637. This VMSAR book also outlines the number of non-resident/non-contract positions available at each school. This is particularly important for pre-vet students seeking admission into schools in states where they would be considered to be a non-resident.

Most veterinary medical colleges require one or more standardized tests: the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). As of the summer of 2003 all American veterinary schools will accept the GRE.

Other common requirements and considerations often specified by veterinary schools

Minimum GPA
Minimums on the MCAT or GRE (particularly for non-resident students)
Animal/veterinary work experience, knowledge, and motivation
Extracurricular and community service activities
Letters of recommendation from an advisor, employer, and one or two veterinarians
Interview/essay/personal statements
Demonstrations of leadership
Employment record
Quality of academic program
Application neatness

Be sure to join Missouri State University's Pre-Veterinary Club (information through the Missouri State Department of Agriculture).

For more information

Contact the pre-veterinary advisor in the Department of Agriculture and your academic advisor in cell and molecular biology.

Information on specific admission requirements for US veterinary schools is available from:

Dr. Colette Witkowski, 417-836-5603, Professional Bldg., Room 404
Dr. Rich Garrad, 417-836-5372, Professional Bldg., Room 345

Department of Biomedical Sciences
Missouri State University
Springfield, MO 65897